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Cityscape: Volume 23 Number 1 | Regulatory Reform and Affordable Housing


The goal of Cityscape is to bring high-quality original research on housing and community development issues to scholars, government officials, and practitioners. Cityscape is open to all relevant disciplines, including architecture, consumer research, demography, economics, engineering, ethnography, finance, geography, law, planning, political science, public policy, regional science, sociology, statistics, and urban studies.

Cityscape is published three times a year by the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Regulatory Reform and Affordable Housing

Volume 23 Number 1

Mark D. Shroder

Michelle P. Matuga

Absorption Disruptions and Serial Billing: Managing Portability Practices in the Housing Choice Voucher Program

Brian J. McCabe
Georgetown University

M. Kathleen Moore
Independent Researcher

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants discretionary authority to public housing authorities (PHAs) to set program rules for the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. In this paper, we ask how housing authorities use their authority to navigate portability decisions. Drawing on interviews with officials at 51 housing authorities, we show that discretionary choices around portability often center on agency utilization rates. As housing authorities seek to quickly increase their budget utilization, they often switch from billing sending agencies for portability vouchers to absorbing them into their portfolio. That decision eases the administrative burdens associated with portability, but it limits the ability of housing authorities to serve households on their waitlists. In addition, the decision to absorb portability vouchers when agencies need to quickly increase their utilization has broad ripple effects throughout the ecosystem of housing authorities. We propose reforms to incentivize regional collaboration and simplify billing practices in ways that would both improve organizational efficiency and ease administrative burdens in the HCV program.

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