Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

06/18/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 06/18/2019 13:44

House Bill Would Expand Housing Voucher Mobility Demonstration

The House this week will begin debate on a package of appropriations bills that would, in its 2020 funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), invest substantial resources to help low-income families struggling with high housing costs. These resources include $25 million for the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) mobility demonstration, a research-based initiative that seeks to identify the most effective ways to help families with rental vouchers find safe, affordable housing in high-opportunity neighborhoods. The proposed funding would double the demonstration's available funding. As the Senate begins drafting its funding bill, it should follow the House's lead and similarly boost the investment in the HCV mobility demonstration.

As we've written, the HCV program can do much more to help families with children use vouchers to move to safer neighborhoods with high-performing schools. Growing up in low-poverty neighborhoods with higher-performing schools improves children's academic achievement and long-term chances of success and reduces intergenerational poverty, compelling research shows. The mobility demonstration, which the President and Congress enacted earlier this year, is designed to further this goal and thus promote better outcomes for children and families.

The $25 million for the demonstration in the House's 2020 bill would help more families with vouchers move to rental units in lower-poverty, high-opportunity areas. The new funds include:

  • $20 million for housing mobility support services. Public housing agencies would use these funds, plus similar funding provided last year, to help families access higher-opportunity neighborhoods by offering robust services like landlord outreach, housing search assistance, post-move support, and financial coaching. The bill also would let participatingagencies use voucher funding for security deposits in designated opportunity areas. Lack of funds for security deposits is a significant barrier for poor families to move to higher-opportunity areas.
  • Up to $5 million for roughly 500 additional vouchers for families with children participating in the demonstration. The new vouchers, on top of the estimated 500 vouchers approved last year, would allow more families with children to participate in the demonstration and receive rental assistance.

Expanding the demonstration would also increase opportunities for research. There's little research showing which interventions to promote family mobility are most cost-effective. Last year's funding for the demonstration included $3 million for research; although the House 2020 funding bill doesn't include new research dollars, its expansion of the demonstration would help HUD conduct a more robust study.