Monday, June 09, 2008

Hanna Rosin writes about the spread of murder in Memphis

It is in the most recent Atlantic, and it reports on recent work of Phyllis Betts (among others) on how crime has spread out from central city Memphis. I have asked Professor Betts for her papers, and am looking forward to reading them.

One passage in the Rosin piece, though, really hit me:

Studies show that recipients of Section 8 vouchers have tended to choose moderately poor neighborhoods that were already on the decline, not low-poverty neighborhoods. One recent study showed that...voucher recipients seemed not to be spreading out, as they had hoped, but clustering together.

I have for some years argued that Section 8 has been the country's most successful housing subsidy program. The program, which provides recipients a voucher that fills the gap between 30 percent of family income and area market rent, has been a far more efficient mechanism for providing subsidy than public housing or Low Income Housing Tax Credits. Yet the piece's point is likely correct.

It may also be a product of the program's design: on the one hand, landlords can refuse to take any Section 8 tenants; on the other, once a landlord takes one Section 8 tenant, he needs to take any Section 8 tenant. Perhaps a rule that would require all landlords to accept Section 8, but would also allow them to cap any one building to, say, 30 percent Section 8, would help reduce the problems described in the Rosin piece.


Judge Glock said...

HUD has actually eliminated the old "take one, take all" Section 8 policy as well as the "endless lease" policy, since, I believe 1994. The change has made landlords more willing to accept vouchers, but, as the problems with the "Moving to Opportunity" program show, it is difficult to convince receipents, even with counseling and even with landlord consent, that they should move away from high-poverty neighborhoods. Maybe that is because they understand what the empirical evidence now shows: the benefits are minimal at best.

Anonymous said...