August 20, 2018, Mary K. Cunningham, et al. - Urban Institute
Housing vouchers are designed to help low-income families afford decent, safe homes and have the opportunity to move out of poor neighborhoods. In theory, voucher holders can move anywhere they can find an affordable home; in practice, their housing choices are severely constrained and significantly dependent on landlords.
Landlords decide if they want to accept vouchers as payment, so they have a great deal of influence over where voucher holders can live. Yet there has been little research into landlords’ behavior or their perceptions of the program.
This report presents findings from the largest, most comprehensive test of housing voucher discrimination to date, providing data on voucher acceptance among landlords and differential treatment of paired testers, matched on all characteristics except voucher use.
This pilot study, sponsored by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), conducted tests across neighborhoods in five sites, roughly in proportion to the locations of voucher-affordable housing in each site. We gleaned lessons for housing policy and future testing studies by conducting nearly 4,000 tests over 16 months.
The project’s goals were to identify ways to measure differential treatment of renters who use housing vouchers, identify the types and patterns of rental housing discrimination against voucher holders, and measure the prevalence and extent of the discrimination.