Can Housing Mobility Programs Make a Long-Term Impact on the Lives of Poor Families and the Health of Middle-Class Communities: A Policy Simulation

Date of Original Version



Working Paper

Abstract or Description

Housing mobility programs enable families living in high-poverty neighborhoods to relocate to lower-poverty neighborhoods using tenant-based subsidies. Recent research indicates that these programs improve participant outcomes on a number of economic and social outcomes. Can such programs be run at a scale sufficient to help a large proportion of eligible families? Would doing so change the character of lower-poverty neighborhoods or have other macro demographic or economic effects? This paper applies policy simulation to a stylized representation of a housing mobility program to give a sense of scale and proportion for what a “full scale” mobility program might entail.

Results indicate that our system model reaches steady-state fairly quickly, that rates of concentrated poverty decrease more quickly than those for system-wide poverty, consistent with the notion of a housing mobility program as primarily a tool for poverty deconcentration. Destination communities absorb a substantial number of mobility in-movers without suffering substantial adverse demographic impacts, indicating that the “carrying capacity” of these communities may sufficient to support large-scale mobility initiatives. Middle-class flight per mobility family is moderately high and almost independent of housing mobility program intensity; selected sprawl-related social costs are relatively small. Sensitivity analyses show that the model behaves in predictable ways in response to changes to structural parameters. A “worst-case” scenario of parameter values still generates modest poverty reductions with moderate levels of poverty in destination communities but very high rates of middle-class “flight”.