A well-structured voucher program can help residents from impoverished neighborhoods move to affluent areas and feel comfortable enough to stay, researchers found, despite evidence that people tend to remain in poor, segregated areas even when offered large housing subsidies.
‘The Baltimore Mobility Program succeeds while so many others have failed because it not only gives families the financial support to move, but also the chance to experience life in a safe, quiet, diverse place with good schools and quality homes,” said Johns Hopkins sociologist Dr. Stefanie DeLuca.
“What usually happens with housing vouchers,” DeLuca said, “is that a family chooses a neighborhood similar to the old one, and they don’t move far enough away to experience real change. The Baltimore Mobility Program offers families the support and encouragement to experience a totally new way of living.”
“They didn’t know life could be like this. In some cases, all they’ve known exists within a few-blocks radius in Baltimore City,” said DeLuca, who conducted the research with Jennifer Darrah, Ph.D., a lecturer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
“Once they had a chance to live in high-performing school districts with low crime rates, there were some pretty profound changes in how these parents thought about neighborhoods and schools and what was best for their kids.”
For the study, published in the Journal of Public Policy Analysis and Management, DeLuca followed 110 people enrolled in the Baltimore Mobility Program — a voucher program designed to move more than 2,000 low-income African-American families from high-poverty, highly segregated city neighborhoods to more diverse, higher-income suburbs.
The program offers families extensive support before, during, and after their moves. They begin with tours of the suburbs and walk-throughs of available apartments. There are credit counseling sessions, and they get to meet former city residents already living in the suburbs.
Program administrators work closely with landlords to assemble a roster of pre-approved available rentals to otherwise ease what could be an intimidating bureaucratic process. Also, by requiring participants to remain in their new homes for at least two years, DeLuca found, the program gave families a true sense of what was possible in a safe, diverse community.
More than two-thirds of the families who moved from the city to the suburbs through Baltimore Mobility remained there one to eight years later. Many mothers who initially told DeLuca they had no interest in leaving the city later said they had changed their minds.
Source: Johns Hopkins