CityLab just published an article titled, “How Baltimore’s Housing Voucher Program Almost Gets It Right.” Despite the qualifier in the headline, the piece praises the city’s Housing Mobility Program for the positive impact its had and details the ways in which it stands out from the crowd.
BHMP is similar HUD’s Moving to Opportunity experiment, in which low-income families are moved to “high-opportunity” neighborhoods for a specified number of years, after which they may move where they like and keep their subsidy. But most beneficiaries of BHMP continue to live in high-opportunity areas after the initial mandatory period, whereas beneficiaries of MTO tend to move back to low-opportunity neighborhoods over time.
CityLab details three aspects that make BHMP more effective:
+ “Opportunity” is defined by multiple criteria. BHMP gives each neighborhood an opportunity score by averaging quality of education, public health resources, social capital, and employment opportunities. According to opportunity index maps created by University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth, Research, and Education, those four create four very different pictures of the value of living in a given neighborhood.
+ The voucher is larger. According to CityLab, the subsidy is good for “up to 120 percent of fair market rent.”
+ Housing counseling is included. Counselors advise beneficiaries on long-term financial management, and explain the value of living in a high-opportunity neighborhood, rather than a low-opportunity neighborhood with cheaper rent.