The Housing Choice (Section 8) Voucher program offers rent subsidies for low-income families. Through these subsidies, families are able to live in safe, affordable housing. The goal is to alleviate some of the issues, specifically in regards to housing, that come along with significant income disparity.
Federal housing assistance dates back to the Great Depression. However, when it was first created, the program incentivized construction of low-income housing projects that participants were then forced to live in if they chose to be a part of the program. This program design segregated low-income individuals into these “projects” leading to secluded patches of economic struggle.
Currently, the Housing Choice (Section 8) Voucher program allows participants to choose any housing as long as it meets the Housing Quality Standards set by their local Public Housing Agency (PHA). Roughly 2 million families are helped through the vouchers each year. The goal is to empower families to move into cleaner, safer neighborhoods. This freedom has transformed the program into one that helps integrate low-income families more seamlessly into the cities they live in, moving them closer to better schools and better job opportunities. By providing for a basic need (shelter), the program helps lift families off the streets and enable them to move forward with other necessary things like finding work and putting food on the table.
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Beyond the direct monetary value that vouchers offer to families, this assistance has a ripple effect on family members and their communities. Some of the wide-spread, intrinsic benefits of the program are listed below. As you can see, the benefits of the program extend far beyond the rent payment subsidy.
Increased access to public benefits.
Increased access usually happens in two ways — through the public housing case manager and through proximity of new housing to services. Through the voucher application process, applicants are often notified and connected to other public services, such as welfare or food stamps, that they are eligible for. Often times, moving into a new neighborhood also provides increased access to better child care, community centers and more.
Educational opportunities for children.
Because of the change in housing location, children in recipient families are often given more opportunity to succeed in education than they would have had they stayed in alternate housing. Children in the program are often in school longer and show higher achievement.
Since vouchers can only be used for housing meeting strict Housing Quality Standards, program participants are protected from unhealthy living arrangements. Relocating to a better neighborhood and more suitable home can offer improved mental and physical health to participants. Proximity to health professionals is often increased when families move as well.
Reduced crime and substance abuse.
Reduced crime and substance abuse has been observed in Housing Choice (Section 8) Voucher program recipients, especially in children. Increased opportunity and improved living conditions help alleviate some of the stressors that often lead to this type of behavior.