Housing vouchers are a cornerstone of US federal housing policy, offering aid to more than 2 million households. Vouchers are meant to provide the poor with increased choice in the private rental marketplace, enabling access to safe neighborhoods with good schools and higher-paying jobs. But do they?
The Voucher Promise examines the Housing Choice Voucher Program, colloquially known as “Section 8,” and how it shapes the lives of families living in a Baltimore neighborhood called Park Heights. Eva Rosen tells stories about the daily lives of homeowners, voucher holders, renters who receive no housing assistance, and the landlords who provide housing. While vouchers are a powerful tool with great promise, she demonstrates how the housing policy can replicate the very inequalities it has the power to solve.
Rosen spent more than a year living in Park Heights, sitting on front stoops, getting to know families, accompanying them on housing searches, speaking to landlords, and learning about the neighborhood’s history. Voucher holders disproportionately end up in this area despite rampant unemployment, drugs, crime, and abandoned housing.
Exploring why they are unable to relocate to other neighborhoods, Rosen illustrates the challenges in obtaining vouchers and the difficulties faced by recipients in using them when and where they want to. Yet, despite the program’s real shortcomings, she argues that vouchers offer basic stability for families and should remain integral to solutions for the nation’s housing crisis.
Delving into the connections between safe, affordable housing and social mobility, The Voucher Promise investigates the profound benefits and formidable obstacles involved in housing America’s poor.