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Dallas Highlights Benefits of Housing Subsidies Based on Local Rents

The New York Times today describes an experimental policy in Dallas that helps families with Housing Choice Vouchers move to higher-opportunity areas by tying their voucher subsidies to rents in a given neighborhood rather than in the entire metropolitan area.  Our recent paper explains that the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s planned expansion of this policy — known as “small-area fair market rents” — would broaden housing opportunities for voucher holders. 

Moving out of high-poverty neighborhoods can transform families’ lives, the Times reports: 

Four years ago, when Torey Moore first obtained one of the about 29,000 housing vouchers available to Dallas area residents, she stayed in the same South Dallas neighborhood.  She had two young children, and she relied on her family to look after the children while she worked.

Last year, however, she decided it was time to move.  Her children were struggling at school, and when they were not at school, she worried about their safety.

In February, after a lot of searching, she moved to a three-bedroom house in Frisco, a rapidly growing northern suburb.

“It was one of the best things I’ve ever done,” she said.

Her old house had burglar bars on the windows; her new house does not.  And her son and daughter are thriving in Frisco schools.  Her daughter, who was falling behind in reading and math, gets individual tutoring each morning before the school day.  “In Dallas, I kept trying to get the school to put her in tutoring, and they kept saying she was doing fine,” she said.  “These people care.”

Ms. Moore now lives farther from her family, but she has found that she needs their help less often because she lives closer to her job in the mortgage department at Bank of America.  Instead of traveling 90 minutes twice a day, she now commutes about 35 minutes each way.  She can now spend two more hours with her children.

For more on why housing location is critical to creating opportunity for children and how federal, state, and local policymakers can help families live in better locations, see this CBPP report.