The Suburb as the Slum: Housing Voucher Shifts in America

A new working paper from the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Opportunity series examines a major demographic shift in housing voucher recipients from the cities to the suburbs. Authors Kenya Covington, Lance Freeman and Michael A. Stoll write: “Just as the suburbanization of poverty has gathered momentum, Americans who use housing choice vouchers (HCV) to help pay for their housing have increasingly moved into suburban areas as well.”  The authors studied data from 2000 to 2008 to see how this shift has taken place.

They found that:

  • Nearly half of all HCV recipients lived in suburban areas in 2008. However, HCV recipients remained less suburbanized than the total population, the poor population, and affordable housing units generally.
  • Black HCV recipients suburbanized fastest over the 2000 to 2008 period, though white HCV recipients were still more suburbanized than their black or Latino counterparts by 2008. Black HCV recipients’ suburbanization rate increased by nearly 5 percent over this period, while for Latinos it increased by about 1 percent. The suburbanization rate for white HCV recipients declined slightly.
  • Within metro areas, HCV recipients moved further toward higher-income, jobs-rich suburbs between 2000 and 2008. However, the poor and affordable housing units shifted more rapidly toward similar kinds of suburbs over that period. By 2008 about half of suburban HCV recipients still lived in low-income suburbs.
  • Between 2000 and 2008, metro areas in the West and those experiencing large increases in suburban poverty exhibited the biggest shifts in HCV recipients to the suburbs. Western metro areas like Stockton, Boise, and Phoenix experienced increases of 10 percentage points or more in the suburbanization rate of HCV recipients.

The real estate bust has likely worsened this problem, having left millions of people in the suburbs underwater on their mortgages. As much as things changed over the last eight years, the coming decade could bring with it even more pronounced shifts in suburban poverty.

Mike B

If you look at trends in energy prices as well as both demographic preferences for the young and old I believe that many Suburbs are trending to become the new Ghettos as housing preferences change. The poor basically get last pick of housing. As high gas prices, congestion and the desire for living environments where there is more to do than stay at home or drive to a big ox store increase urban and old style centralized Suburban communities will grow in demand while the "drive until you can afford it" style suburbs will be rejected. Moreover many of these new "sprawl" style suburbs have been hit hard by the housing crash with high rates of foreclosure and falling property values.

This Suburban Ghetto paradigm is already evident in Europe where urban development and transportation policies have made city centers the preferred place to live with poor minorities being shifted to ring Suburbs.


Easily Amused

Did Paul Bunyan find Babe at a big ox store?


Thank god. If the non-contributors are going to hang around, they might as well be in the suburbs instead of big cities where the great resources (jobs, transit) go to waste.


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