HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher program – also known as the Section 8 program – is a critical part of the nation’s safety net for some of our most vulnerable Americans. This program provides over 2 million very low-income households, often including an elderly or disabled family member, with subsidies to find safe, decent, affordable housing on the private market. But more than that, the voucher program empowers families to move toward opportunity and closer to work, school, and the many other basic resources they need to prosper.
Yet an opinion piece by James Bovard in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal would have readers believe that Section 8 vouchers are an insidious tool that ships crime out of “bad” neighborhoods to infect ”good” ones.
He simply couldn’t be more wrong.
In February 2011, HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research released a study conducted at New York University examining the relationship between Housing Choice Vouchers and crime in 10 major cities. The study concluded that – in direct contrast to Bovard’s argument – families with Housing Choice Vouchers do not bring crime when they move to a new community. In truth, if a voucher recipient commits a crime they actually lose their federal subsidy.
The Section 8 Voucher program is aimed at helping reverse the negative effects of neighborhoods of concentrated poverty and segregations on families by providing families with access to neighborhoods of opportunities for education, employment, and health. Housing Choice Vouchers are not the problem; indeed, they are part of a broader solution aimed at helping families move toward more opportunity and prosperity.
HUD and the Obama Administration believe that every American deserves to live in a safe neighborhood, free from fear of crime. And we stand by our partners at the local level who are on the front lines of creating and maintaining safe communities – state and local governments, property owners, neighbors, and public housing authorities. But unsubstantiated accusations like those in Bovard’s opinion piece undermine efforts at the state, local, and federal level to identify and root out the true causes of crime in our neighborhoods – and ignore the data that time and again disprove such accusations.
More than 10 million people in the United States live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty and face all of the interconnected challenges associated with poverty – housing decay, crime, disinvestment, health disparities, and lack of educational, transportation and economic opportunities. The solution to those challenges is not to eliminate the very supports that give low-income families the security they need to improve their prospects.
Not only is Bovard’s indictment of the Housing Choice Voucher program inaccurate, his recommendation would dismantle a much-needed support system for poor and needy families teetering on the brink during this difficult economy.