The goal of mobility programs is to increase the number of voucher holders living in high-opportunity areas. Programs use a number of criteria to define and target opportunity-rich communities. The most common criteria are based on poverty rate and minority population rate. However, it may be important to explore other factors that contribute to economic mobility, such as employment rates and school quality. Opportunity mapping that takes many factors into consideration is important to help ensure families will benefit from their move.

While some programs have the ability to reserve specific vouchers for targeted, high-opportunity areas, programs without this flexibility can still assist households in accessing these areas by targeting mobility services and extended search times to voucher holders who are committed to moving to a high-opportunity area.

Case Studies

Community Choice Mobility Program (King County, Wash.)

In 2014, the King County Housing Authority initiated the Community Choice Housing Mobility Program, which serves families living in the county, excluding the cities of Seattle and Renton. While many mobility programs focus on correcting racial segregation and disparity, King County’s challenges are less about racial segregation than economic segregation.

The goal of the Community Choice Housing Mobility Program is to assist voucher holders with children in moving to very high-opportunity areas. Unlike most programs of its kind, the Community Choice Program defines opportunity areas using an opportunity mapping analysis conducted by the Kirwan Institute at The Ohio State University. The analysis uses a number of different indicators to create an opportunity index for each community in the county, including:

  • education indicators (reading proficiency scores, math proficiency scores, graduate rates, percent of students on free or reduced lunch, teacher qualifications, teacher-to-student ratio and adult educational attainment),
  • economic opportunity indicators (proximity to employment, economic climate, percent of population on public assistance, unemployment rate and mean commute time) and
  • housing and neighborhood indicators (crime rates, home ownership rates, residential vacancy rates, property appreciation, foreclosure rates, neighborhood poverty rate, proximity to toxic waste and superfund sites and proximity to parks and open spaces).

This comprehensive analysis helps ensure that families are moving to areas that will provide access to good jobs, transportation, high-performing schools and a safe and amenity-rich neighborhood.

The Community Choice Housing Mobility Program offers higher payment standards than typically offered by the Housing Authority to help families find voucher-eligible units in areas of the highest opportunity. As of July 2015, the program had enrolled 58 families and assisted nine families in moving to high-opportunity areas. The program plans to evaluate success based on retention in opportunity neighborhoods and based on academic achievement.

For More Info:

Elizabeth Westberg, King County Housing Authority
Email: [email protected]