Many times, voucher holders end up renting in high-poverty areas because they lack information about other neighborhood opportunities. Particularly in regions with limited public transit, residents of inner-city neighborhoods are unlikely to be familiar with all of the city’s surrounding communities and suburban neighborhoods. Search assistance can be used to inform voucher holders of their options, acquaint them with other communities and help them navigate unfamiliar housing markets. Search assistance also can include advice on initial interactions with a landlord, tips on what questions to ask and guidance on how to respond to discrimination. Municipalities and housing authorities may also offer escorted property showings. Because it is often difficult to find housing in low-poverty neighborhoods, getting the local housing authority to increase the allotted search time for voucher holders, which is generally 60 days, can be a helpful, complementary reform.
Born out of 1995 litigation, the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program is one of the most comprehensive mobility programs in the country, providing a wide variety of services to voucher holders. The program is currently administered by the Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership (BRHP), which, in addition to offering extensive counseling services, offers housing search and transportation assistance to help voucher holders explore and move to high-opportunity communities throughout the five-county Baltimore region.
Because many voucher holders residing in the city of Baltimore are unfamiliar with the rest of the five-county region, BRHP offers group and one-on-one tours to introduce voucher holders to the various housing options in suburban communities and the different amenities—schools, parks and stores—that these neighborhoods offer. BRHP’s tours assist families in choosing communities that best fit their needs. According to program counselors, actually seeing communities firsthand has successfully motivated many families to commit to the move. As of 2015, the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program had helped over 2,800 families move to high-opportunity neighborhoods throughout the region. A 2013 analysis by David Rusk found that compared to four other regions (Philadelphia, Newark, N.J., Cleveland and Denver), Baltimore had the highest percentage (21 percent) of voucher holders living in high-opportunity suburban areas.
For More Info:
Rachel Brash, Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership
Email: [email protected]