Since I’ve been writing about HUD programs, let me recommend this Prospect piece. In it, Greg Anrig and Harold Pollack take apart an Atlantic piece by Hanna Rosin (itself based on research by Richard Janikowski and Phyllis Betts) which claimed that Section 8 families in a Memphis relocation program were responsible for increasing crime rates in suburban areas. The Rosin piece has received a lot of criticism, and the Prospect article summarizes most of its failures.
The research on these new-ish housing policies is still developing, but there are a few lessons we can draw. One is that breaking up old school public housing and replacing it with mixed-income development is a very, very good thing on net. Another is that it’s mildly positive, on net, for the low income people who lived there. Another is that it should be more positive but it isn’t. That’s because some people don’t want to take the opportunity to leave, and others take it but maintain close connections with their old neighborhood. Social networks are hard for anyone to break.
And another is that with more resources, these programs could get a lot more effective. Because moving alone won’t automatically change a household’s prospects, more institutional support is needed. Bigger vouchers would get families into better neighborhoods. Combining vouchers with educational opportunities or employment services would help relocating families take better advantage of their new location.
That stuff all costs money, but it’s an investment. There’s nothing cheap or healthy about having a large population trapped in cycles of violence and poverty.