Americans who use housing choice vouchers are increasingly choosing to live in the suburbs, although the Baton Rouge metro area is among the exceptions to that trend, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program.
The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department’s housing choice voucher program assists very low-income families, the disabled, and the elderly with paying for housing, according to the think tank. The program provides payments to landlords to make up the difference between rents and what the renters can afford. In certain circumstances, vouchers can be used to purchase a home.
In the Baton Rouge area, the percentage voucher use in the suburbs dropped from 49.3 percent in 2000 to 42.9 percent in 2008, a drop of 5.5 percent, the report shows. Only 14 other metro areas experienced a larger drop.
Locally, the number of vouchers issued jumped from 5,426 in 2000 to 9,438 in 2008, the report shows. Some 60.9 percent of the metro area’s poor people live in the suburbs.
“Jobs moved to the suburbs, and people followed,” Michael Stoll, one of the authors of the report, said in a news release. “Some of those people are poor. Some rely on vouchers to secure affordable housing. We found that, while vouchers are giving people the chance to move where the opportunities are, voucher recipients are not moving into high-opportunity neighborhoods as often as they might.
“While HUD has made the voucher program more flexible, there is more to do,” Stoll said. “The idea was to help get people out of urban poverty pockets, but we don’t want to simply plunk them down into new poverty pockets in the suburbs.”