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Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference Journal



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What is to be done about the poor and about poor neighborhoods? When it comes to housing policy, the current hope is that the Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly the Section 8 Voucher Program) can provide an or ambitiously the answer to this perennial societal question. By piggybacking on the private rental market, the voucher program supposedly has numerous advantages over traditional, project-based, public housing. Not only is it less costly to house poor people in privately owned units compared to the cost of constructing and maintaining public housing, but the voucher program also offers the possibility of deconcentrating the poor. Because vouchers can theoretically be placed anywhere, the poor can use them to move out of impoverished areas and into higher opportunity neighborhoods. At least in theory, vouchers thus offer a two-for-one punch: a more efficient way of providing housing support and a way to offer families a chance at economic mobility. A new book by Professor Eva Rosen offers a more nuanced appraisal of the ability of vouchers and voucher holders to live up to the multiple expectations placed upon them. The Voucher Promise: "Section 8" and the Fate of an American Neighborhood pulls back the curtain on the voucher program, letting readers into the lives of poor families and landlords whose lives are shaped by the program. "Section 8" remains the popular name for the program in much the same way that people still refer to "food stamps" instead of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. As Rosen shows, even though the voucher program may fail to deliver on all of the mobility expectations associated with it, vouchers considerably improve the lives of recipients. Even as the stature of economic mobility within poverty law solidifies and the consequent need to include mobility appraisal in the evaluation of anti-poverty programs evolves, scholars and policymakers should not lose sight of welfare gains associated with programs, even if the same programs cannot support the weight of mobility-tied expectations.



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