The Consequences of Rising Suburban Poverty on the Housing Choice Voucher Program: A Study of Atlanta, Georgia Open Access

Kooragayala, Shiva (2013)

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This study investigates the consequences of suburban poverty on meeting two primary goals of the HUD-administered housing choice voucher (HCV) program: to deconcentrate inner-city poverty and to provide greater access to opportunities that enable socioeconomic mobility to low-income populations in Atlanta, Georgia between 2000 and 2009. Recent studies have shown that housing choice vouchers have been spreading away from central cities into the suburbs. While promising, the quality of many of these suburban neighborhoods no longer aligns with the notion of suburban opportunity. This project identifies and measures the quality of the neighborhoods in which voucher-occupied households are located; it also compares the quality of suburban and urban neighborhoods given the historical absence of social infrastructures in the former. To accomplish these tasks, I construct two indices to measure neighborhood quality and access to opportunity structures at the census tract geographic level. This study has three major findings. First, the data confirm that vouchers are decentralizing away from the City of Atlanta, but find a re-segregation in low-quality and opportunity poor suburbs between 2000 and 2009. Secondly, despite suburban neighborhoods' collective supremacy in neighborhood quality relative to urban neighborhoods, their opportunity structures are relatively weak. And finally, as a neighborhood's quality improves, regardless of its racial makeup and urban or suburban location, its proportion of voucher-occupied households decreases. Suburbia can no longer exist in a "policy blind spot," as the distinction between the opportunities and quality of life afforded by urban and suburban locations is becoming indistinct. This study's findings suggest that Atlanta's public housing authorities need to work towards opening up renter-eligible housing in high-opportunity neighborhoods, to take further steps to assist voucher recipients in moving to opportunity-rich suburban neighborhoods and to improve opportunities structures in distressed neighborhoods, particularly in suburban neighborhoods with new concentrations of HCVs. Future policy objectives should encourage collaboration between multiple municipalities and should explore the option of increased federal and state aid to suburban municipalities.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Literature Review 3

Research Questions 23

Hypotheses 23

The Data 24

Methodology and Results 32

Discussions 56

Conclusions: Finding Solutions 60

Further Research and Limitations 64

Works Cited 66

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