Costs and Utilization in the Housing Choice Voucher Program

Meryl Finkel, Jill Khadduri, Victoria Main, Linda Pistilli, Claudia Solari, Kristin Winkel, and Michelle Wood

July 2003

HUD, Congress, voucher program managers, researchers, and housing advocacy groups have focused on voucher utilization and the related issues of success rates and program costs for several years. Because underutilization of vouchers results in fewer families receiving housing assistance each year than could be served with available resources, HUD would like to make all possible efforts to maximize the utilization of vouchers allocated to local programs. This study is intended to provide insights into the factors that affect Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program utilization rates and costs in a sample of sites nationwide. The data for the study were derived from existing computerized HUD files, other secondary data sources, and primary data collected on site at a sample of 48 Public Housing Agencies (PHAs). The bulk of the information was gathered during onsite interviews with voucher program staff as part of one- to two-day visits made to each of the study sites between December 2001 and April 2002. While on site, researchers discussed aspects of each PHA’s local housing market, participant characteristics, and PHA policies to assess their impacts on subsidy costs and voucher utilization. In addition to interviewing key PHA staff in person, researchers spoke by telephone with local HUD staff, landlords, participants, and community representatives regarding the programs.

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