Housing Patterns of Low Income Families With Children

Daniel Gubits, Jill Khadduri and Jennifer Turnham

September 2009

Housing Patterns of Low Income Families With Children: Further Analysis of Data From the Study of the Effects of Housing Vouchers on Welfare Families. The Housing Choice Voucher Program is the largest federal housing assistance program for low income families, currently serving about 2 million households at an annual cost of more than $16 billion. Housing vouchers are the “demand-side” part of the mixed system for providing affordable housing for low income families and individuals in the US. The Housing Voucher Evaluation provided strong confirmation that vouchers prevent homelessness and also documented very high rates of homelessness and housing instability for control group families—that is, for families without vouchers. Additional analysis of data from the study confirms the findings of other research that African Americans are at higher risk of homelessness than whites or Hispanics are. Programs designed to prevent homelessness should be concentrated—explicitly or indirectly—on communities with high proportions of African Americans. The best predictor of homelessness as revealed by this study is previous housing instability: not having a place of one’s own or moving frequently. Those who are living with friends or relatives at baseline are at risk of being homeless at a later point, particularly of having to stay with friends or relatives in the future. Programs that attempt to target families at highest risk of homelessness should look for these patterns in screening interviews.

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