Evaluating the Cost Effectiveness of Mobility Assistance

Thomas, Benjamin, Harrison Undergraduate Research Award, University of Virginia
Olsen, Edgar, Department of Economics, University of Virginia

Unlike medical care and food assistance, low income housing assistance in the United States is not an entitlement. Only one in four households that are eligible for housing assistance receive it. The evidence on program performance argues for phasing out subsidized housing projects in favor of an entitlement voucher program that will serve millions more people for no additional cost. One common argument against exclusive reliance on vouchers is that many families offered vouchers do not use them. Voucher utilization can be improved through the use of mobility assistance. Forms of mobility assistance include pre- or post-move counseling, landlord outreach, and financial assistance for moving. Various forms of mobility assistance have been attempted, but not in such a way that enables one to determine the cost effectiveness. This paper seeks to determine whether the housing voucher program can be improved without additional spending by using more money on mobility assistance and less on the voucher subsidy itself. I propose a series of random assignment experiments that would test certain forms of mobility assistance. The long-term goal of this project is to work with public housing authorities to test and implement comprehensive and effective mobility programs.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
public housing, economics, housing voucher, mobility assistance, low income housing
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