Race and place based discrimination against Housing Choice Voucher holders in Greater Boston
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The Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV), formerly called Section 8, is one the largest federally funded housing programs in the country. One goal of the program is to give families who live in areas with a high concentration of poverty the opportunity to move to areas with less poverty. However, research has shown that voucher holders are underrepresented in low poverty areas. Research is clear that there is widespread discrimination against voucher holders even in Massachusetts which bans rejecting a prospective tenant because they plan to use a housing voucher. Less is known about how voucher discrimination is compounded by race and neighborhood composition. Using an email audit design, over 300 real housing advertisements were contacted by testers that varied by racial affiliation (conveyed through name) and housing voucher status (conveyed through email text). Tests were sent to high and low poverty areas of Boston and Newton Massachusetts. Discrimination was tested by analyzing differences in response rates to different testing groups. Non-voucher holders were 37% more likely to receive a positive response than voucher holders. Voucher discrimination did not vary by race or census tract poverty rates. Since Massachusetts already bans voucher discrimination, policy makers should focus on enforcement of anti-discrimination laws.
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