Today the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) released a study documenting extreme barriers to opportunity in the housing choice voucher program. The report is entitled Practical Steps to End Poverty for Families in the Housing Choice Voucher Program. While voucher families account for almost 25% of all rental households in New Orleans, the report documents how households are much more likely to be in geographically isolated, racially segregated, high poverty neighborhoods with little access to public transit, jobs, or the kinds of neighborhood infrastructure that can help to break the cycle of poverty.
“We are particularly concerned about the nearly 19,000 children in the program, many of whom we have moved directly into harm’s way in terms of exposure to gun violence and other public health risks,” noted Cashauna Hill, Executive Director of GNOFHAC. Children make up 47% of all people served by the housing choice voucher program. “If families are to succeed, HANO, HUD and the City should come together to fulfill the promise of the program.”
GNOFHAC’s report not only examines indicators like life expectancy and other outcomes of poverty in census tracts that are home to the vast majority of voucher households, but also how other cities have broken the cycle through housing mobility programs. Research by economists like Harvard’s Raj Chetty demonstrates that children whose families move into high-opportunity neighborhoods boast an increased annual income of 30%, are more likely to attend college, are less likely to rely on public supports, and are able to overcome the generational persistence of poverty, which many New Orleans families suffer.
“Before we condemn a generation of families that entered the program since Hurricane Katrina to a cycle of poverty, we should be looking at successful programs in other cities to improve fair housing choice. Our children deserve as much, and the solutions are available,” continued Hill.
The full report, Practical Steps to End Poverty for Families in the Housing Choice Voucher Program, can be found here.