The Voucher Promise: Section 8 and the Fate of an American Neighborhood

November 28, 2020
The Voucher Promise: Section 8 and the Fate of an American Neighborhood

A must-read for anyone interested in solutions toAmerica's housing crisis.--Matthew Desmond, Pulitzer Prize-winningauthor of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the AmericanCityAn in-depth look at America's largest rental assistance program andhow it shapes the lives of residents in one low-income BaltimoreneighborhoodHousing vouchers are a cornerstone of US federal housing policy,offering aid to more than two million households. Vouchers aremeant to provide the poor with increased choice in the privaterental marketplace, enabling access to safe neighborhoods with goodschools and higher-paying jobs. But do they?The Voucher Promise examines the Housing Choice VoucherProgram, colloquially known as "Section 8," and how it shapes thelives of families living in a Baltimore neighborhood called ParkHeights. Eva Rosen tells stories about the daily lives ofhomeowners, voucher holders, renters who receive no housingassistance, and the landlords who provide housing. While vouchersare a powerful tool with great promise, she demonstrates how thehousing policy can replicate the very inequalities it has the powerto solve.Rosen spent more than a year living in Park Heights, sitting onfront stoops, getting to know families, accompanying them onhousing searches, speaking to landlords, and learning about theneighborhood's history. Voucher holders disproportionately end upin this area despite rampant unemployment, drugs, crime, andabandoned housing. Exploring why they are unable to relocate toother neighborhoods, Rosen illustrates the challenges in obtainingvouchers and the difficulties faced by recipients in using themwhen and where they want to. Yet, despite the program's realshortcomings, she argues that vouchers offer basic stability forfamilies and should remain integral to solutions for the nation'shousing crisis.Delving into the connections between safe, affordable housingand social mobility, The Voucher Promise investigates theprofound benefits and formidable obstacles involved in housingAmerica's poor.