A New Approach to Housing Choice Voucher Implementation in Durham, North Carolina

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The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program is the largest federal rental housing program in the United States, providing housing subsidies for over 2.2 million low-income households at an annual cost of approximately $18.4 billion. However, even with substantial funding and bipartisan support, the HCV program does not do an optimal job at meeting its potential to give low-income households the opportunity to move into high-opportunity neighborhoods. While there is some existing evidence around creative approaches to improve HCV implementation in larger cities across the country, there is little research around implementation in midsized, southern cities like Durham, North Carolina.

The following case study evaluates strategies implemented by housing authorities in Durham, North Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia. It also looks at two HCV implementation strategies that are growing in popularity across the country: source-of- income laws and Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR). Altogether, the case study evaluation highlights demand-side and supply-side innovations and evaluates them against a set of criteria to determine whether the Durham Housing Authority (DHA) should consider implementation.

This analysis gives way to a set of near-term and long-term recommendations. In the near-term, I recommend that the DHA... • Apply for Moving to Work (MTW) designation. This has been critical in enabling Charlotte’s housing authority, INLIVIAN, to test out new approaches to HCV implementation, many of which have been successful. In Durham, it is likely to have a similar impact. • Extend the time frame to find rental units. DHA should extend the time to find a unit to at least 120 days, a time frame that would make it more feasible for HCV recipients to find adequate units. This time frame is comparable to what is in practice in both Charlotte and Richmond. • Seek opportunities for local partnerships. Funding will be a significant barrier to implementing creative approaches to HCV administration. As such, DHA should seek out nonprofit partners who can support landlord recruitment efforts, serve as a conduit between landlords and tenants, and provide clear and consistent communication to both landlords and tenants. • Streamline landlord processes. DHA should seek out ways in which it can ease bureaucratic burdens for landlords and develop actionable solutions to implement these changes. This will reduce disincentives in the HCV program for landlord participation and will help increase the supply of landlords willing to rent to HCV recipients.

In the long-term, I recommend that the DHA... • Adopt Small Area Fair Market Rents (SAFMRs). SAFMRs are growing in popularity across the country. As Durham continues to grow and housing prices continue to rise, SAFMRs have the potential to provide all voucher families with access to high- opportunity, low-poverty neighborhoods. In order to be intentional about program roll- out, DHA should consult with other PHAs which have rolled out SAFMRs to understand lessons learned from program implementation.





undefined (2020). A New Approach to Housing Choice Voucher Implementation in Durham, North Carolina. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/20745.

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.