An in-depth look at America’s largest rental assistance program
and how it shapes the lives of residents in one low-income Baltimore
Housing vouchers are a cornerstone of US federal housing policy,
offering aid to more than two million households. Vouchers are meant
to provide the poor with increased choice in the private rental
marketplace, enabling access to safe neighborhoods with good schools
and higher-paying jobs. But do they?
Promise examines the Housing Choice Voucher Program, colloquially
known as “Section 8,” and how it shapes the lives of families
living in a Baltimore neighborhood called Park Heights. Eva Rosen
tells stories about the daily lives of homeowners, voucher holders,
renters who receive no housing assistance, and the landlords who
provide housing. While vouchers are a powerful tool with great
promise, she demonstrates how the housing policy can replicate the
very inequalities it has the power to solve.
Rosen spent more
than a year living in Park Heights, sitting on front stoops, getting
to know families, accompanying them on housing searches, speaking to
landlords, and learning about the neighborhood’s history. Voucher
holders disproportionately end up in this area despite rampant
unemployment, drugs, crime, and abandoned housing. Exploring why they
are unable to relocate to other neighborhoods, Rosen illustrates the
challenges in obtaining vouchers and the difficulties faced by
recipients in using them when and where they want to. Yet, despite
the program’s real shortcomings, she argues that vouchers offer
basic stability for families and should remain integral to solutions
for the nation’s housing crisis.
Delving into the
connections between safe, affordable housing and social mobility, The
Voucher Promise investigates the profound benefits and formidable
obstacles involved in housing America’s poor.