Vouchers: More Than a Housing Solution
Many advocates and policymakers of housing for the poor believe that to achieve optimal human development of low-income households the location of the housing must be considered as well as the quality of the housing unit (Newman, 2008).
According to Newman (2008), housing of the poor has to allow for economic independence and self-care while providing a safe and adequate place to live. The debate about decent housing alone is sufficient to provide a healthier living environment has its roots in the late 1920s, when the unhealthy environment of the slums was associated with numerous social ills. The hands-on approach of the housing and social service agencies was important for the advancement towards economic independence and toward self-care.
The U.S. Housing Act of 1937 set forth a national housing policy which defined the benefits of housing for the poor in broader terms than just the ability to house participants. The Housing Act of 1937 helped the poor combat the effects of poverty by helping to elevate the poor to self-sufficiency and economic independence. Likewise, the housing goal of the 1949 Housing Act was to provide not only a decent home in which to live but an environment that will increase the well-being of the participants (Newman 2008).
According to Newman (2008), since the 1960s concern for housing of welfare recipients has been sporadic at best. Policy makers have tended to unbundle housing needs from other services rendered to the poor. Beginning in the mid -1970s, federal housing policy changed direction from the unit-based housing programs to allowing participants more flexibility in choosing the type of housing and the neighborhoods to live in (Teater, 2009). In 1996, welfare reform focused on the economic self-sufficiency of the poor by helping participants in the areas of transportation, health care, and child care, but did not focus on the housing of low-income families (Newman, 2008).
For the past fifty years the shift from meeting the housing needs of the poor through government projects-based housing to a more individual approach, has been slowly implemented. Housing vouchers now enable underprivileged populations to move from high-poverty, segregated neighborhoods to more un-segregated, low-poverty neighborhoods. Low-poverty neighborhoods have less crime, better opportunities for employment, and more diverse schooling options. Some housing advocates however, contend that housing assistance is unnecessary and is an income subsidy that should be combined with other social safety nets (Clark, W. 2008).
The Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 enacted a voucher program, the Section 8 Housing Allowance program that has since been renamed the Housing Choice Voucher program (HCV). In the original program vouchers were sent directly to qualifying landlords, however, in 1988, the terms were changed so that the...