Synthesizing data and engaging key stakeholders to assess the neighborhood-based implications of using Small Area Fair Market Rents for Housing Choice Vouchers in Baltimore.
In the wake of the 2008 housing crisis, neighborhoods in Baltimore underwent drastic changes, becoming increasingly spatially segregated, especially for households with a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV). Specifically, these neighborhoods saw an increase in properties becoming renter occupied with more cash sale purchases. Households without housing assistance have also faced affordability and displacement issues as the use of vouchers in low-rent neighborhoods has inflated rents. This project explored whether or not adopting rent designated at the ZIP code or Census Tract level could reduce rental inflation, ensuring greater housing affordability for residents, and allowing households with vouchers more choice about living in other neighborhoods. The project was led by the Maryland Center on Economic Policy (MDCEP) and the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute (BNIA-JFI).
MDCEP and BNIA-JFI gathered data from several sources, including the American Community Survey (ACS) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD), on current distribution of households with vouchers across the metro area and reviewed research on use of Small Area Fair Market Rents (SAFMRs). The data were shared in a public online tool which allows users to explore how rental affordability and voucher use intersect in the Baltimore metropolitan area. The project also included interviews with community leaders, landlords, property managers, and a voucher recipient to understand the implications of using SAFMRs.
The results of the analysis highlight the impacts of the HCV program in neighborhoods across Baltimore. The stakeholder interviews revealed the experiences of voucher holders in the city, including how they are steered to current neighborhoods and how investor activity, as measured by the share of home sales paid with cash, is helping drive the prevalence of voucher households. The final report included policy recommendations for the implementation of SAFMRs and other strategies to reduce the impacts of changing rent standards on current voucher holders and landlords.
These findings were presented to researchers and policymakers at the ACS Users Conference in May 2023 as well as local organizations, funders, and residents during Baltimore Data Week in July 2023. MDCEP staff plan to meet with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City to discuss the data and themes from the interviews. MDCEP and BNIA-JFI hope these findings will provide advocates evidence needed to make the case for the Housing Authority to implement SAFMRs, lead to more affordable housing in the city, and be a significant step toward desegregation of housing available to people who use housing choice vouchers within the Baltimore metropolitan area.