Reforming Housing Assistance

Robert Collinson, Ingrid Gould Ellen, Jens Ludwig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article reviews current federal housing assistance policies and briefly summarizes research evidence about the efficacy of the different programs. We identify three key challenges that these programs face in meeting their stated objectives and suggest strategies for addressing them. The first challenge is the large variation in market conditions across the country, which makes it difficult to design assistance programs that are universally appropriate. We call for adjusting the type of assistance across markets, allowing for a greater match between subsidies and needs. The second set of challenges concerns subsidy generosity, structure, and targeting. The current system provides large subsidies to a small number of low-income households while providing nothing to most. Assuming limited government resources, we call for exploring the impact of more modest or time-limited subsidies to serve more people with more attention to targeting. The third challenge is the relatively poor location of housing in current assistance programs. We suggest strategies to help more assisted families reach high-opportunity areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)250-285
Number of pages36
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • housing
  • neighborhoods
  • subsidies
  • targeting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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