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Examining Effects of Small Area Fair Market Rent on the Housing Choice Voucher Program


  • How can we provide greater access to opportunity neighborhoods?
  • We're evaluating the Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR) Demonstration.
  • Early findings suggest SAFMRs improve access to opportunity neighborhoods.
The Challenge

Housing Choice Vouchers let residents choose housing units that meet rent and quality guidelines. Using a single metropolitan-wide standard to set the maximum subsidy for voucher holders can limit recipients’ access to neighborhoods with high-performing schools, low poverty and crime rates, and other characteristics associated with high-opportunity, higher-rent areas. The challenge was determining the best way to enable voucher holders to move to these areas without significantly raising subsidy costs. 

The Approach

Abt is evaluating the Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR) Demonstration, which lets local agencies increase voucher subsidies in ZIP codes with higher-than-average rents and decrease subsidies in areas where rents are lower. Abt works with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and five public housing agencies to assess potential and actual access to opportunity, and the total costs and rents associated with SAFMR implementation. 

The Results

Early findings show greater potential access to opportunity neighborhoods following the introduction of SAFMRs. The challenge was determining the best way to enable voucher holders to move to these areas without significantly raising subsidy costs. 

Interim Report
Final Report

Related Publications:

In 2015, the share of households moving to high-rent ZIP Codes increased from 18 percent in 2010 to 28 percent.