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Federal Housing Programs Fail To Place Minority And Low-Income Families Near High Quality Schools

New Study Finds Affordable Housing Located Near Low Performing, High Poverty Schools

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Across the country, tenants receiving federal housing assistance rarely reside in neighborhoods near high quality schools, according to a study released today by the Washington-based Poverty and Race Research Action Council (PRRAC).

The study, Do Federally Assisted Households Have Access to High Performing Public Schools?, found that assisted households are more likely to live near low-performing schools than other households. Of the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas, Grand Rapids, MI, Monmouth, NJ, Scranton, PA and Bergen County, NJ ranked last in how well four specific housing programs located assisted households near quality schools.

In urban areas such as Chicago, IL; Boston, MA; Syracuse, NY; Milwaukee, WI and Indianapolis, IN federal housing units are rarely located near higher performing schools, and even housing voucher holders rarely live near higher performing schools. By contrast, among the metropolitan areas with the highest rankings for locating assisted households near quality schools are San Antonio, TX; Mobile, AL; San Jose, CA; San Diego, CA; Omaha, NB;  Tulsa, OK;  Tampa, FL; and Albuquerque, NM.

"It is unfortunate that housing assistance programs across the country aren't helping families improve the quality of education for their children," said Philip Tegeler, executive director of PRRAC, which is a civil rights policy organization. "Even housing assistance programs specifically designed to help families move to better neighborhoods are failing to achieve that objective." 

Georgetown Law Professor Sheryll Cashin, a PRRAC Board member who has written about race and housing issues, said the study has uncovered "a missed opportunity" to improve life outcomes for low-income families. "Education is the only route to a better life for children growing up in poor communities," said Cashin. "Federal housing assistance programs should expose our nation's most vulnerable children to the best available educational opportunities."

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) currently spends about $18 billion annually on Housing Choice Vouchers, and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program (administered by the Treasury Department) currently costs $6.5 billion annually in foregone revenues. These are extremely important programs for low-income families, and they should serve as a means for families to reach high opportunity areas with better schools.  This new study suggests that rarely do these programs accomplish that goal. 

The PRRAC study, which was authored by Ingrid Gould Ellen and Keren Horn at the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at NYU, found that even though the Housing Choice Voucher Program was created, in part, to help low-income households relocate to better neighborhoods, these voucher holders frequently live near low-performing schools.

Background and methodology

The study analyzed the latest data available from HUD and the U.S. Department of Education, including HUD's 2008 file of subsidized housing tenants, which lists the residential addresses of most assisted households; HUD's LIHTC data that includes the addresses of every project in service by 2009; and Education Department's math and English proficiency rates for the 2008-2009 school year. Thus, the study provides an important baseline for analyzing the reform of federal housing programs.

Researchers identified the elementary school nearest to each household with school-age children that receives federal housing assistance. While the nearest school might not always be the household's zoned school, research showed that it served as a good proxy for the educational opportunities available.

"These findings are particularly salient as the wealth gap continues to widen in our country," Mr. Tegeler said. "An affordable home in a good neighborhood can connect families to broader opportunities by providing access to quality schools, stable jobs, and safer and healthier outdoor space. This not only helps individuals, but is an investment in our nation's future economy—in particular by connecting children to better schools."

Mr. Tegeler said that access to a high performing secondary school can greatly impact a child's life, including whether he or she will graduate or will go on to attend an institution of higher education. "These opportunities are particularly crucial for low-income children in affordable housing," he said. 

Metropolitan rankings, with supporting data, are available at:

(To arrange broadcast or print interviews with Ingrid Gould Ellen or Philip Tegeler please contact: Michael K. Frisby at [email protected] or 202-625-4328; Kimberly Alleyne at  [email protected] or 703-855-9604.)

Michael K. Frisby

SOURCE Poverty & Race Research Action Council

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