Alleviating Poverty through Housing Policy Reform April 10, 2014 By Edgar O. Olsen Alleviating Poverty through Housing Policy Reform The purpose of this paper is to describe proposals for reform of low-income housing assistance that will alleviate poverty without increasing public spending. Low-income housing assistance is fertile ground for such reforms. The majority of current recipients are served by programs whose cost is enormously excessive for the housing provided. Phasing out these programs in favor of the system’s most cost-effective program would ultimately free up the resources to provide housing assistance to millions of additional people (Olsen 2014). Furthermore, the current system of low-income housing assistance provides enormous subsidies to some households while offering none to others who are equally poor, and it provides subsidies to many people who are not poor while offering none to many of the poorest. Avoiding these excessive subsidies and focusing assistance on the poorest families will contribute further to poverty alleviation. Well-designed reforms of the current system of low-income housing assistance would produce substantial poverty alleviation without greater public spending. Olsen_Alleviating_Poverty.pdf Areas of focus Economics Domestic Policy & Politics Edgar O. Olsen Ed Olsen is a professor emeritus of economics at the University of Virginia, where he has served as chairman of the economics department and was heavily involved in the creation and development of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. Olsen's teaching and research has focused on public policy issues, especially concerning the welfare system. Within this broad area, his research specialty is low-income housing policy. Read full bio Related Content Edgar O. Olsen Does HUD Overpay for Voucher Units, and Will SAFMRs Reduce the Overpayment? Research One argument for Small Area Fair Market Rents (SAFMRs) is that they would reduce overpayment for voucher units in low-rent neighborhoods. This article provides a more comprehensive theoretical analysis that leads to the conclusion that the worst voucher units and those in the worst neighborhoods will usually rent for more than the mean market rent of identical units, and the best units in the best neighborhoods will rent for less than this amount. Racial Rent Differences in U.S. Housing Markets Research This paper exploits an unusually rich data set to estimate racial differences in the rents paid for identical housing in the same neighborhood in U.S. housing markets and how they vary with neighborhood racial composition. It overcomes the shortcomings of the data used in previous studies. Results suggest that households led by blacks pay more for identical housing in identical neighborhoods than their white counterparts and that this rent gap increases with the fraction of the neighborhood white.