Pursuing Poverty Deconcentration Distracts from Housing Policy Reforms That Would Have a Greater Effect on Poverty Alleviation 2014 By Edgar O. Olsen Pursuing Poverty Deconcentration Distracts from Housing Policy Reforms That Would Have a Greater Effect on Poverty Alleviation The federal government has multiple housing policies to pursue multiple goals. For example, it promotes homeownership primarily through provisions of the individual income tax. If the federal government were to promote poverty deconcentration, it would almost surely do it through its low-income housing programs. This commentary argues that poverty deconcentration should not be a leading objective of federal housing policy because its benefits to the poor are modest, it is highly controversial, and it distracts attention from important reforms of low-income housing policy that would provide substantial help to low-income households. Instead of devoting scarce attention to new objectives of limited value, the federal government should be trying to achieve its original objectives in a more cost-effective and equitable manner. Pursuing this new objective distracts from the main task at hand, namely, delivering more help to the poorest members of society with the limited resources available. Low-income housing assistance is fertile grounds for such reforms. Cityscape Cityscape 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.