Baltimore Mobility Program: A Better Model for Housing Vouchers?

A recent article in Governing Magazine highlighted a study on the Baltimore Mobility Program (BMP) and interviewed the researcher to find out what other cities may be able to learn from the Baltimore City approach. The BMP puts an innovated twist on traditional housing vouchers by utilizing counselors, reaching out to landlords, and providing a greater financial assistance to help ensure that participants are able to move into a diverse, low crime, low poverty neighborhoods, rather than another  high poverty neighborhood.  As reported in Governing Magazine’s Human Services E-Newsletter:

A new article from Stefanie DeLuca, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, and Jennifer Darrah, a lecturer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, suggests that a cocktail of intensive counseling, aggressive landlord outreach and slightly higher financial aid may help more housing voucher programs succeed. The authors reached this conclusion after conducting in-depth interviews with 110 Baltimore families who participated in or applied for the Baltimore Mobility Program (BMP), which has helped move more than 2,000 low-income African-American families from high-poverty, highly segregated city neighborhoods to more diverse, higher-income suburbs since 2003. The program is similar to the federal Housing Choice Voucher program, but includes additional court-ordered requirements to ensure that destination neighborhoods are not predominantly poor, black and on public assistance.

DeLuca and Darrah found that more than two-thirds of family participants chose to live in their new neighborhoods for longer than the required period — one year — and some remained there eight years later. That’s important because past empirical studies of housing vouchers have found that families usually don’t move to higher income, more diverse neighborhoods and if they do, they soon return to poor, segregated city neighborhoods.

But the bigger finding, according to Deluca, was that parents said their decision-making process for choosing neighborhoods had changed. After families had relocated, about 60 percent of parents experienced a shift in how they decided where to live, placing a higher value on certain criteria, such as high-quality schools, quiet neighborhoods and a diverse community.

The article’s author, J.B. Woodard, interviewed Ms. DeLuca on her research into the Baltimore Mobility Program. For more information read the full interview in Governing Magazine’s Human Services E-Newsletter or visit the Baltimore Mobility Program (BMP) website.