Study Finds No Relationship Between Housing Choice Vouchers and Increased Crime Rates

Last updated: August 19, 2013 – 8:57 AM

A recent study, conducted by Professor Michael C. Lens at UCLA’s Department of Urban Planning and published in Urban Studies, finds that there is no correlation between the number of voucher holders residing in an area and the crime rate in that area.

To test the frequently used argument against voucher holders that their influx into a community is sure to increase levels of criminal activity, Lens analyzed HUD public housing data, U.S. Census socioeconomic data, and FBI crime data from 215 U.S. cities between the years of 1997 and 2008 to determine whether vouchers and crime are indeed linked. He controlled for a wide array of variables, from national and local trends in criminal activity to demographic differences to variances in employment rates. Because about half of voucher holders currently reside in the suburbs and the strongest opposition to vouchers has been concentrated in these communities, Lens specifically focuses on suburban areas.

Lens found “virtually no relationship” between the pervasiveness of voucher-holders and crime rates in his analysis of both cities and suburban areas when controls are added. His statistical analysis seeks not only to determine relationships between his variables but also to determine cause and effect. For example, though a higher prevalence of vouchers may appear to correlate with more incidences of criminal activity in an area, vouchers do not necessarily cause crime but rather are more common in areas where crime rates are rising because rents in those areas are more likely to be low.

Though it is unlikely to put an end to the divisive debate surrounding subsidized housing, Lens’ research provides promising statistical evidence for advocates supporting more vouchers and additional low income housing in general.

Access “The Impact of Housing Vouchers on Crime in US Cities and Suburbs” study at: http://bit.ly/1cKyuwX

Access an article from The Atlantic, titled “Moving Poor People into a Neighborhood Doesn’t Cause Crime,” which discusses the study’s results at: http://bit.ly/1etf6CG

Source: The National Low Income Housing Coalition | nlihc.org | 727 15th Street NW, 6th Floor Washington, DC 20005

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