Brokering the Geography of Opportunity: How Landlords Affect Access to Housing and Neighborhood Quality Among HUD Assisted Renters

Brokering the Geography of Opportunity: How Landlords Affect Access to Housing and Neighborhood Quality Among HUD Assisted Renters

Funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy

The success of HUD’s housing voucher program depends on three groups: policymakers and administrators, low-income voucher recipients, and landlords. A growing literature exists on subsidized housing policy and the recipients of these subsidies, but we know very little about the landlords who manage the properties and receive compensation through these assisted programs, and next to nothing about those with properties renting at or below FMR who chose not to participate in the voucher program.

Historically, landlord decisions have been viewed as a simple manifestation of market responses to the voucher program’s various incentives and regulations. In other words, decisions such as whether or not to accept vouchers have been the presumed consequences of exogenous market forces and policy implementation. According to this view, landlords who can profit from participation do so. Strikingly, what little research we have on landlords suggests a portrait of landlord behavior that is far from economically rational. Instead, landlords operate within a context of limited information, financial constraints, and risk aversion.

In this study, we examine landlords in three cities: Dallas, Cleveland, and Baltimore. Specifically, we focus on landlords in the affordable housing market, who could potentially rent to HCV tenants. We rely on in-depth qualitative interviewing and ethnographic observation of landlords to ask: what role do landlord practices play in shaping how low- and moderate-income households (especially voucher holders) are sorted into different neighborhoods across the metropolitan are?