New results from an experimental test of supportive services offered to new housing voucher applicants in Seattle and King County, Washington — called Creating Moves to Opportunity — showed a 40 percentage point impact on the proportion of voucher recipients who moved to high-opportunity neighborhoods. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof featured the results in his August 4 column.
Living in high-poverty, highly segregated neighborhoods can adversely impact educational performance and long-term economic mobility of low-income children. Compelling research by Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, and Lawrence Katz suggests that when young children move to “high opportunity” areas, their prospects for better economic outcomes as adults can greatly improve. The existing federal Housing Choice Voucher Program offers a platform through which very low-income families can achieve such moves.
In 2018, Seattle and King County Housing Authorities partnered to make available a bundle of services targeted to support families receiving the offer of Housing Choice Voucher Program assistance for the first time in moving to high-opportunity areas. These services supplemented typical voucher supports with new housing mobility education, rental application coaching, housing search assistance, financial supports, and landlord engagement strategies beyond what is typically provided by the two housing authorities.
Fifty-four percent of families receiving the additional CMTO services chose to move to high-opportunity neighborhoods compared to approximately 14 percent of families who received standard services from the public housing authorities. This result demonstrates that families offered mobility services designed to help them execute their housing searches and overcome rental market barriers can successfully lease-up in high-opportunity neighborhoods.
The Seattle and King County intervention model is being tested by a randomized controlled trial in two phases that began enrolling families in April 2018. Opportunity Insights partnered with Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, Johns Hopkins University, and MDRC in addition to the housing authorities in creating CMTO. This intervention is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Surgo Foundation. MDRC led formative fieldwork to inform program design, provided a customized case management system for the program, and supported the housing agencies in implementing study enrollment procedures in the randomized controlled trial. MDRC continues to provide program monitoring and technical assistance and is leading an implementation study. MDRC is also spearheading a CMTO expansion effort to build strong evidence about what works in different contexts.
For more about the CMTO partnership and the news coverage of the results, see:
JPAL North America: “Inside an Evaluation: The Creating Moves to Opportunity partnership in Seattle and King County”
New York Times: “A Better Address Can Change a Child’s Future,” by Nicholas Kristof
Vox: “America has a housing segregation problem. Seattle may just have the solution.”
NPR: “In Seattle, A Move Across Town Could Be A Path Out Of Poverty”
CityLab: “How a Section 8 Experiment Could Reveal a Better Way to Escape Poverty”