Accessing private market housing

Strategy overview

  • Increasing access: Helping low- and moderate-income households access private market housing is one way to increase their access to quality, affordable housing. Such strategies can include subsidies, grants or loans, or personalized housing search assistance.
  • Supplementing Housing Choice Vouchers: By covering a portion of rent, the federal Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program can assist low-income families in accessing rental housing. While public housing authorities administer the HCV program, jurisdictions can increase the effectiveness of HCVs by conducting outreach to recruit and retain landlords who accept vouchers; passing source-of-income laws, which prohibit landlords from refusing to rent to a household because it receives HCVs; and dedicating a portion of eligible state and federal funding to facilitate the development of highly-subsidized units accessible to very low-income households.
  • Supporting moves to high-opportunity areas: Housing navigator programs help families use HCVs to move into rental properties in high-opportunity neighborhoods. Successful navigator programs typically engage with landlords to encourage them to accept voucher-holding tenants, provide families with housing search assistance, and supply some degree of financial assistance to families to offset moving costs.
  • Down payment assistance: By subsidizing upfront costs, jurisdictions can help more low- and moderate-income families own homes. Down payment assistance reduces the overall cost of purchasing a home and the need for significant liquidity. This can take several forms, including offering low-interest or forgivable loans and providing cash grants.
Target Population
Adults and families
Key Stakeholders
Mayor or County Executive's Office, Housing/Community Development Department, Housing Authority, Nonprofit Partner, Program Evaluation Team

What evidence supports this strategy?

Strong

Several rigorously evaluated practices to increase access to private market housing demonstrated significant, positive impacts on neighborhood choice and access. However, further research is needed to confirm magnitude and replicability of effects.

  • A 2019 research synthesis found that the Housing Choice Voucher Program can be associated with increases in neighborhood choice and socio-economic diversity.

  • In a 2020 randomized controlled trial, 53 percent of families receiving customized financial assistance and housing search support to supplement vouchers moved to a high-opportunity neighborhood, compared to 15.1 percent of families in the control group.

How does increasing access to market rate housing impact economic mobility?

  • Stable housing: Housing instability leads to increased rates of job loss. Programs that help households access affordable housing reduce the likelihood of those households experiencing eviction or foreclosure.
  • Accessing high-opportunity neighborhoods: Recent research indicates that a child growing up in a high-opportunity neighborhood is more likely to be upwardly mobile than a child in a low-opportunity neighborhood. Programs like Creating Moves to Opportunity assist families in using Housing Choice Vouchers to access market rate housing in high-opportunity neighborhoods.
  • Building wealth: Strategies that help households purchase and stay in a home provide low- and moderate-income households with a pathway to build wealth through home equity.

Best practices in implementation

  • Develop a streamlined process: Identifying, financing, and moving to a new home requires significant time and effort, and low- and moderate-income households typically have fewer resources to navigate the process. Programs that are simple, fast, and responsive to each household’s needs are more likely to build trust and have high uptake.
  • Prioritize partnerships and community engagement: Increasing access to market rate housing requires resources and expertise rarely present within a single organization. Cross-sector partnerships can build trust and the capacity to work at scale. 
  • Embed evaluation capacity: Identifying and monitoring performance indicators allows a program to make ongoing improvements and determine if it is meeting community needs. Measuring strong performance can also help make the case for greater future investment.
  • Identify a consistent funding source: In stronger markets, increasing access to market-rate housing is an on-going project. Identifying dedicated revenue sources, like linkage fees, demolition taxes, or TIF districts, will ensure down payment assistance programs, housing navigator programs, and other efforts can operate predictably and at-scale.
  • Leverage public properties: Developing additional housing on publicly owned properties increases the housing supply and puts downward pressure on housing prices. Localities can redevelop land to include housing alongside public uses (e.g., housing above a library) or take advantage of unused properties (e.g., redeveloping a closed school building). Additionally, localities can acquire and encourage the redevelopment of vacant or abandoned housing through mechanisms like land banks.

Evidence-based examples

Legal structure operated by a nonprofit organization that allows communities to control land and development projects
Stable and healthy families Supportive neighborhoods
Strong
Community-owned or public entities that acquire troubled properties and transform them into community assets
Supportive neighborhoods
Strong