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Can Landlords Be Paid to Stop Avoiding Voucher Tenants?


Despite being eligible for use in any neighborhood, housing choice vouchers tend to be redeemed in low-opportunity neighborhoods. This paper investigates whether landlord behavior contributes to this outcome by studying the recent expansion of neighborhood-based voucher limits in Washington, DC. We conduct two waves of a correspondence experiment: one before and one after the expansion. Landlords heavily penalize tenants who indicate a desire to pay by voucher. The voucher penalty is larger in high-rent neighborhoods, pushing voucher tenants to low-rent neighborhoods. We find no evidence that indexing rents to small areas affects landlord acceptance of voucher tenants. The data can reject the claim that increasing rent limits by less than $3,000 per month can eliminate the voucher penalty. Neighborhood rent limits do shift lease-up locations toward high-rent neighborhoods in the year after the policy change, an effect that is large relative to the number of voucher households that move but small relative to all voucher tenants.


Suggested citation: Aliprantis, Dionissi, Hal Martin, and David Phillips. 2019. “Can Landlords Be Paid to Stop Avoiding Voucher Tenants?” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Working Paper no. 19-02. https://doi.org/10.26509/frbc-wp-201902.

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