Landlords in high-opportunity neighborhoods screen out tenants using vouchers. In our correspondence experiment, signaling voucher status cuts landlord responses in half. This voucher penalty increases with posted rent and varies little with signals of tenant quality and race. We repeat the experiment after a policy change and test how landlords respond to raising voucher payment limits by $450 per month in high-rent neighborhoods. Most landlords do not change their screening behavior; those who do respond are few and operate at small scale. Our results suggest a successful, systematic policy of moving to opportunity would require more direct engagement with landlords.
Despite being eligible for use in any neighborhood, housing choice vouchers tend to be redeemed in low-opportunity neighborhoods. This paper investigates how landlords contribute to this outcome and how they respond to efforts to change it. We leverage a policy change in Washington, DC, that increased voucher rental payments only in high-rent neighborhoods. Using two waves of a correspondence experiment that bracket the policy change, we show that most opportunity landlords screen out prospective voucher tenants, and we detect no change in average screening behavior after a $450 per month increase in voucher payments. In lease-up data, however, enough landlords do respond to increased payments to equalize the flow of voucher tenants into high- vs. low-rent neighborhoods. Using tax data and listings from a website specializing in subsidized housing, we characterize a group of marginal opportunity landlords who respond to higher payments. Marginal opportunity landlords are relatively rare, list their units near market rates, operate on a small scale, and negatively select into the voucher program based on hard-to-observe differences in unit quality.
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.