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Working Paper

Landlords and Access to Opportunity

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.

Working Papers of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland are preliminary materials circulated to stimulate discussion and critical comment on research in progress. They may not have been subject to the formal editorial review accorded official Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland publications. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland or the Federal Reserve System.

Suggested Citation

Aliprantis, Dionissi, Hal Martin, and David Phillips. 2019. “Landlords and Access to Opportunity.” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Working Paper No. 19-02R.