Photo of a mother and father sitting on a couch with their child and holding a TV remove, everyone is smiling. Photo by Adobe Stock.

Housing vouchers give help way beyond rental assistance

Photo of a mother and father sitting on a couch with their child and holding a TV remove, everyone is smiling. Photo by Adobe Stock.

New research shows that households with a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher get a wide range of benefits beyond saving money on monthly rent.

The paper — published last month in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice states that renters with vouchers have better access to health care and improved health. Also, children growing up in voucher households go further with their education and have higher incomes later in life.

What research was reviewed?

The publication provides a systematic review of past research looking at how rental assistance vouchers impact low-income renters.

To be included in the review, studies needed to assess voucher programs in the U.S. and include a comparison to a control group at the time of the study. This means that the research had to look at how voucher households were doing compared with low-income households without rental assistance. The studies also had to be conducted by reputable sources.

Across the studies, households using Section 8 vouchers saw improvements in several areas:

  • Housing quality and stability.
  • Neighborhood opportunity (measuring safety and poverty).
  • Health care access.
  • Physical and mental health.
  • Educational achievement.
  • Employment and income level.

Benefits for voucher households

The research review found that low-income renters with Section 8 vouchers had increased housing quality compared with low-income renters without vouchers. The proportion of voucher households who rated their housing as good or excellent was 7.9% higher than renters without  vouchers.

Voucher households experienced decreased housing insecurity and homelessness compared with those not getting rental assistance. This means they were less likely to be homeless, at risk of homelessness, or facing eviction. There was a median 22.4% difference between Section 8 voucher and non-voucher households experiencing housing insecurity.

Voucher households were also more likely to live in neighborhoods with more opportunities. Renters with vouchers were more likely to experience decreased neighborhood poverty and feel safer than those without vouchers. Section 8 voucher households were in neighborhoods where the poverty rate was 5.2% lower than where renters without assistance lived. Renters with vouchers reported feeling safe in their neighborhoods a median of 8.1% more than those without vouchers.

Improved health

Adults with Section 8 vouchers reported better access to health care. They also experienced improved physical and mental health compared to low-income renters without vouchers. Renters in voucher households reported fewer chronic health conditions and rated their physical and mental health more highly than renters without vouchers.

Fewer adults in households with vouchers were uninsured or had no usual source of healthcare. Also, fewer adults with Section 8 vouchers had unmet health or dental needs because they could not pay the cost.

In addition to health improvements for adults, some youth in Section 8 voucher households experienced better health. Female youth in voucher households reported better states of physical and mental health than youth not covered by vouchers. However, there were no differences between male youth in Section 8 voucher households and those without assistance.

Future success for children

Children who entered the voucher program before age 13 found greater success as adults than children without rental assistance. Also, the findings show that the younger the age of children when their families first receive a Section 8 voucher, the greater the educational and income gains later in life.

Children in Section 8 voucher households had greater levels of educational attainment than those whose families did not receive vouchers. The studies looked at the proportion of children who attended college. A larger proportion of children who grew up with rental assistance went on to college.

Children who grew up in families with Section 8 vouchers were more likely to be employed as adults than children in families without rental assistance. They also earned more as adults. Adult earnings were between 10% to 30% higher in the different studies for children who grew up with rental assistance than those without it.

Vouchers are a proven path to success

Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers help low-income renters afford to keep a roof over their heads. But looking at a variety of studies shows just how wide-ranging the benefits of stable, affordable housing are to hard-working families. 

At current levels of funding, only one in four households that qualify for Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers receives assistance. If Congress provided enough rental assistance for everyone who is eligible, the benefits would extend far beyond paying the rent and into the next generation.