The neighborhood quality of subsidized housing

Emily Talen, Julia Koschinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Problem, research strategy, and findings: Housing policy in the United States has struggled for decades to assess the relative importance of neighborhood context in the provision of subsidized housing. In this study, we enter the debate over the value and limitations of neighborhood settings and the "dispersal-versus-development" approach by looking at the issue from an alternative perspective: neighborhood access. We provide a large-scale, quantified assessment of the neighborhood context of subsidized housing, with specific attention to six metropolitan areas in the United States. Using data on neighborhood access (measured by a walkability index) and locations of federally subsidized housing, we investigate three primary areas of research: an analysis of the level of access for subsidized housing, the question of whether low-poverty neighborhoods translates to low access, and the degree to which neighborhood access is compromised by an increase in negative factors like crime, poverty, or segregation. We find that federally subsidized housing in the United States is predominantly (72%) in poor-access locations. In addition, we find that low poverty is likely to mean low access, for which voucher holders are not compensated by living in more attractive neighborhoods (indicated by higher housing market strength). However, we find evidence that high-access neighborhoods are compromised by segregation in Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago, but not in Miami, Phoenix, and Seattle.Takeaway for practice: As advocates of the built environment, planners should support a more contextualized approach to housing policy, warranted by the fact that low-income households are often the most affected by physical proximity, or lack of it. In line with this goal, comprehensive plans, zoning regulations, and capital investment priorities could proactively support well-serviced, walkable neighborhoods for subsidized housing residents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-82
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the American Planning Association
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2014


  • accessibility
  • neighborhood
  • public housing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Urban Studies


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