An Unaffordable Misconception: Housing Vouchers and Crime

Baltimore County desperately needs affordable housing. The County has not invested in the development of any new affordable rental housing for families in over 20 years; the County lost over 20,000 units of affordable rental housing from 2000 to 2008. This crisis has increased poverty, unemployment, and homelessness in the County and in our region.

Yet the County’s Council just voted to deny a planned residential affordable housing development.

Councilwoman Cathy Bevins cited community opposition as her primary reason to stifle the project. The Homes at McCormick,a 50-unit development, would have been a baby step towards addressing the County’s affordable housing need. However, more alarming than the loss of affordable housing in-and-of-itself was that community opposition to the project came in the form of claims that increasing voucher holders would increase crime and decrease property values in the community.

There are a host of studies that conclude voucher holders do not cause crime.  Looking at neighborhood data across 10 American cities,  NYU’s Furman Center and Moelis Institute for Affordable Housing Policy found that voucher holders did not increase crime but rather voucher holders settled in neighborhoods where crime was already high. Likewise, a study looking at vouchers in Dallas showed that the relationship between crime and vouchers results from a lack of units that accept vouchers in low crime areas and invalidates the suggestion that voucher holders are the cause of increases in neighborhood crime.  Another study from UCLA  finds that in the suburbs there is no observed relationship between vouchers and crime and that controversies in suburban communities blaming voucher households for elevated crime rates are misguided.

So housing vouchers do not cause crime. But the suggestion that vouchers lead to increased crime, now condoned by the Baltimore County Council, contributes to a cycle of poverty and crime that our great region cannot afford.

Contact Baltimore County Council and tell them to stop supporting misinformation and start supporting affordable housing.

 

Michael Snidal

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Michael Snidal

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