City and Regional Planning

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Rental Vouchers and Waitlists: Barriers and Impacts on Neighborhood Access and Household Welfare

In June of 2018, Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning Vincent Reina received a University Research Foundation grant to study the impact and effectiveness of the Los Angeles Housing Choice Voucher program, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Southern California. The groundbreaking multi-year project is crucially timed, as it will capture the first wave of households being offered a voucher and provide baseline data across the whole population that can be used moving forward in this important project.

In the fall of 2017, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) re-opened the waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) for the first time in 14 years. The HCV program is the largest federal rental subsidy program in the U.S, serving over 3 million households across the country. Through this program, the federal government pays the difference between 30 percent of a household’s income and the market rent for a unit. When HACLA re-opened their waiting list, they held a lottery to determine who could be added, and nearly 200,000 households applied for the 20,000 waiting list positions.  

The goal of the project is to identify who applies for a voucher and why; determine what drives people to use the voucher system and what barriers prevent it; quantify whether vouchers increase stability, neighborhood choice, or affect such circumstances as becoming homeless; and explore whether the often-lengthy wait for a voucher affects a household’s economic and housing decisions. The project includes over 50 interviews in both English and Spanish with Los Angeles residents who are on the waitlist for, or have received, a housing voucher.


Vincent Reina, Associate Professor, On leave from all roles below until 2023-2024 academic year
Claudia Aiken, Director of the Housing Initiative at Penn (HIP)