the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. The voucher program provides assistance to more than two million households in the United States to find decent, safe, affordable housing on the private market. However, unlike many other forms of federal assistance aimed at reducing social inequality and ending poverty, the voucher program is not an entitlement program. In fact, only one-quarter of income-eligible households receive assistance through the program. To choose among eligible families, local housing authorities maintain waitlists, screen applicants and select families based on local priorities. After distributing these vouchers, housing authorities monitor both voucher recipients and private landlords to ensure compliance with program rules.
In this project, I draw largely on fieldwork and in-depth interviews at housing authorities in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. I look at on-the-ground rules and practices behind the voucher program – for example, how housing authorities craft waitlists, set local priorities and select voucher recipients from their lists. Additionally, through participation in landlord briefings and lease-up meetings for newly-selected voucher recipients, I investigate the way housing authorities explain program rules, set standards and outline the challenges of non-compliance for landlords and tenants in the program.