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Urban Institute Report: Spatial Mismatch and Federally Supported Rental Housing

February 28, 2020
By Christina Stacy et al.

Low-income Americans using federal housing assistance don't live where there are jobs for them.

In many places in the United States, people with low incomes live far from available jobs, and employers cannot find workers to fill open positions. This gap between where jobs are located and where job seekers live is referred to as “spatial mismatch,” and it can harm both employers and potential workers. Employers may have positions that go unfilled, and potential workers may be discouraged from seeking available jobs by commuting costs that outweigh take-home pay.

Rental assistance programs, such as public housing and housing vouchers, could help people live closer to available jobs and thus reduce spatial mismatch. However, the historical placement of public housing far from opportunities and discrimination against families with housing vouchers might mean that recipients of federal rental assistance live farther from job opportunities than they would without that assistance.