Improving locational outcomes emerged as a major policy hope for the nation's largest low-income housing program over the past two decades, but a host of supply and demand-side barriers confront rental voucher users, leading to heated debate over the importance of choice versus constraint. In this context, we examine the Moving to Opportunity experiment's first decade, using a mixed-method approach.
MTO families faced major barriers in tightening markets, yet diverse housing trajectories emerged, reflecting variation in: (a) willingness to trade location – in particular, safety and avoidance of “ghetto” behavior – to get larger, better housing units after initial relocation; (b) the distribution of neighborhood types in different metro areas; and (c) circumstances that produced many involuntary moves. Access to social networks or services “left behind” in poorer neighborhoods seldom drove moving decisions. Numerous moves were brokered by rental agents who provided shortcuts to willing landlords but thereby steered participants to particular neighborhoods.