Local Hosting Options

Use Local Voucher Systems to Formalize Local Hosting

Helps families stay in their communities by creating formal hosting options with friends and family.

New construction near the International District, Seattle (photo by authors)

What's the issue?

For cities where population and income growth is generating a great deal of new construction, vulnerable residents face displacement pressures. This is true even if they are guaranteed housing in new development being built to replace their current one. In the time between the demolition of an existing building and the completion of a new building on that same site, former residents are relocated. This can increase housing instability if residents enter informal living situations with friends or family. It can also lead to permanent displacement if the difficulty of multiple relocations outweighs the benefits of return.  A local voucher system could address this issue by providing formal, temporary housing within residents' original neighborhoods.

How do vouchers for local hosting help?

This policy is designed to create formal, temporary housing using a two-pronged approach: vouchers and the construction of ADUs and DADUs. Vouchers, which are traditionally used by low-income residents to pay a portion of rent to landlords, would in this case be used to reimburse community hosts. This would incentivize those living in the neighborhood to provide housing for those who need it only temporarily. It would also alleviate the financial stress on friends or family members who host the displaced. Secondly, this policy would allow the construction of ADUs and DADUs. This would allow homeowners to earn additional income and create additional, private units in the neighborhood where the temporarily displaced could stay with the aid of a voucher.

Peter Korn, "High Cost of 'Affordable,'" Portland Tribune, 2014.

When and where does this policy work best?

This policy is appropriate for cities with a lot of new construction and space for additional units on existing properties. For example, this policy would be useful in a place like Los Angeles, where there is a lot of new development, informal housing arrangements are common, and there is space in low-density neighborhoods to build ADUs and DADUs in backyards. In cities with few remaining opportunities for infill, such as New York, only the voucher-hosting aspect of this policy would be applicable.

Works best for neighborhoods in early to middle-stage gentrification

Works best when neighborhoods have...

What are some possible problems and how can we address them?

Given that the Housing Choice Voucher program fails to meet the needs of all those eligible for vouchers, some housing advocates may oppose the use of vouchers for temporary instead of for permanent housing. However, temporary vouchers would be furnished by the City, not by the federal government, and thus tap a different funding stream. By reducing housing instability and displacement, temporary vouchers may even decrease the need for permanent housing vouchers in the future. Locally hosted tenants will have guaranteed access to new affordable units - access they will actually be able to capitalize on, thanks to stable temporary situations. Based on patterns of development and past displacement, city governments would have to determine what housing duration would count as "temporary". Cities would also be wise to establish methods for vetting these temporary landlords to prevent tenant abuse.