Thursday, August 14, 2008

Where is Subsidized Housing in MoCo? - Part Four

In Part Three, we discounted proximity to Metro stations and community age as predictors for the location of subsidized housing. Today we look at economic factors.

The chart below compares the 15 zip codes with the highest percentages of subsidized housing to the 15 zip codes with the lowest percentages. Two facts jump out immediately: the zip codes with the highest percentages had roughly half the per capita income and half the median home value of the zip codes with the lowest percentages. This is not surprising given the location of the zip codes. The high-percentage zip codes were mostly located in Silver Spring, Gaithersburg and Germantown. The most populated low-percentage zip codes tended to be located in Chevy Chase, Potomac, Bethesda and nearby areas.

Housing costs matter for three reasons. First, they impact the Housing Opportunities Commission’s (HOC) ability to purchase properties. The more expensive the housing units, the fewer of them HOC can buy. Second, they affect the ability of voucher recipients to find units with affordable rents. Third, high housing costs tend to correlate with other high costs of living. Food, parking and retail tend to be more expensive in wealthy neighborhoods than in poor ones, thus screening out many people even if they could afford rents.

But there is another explanation that cannot be dismissed: tensions over race and class. We will conclude with that in Part Five.