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Why housing voucher programs mean so much more than just a home

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Posted at 12:06 PM, Feb 09, 2023

Byron Rice-McCready grew up in public housing in southeast Baltimore, where all those in his situation were grouped together. Today, he represents where public housing might be headed— stability, supported by vouchers.

Baltimore was one of the first cities to build a robust program around vouchers. That was twenty years ago. Now, cities from Buffalo to San Diego have started their own voucher programs. Cities like Cleveland and Nashville are part of federally funded pilots. In those cities alone, there are nearly 500,000 potential beneficiaries.

Adria Crutchfield is the executive director of the Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership.

“There are over 4,300 households that we assist, and the majority of them are doing exactly what Byron is doing: you know, working hard, looking out for their kids, leveraging the opportunity that has been provided through entering our program," Crutchfield said. "We just simply don’t often hear about it.”

Part of why these programs are growing in size is because the cities that run them are showing what works.

Rice-McCready doesn’t just receive vouchers for rent. He received counseling before and after his move. He selected a subdivision in Columbia, Maryland, where his neighbors aren’t all in his situation. It fits with the findings of a groundbreaking study from last summer that found the biggest factor in low-income children reaching higher income brackets is making friends with those across brackets.

Rice-McCready made more than just friends. He met his wife, Tamika, when he was looking to buy furniture. They’re now saving to buy a house.

Waitlists to receive vouchers can be long. Of those nearly 500,000 potential beneficiaries, only a fraction are being served.

Rice-McCready believes he's an example that it's worth the wait.

“My mom and my pops died, and neither one of them left me with anything or my other siblings. So, I gotta leave them something behind before I go so they won’t have to struggle, so they don’t have to go back to what I had to go through,” he said.