Summary of “Economist Raj Chetty has found a surprising tool to fight housing segregation”

The way housing assistance normally works in major cities is that housing authorities have limited budgets that they use to distribute money for rent to a subset of needy families.
The experiment found that the additional support raised the share of families moving to high-opportunity neighborhoods from 14 percent to 54 percent.
One of the first large-scale tests of the idea came out of a lawsuit filed in 1966 by Dorothy Gautreaux, a black community activist in Chicago who, with three other public housing residents, sued the Chicago Housing Authority and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, alleging that public housing had been built purposely to “Avoid the placement of Negro families in white neighborhoods,” in violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
The housing authority started finding placements for public housing recipients around the Chicago metro area, including in overwhelmingly white suburbs.
In the first year of the experiment, families in the treatment group were required to use their housing vouchers in areas with poverty rates under 10 percent as of 1990.
Russ – who has since taken over the housing authority in New York City – had read Chetty, Hendren, and Katz’s paper carefully and wanted to use his power at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, housing authority to generate the kinds of lifelong impacts they detailed.
One option the researchers considered was just giving a cash bonus on top of the housing voucher to families that move to higher-opportunity neighborhoods to see if that spurred more moves – but an earlier study found that even offering a $500 bonus to Chicago families who moved to higher-opportunity neighborhoods did nothing.
The eventual intervention the researchers settled on involved contracting with a local nonprofit, the Interim Community Development Association, to offer counseling through two sets of “Navigators”: family navigators, who worked with Section 8 families to help in their housing search; and housing navigators, who met with landlords in high-opportunity neighborhoods and sought to dispel any negative impressions they had about the Section 8 program, and about tenants who might have criminal records or poor credit.

The orginal article.