Deconcentration without Integration: Examining the Social Outcomes of Housing Choice Voucher Movement in Los Angeles County
(Appears in the December 2015 issue of City & Community)
This article reports on the social experiences of tenants moving from low-income neighborhoods in the City of Los Angeles to a racially mixed, lower poverty suburb—the Antelope Valley—using Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. Voucher tenants experience significant social exclusion and aggressive oversight. Local residents use racial shorthand to label their black neighbors as voucher holders and apply additional scrutiny to their activity. They aggressively report voucher tenants to the housing authority and police, instigating inspections that threaten tenants’ voucher status. Tenants react to these circumstances by withdrawing from their communities in order to avoid scrutiny and protect their status in the program. These findings illustrate that the social difficulties documented in mixed-income developments may also exist in voucher programs, highlight the ways in which neighborhood effects may be extended to include social experiences, and suggest the limits of the voucher program to translate geographic mobility into socioeconomic progress.
Policing as Resistance to Black Movement
A significant body of research explains how racial integration is prevented, but less is known about how it is fought once it has occurred. Using a case study of Black movement to a predominantly white neighborhood through the federal government’s Housing Choice Voucher program in Los Angeles County, I demonstrate that resistance to racial integration may operate through surveillance, policing, and eviction. From interviews with 43 local residents, I delineate a complex mix of grievances on the basis of race, gender, economics, and perceived social disorder that comprise broad communal hostility towards the neighborhood’s Black residents. Acting on this, some local residents engage in policing by surveilling neighbors they believe are using vouchers and deploying police and city agencies to fine, arrest, or evict them. These acts reveal the uniquely participatory nature of policing in a suburban setting and suggest areas of study for future research on policing and segregation.