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Fifty Years of the Housing Choice Voucher Program


The goal of Cityscape is to bring high-quality original research on housing and community development issues to scholars, government officials, and practitioners. Cityscape is open to all relevant disciplines, including architecture, consumer research, demography, economics, engineering, ethnography, finance, geography, law, planning, political science, public policy, regional science, sociology, statistics, and urban studies.

Cityscape is published three times a year by the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Call For Papers: Fifty Years of the Housing Choice Voucher Program:

A Symposium on the History and Future of Tenant-Based Rental Assistance

Guest Editors:

  • Peggy Bailey, Vice-President for Housing and Income Security, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)
  • Brian J. McCabe, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Purpose of the Symposium: In 1974, Congress authorized the creation of the Section 8 tenant-based rental assistance program with the Housing and Community Development Act. Over nearly five decades, the program has assisted millions of low-income households in securing decent, affordable housing in communities of their choice. Housing assistance protects families from rent burdens and reduces homelessness. The stability afforded through the Housing Choice Voucher program leads to better health, employment and educational outcomes for assisted tenants. The program’s emphasis on choice creates opportunities for families to choose their own housing unit and neighborhood. Today, the program stands at an important crossroads. While nearly 2.4 million households receive rental assistance through the program, the challenges of administering rental assistance have evolved. Many assisted households experience discrimination in their housing search, especially in jurisdictions without source of income laws. Without enough federal funding to meet the needs of low-income renters, many programs have long waitlists. Applicants on those lists often wait for years before receiving assistance. The inadequate supply of housing at allowable rents creates difficulties for assisted renters in securing a unit.

As the fiftieth anniversary of the Housing Choice Voucher program nears, this Cityscape Symposium invites authors to both look backwards at the history of the program and look forward to the future of housing vouchers and rental assistance, more broadly. On one hand, authors providing historical analyses could consider a specific aspect of the program and the people it serves (e.g., special purpose vouchers, project-based vouchers, fair-market rents, etc.). Historical papers could consider the changing experience of assisted tenants, the shifting politics of rental assistance or the place of housing vouchers within the landscape of rental assistance programs, among other topics. On the other hand, authors looking to the future of the voucher program could address any number of policy topics, including landlord participation, shifting payment standards or the role of mobility counseling in expanding neighborhood choice. These papers could consider the importance of expanded federal policies prohibiting discrimination, alternative uses (or formulae) for administrative fees, or innovative ways to deliver tenant-based assistance, among other topics. Contributions to the Symposium should offer original insights on the history of the program or future policy innovation. Read together, we expect this collection of papers to both reflect on this programmatic milestone and chart a course for the future of rental assistance.

Call for Papers: We invite authors to submit a one-page, single-spaced proposal describing their proposed contribution to the Symposium by March 30, 2023. Proposals should be submitted to Peggy Bailey ( and Brian McCabe ( with the subject line Cityscape Symposium. Authors will be notified of their selection by April 15 and required to submit the first draft of their manuscript by November 15, 2023. Following a review process, the final draft will be due by March 1, 2024 for publication in the July 2024 issue of Cityscape.

Final manuscripts should not exceed 5,000 words (excluding references, figures and endnotes), except in circumstances approved by the editorial team. While we expect authors to draw on the body of qualitative and quantitative research about the voucher program, we do not anticipate accepting original research manuscripts. Instead, authors should reflect on important developments in the history of the program or propose changes to the program to address contemporary policy issues.

Upon publication of the Cityscape Symposium in July 2024, we expect to invite authors to participate in a daylong event celebrating the history of the program and sharing ideas for the future.