Liberty Green downtown includes Section 8 housing. | Courtesy of Louisville Metro Housing Authority

Despite common thought, Section 8 housing does not negatively impact property values in well-off neighborhoods, according to a study by Paul Dries, a University of Louisville doctoral graduate.

People draw correlations between Section 8 housing, crime and a decline in property values. However, Dries said, that isn’t true.

Dries analyzed data from 178 census tracts in Louisville and found that property values declined in areas in which a high concentration of Section 8 housing already exists such as Newburg, West Louisville and southwest Louisville, but the introduction of Section 8 housing into higher-income neighborhoods in the East End had no effect, his study found.

“It doesn’t have to have a negative impact in your community,” he said during a presentation Thursday at UofL’s Urban Studies Institute.

Section 8 is a federal housing voucher program that qualified U.S. citizens can receive to subsidize the cost of an apartment or other rental housing. Entire apartment complexes can be designated Section 8 housing or individuals can use a voucher and apply for housing in a market-rate complex. While people may visualize a poorly kept building, Section 8 housing can look like any moderately priced apartment building, Dries said.

This map shows where the highest concentrations of Section 8 housing — up to 73.2 units per 1,000 people — are located. | Courtesy of Paul Dries

Although his study cuts a hole in the belief that Section 8 housing negatively affects property values in high-end neighborhoods, Dries found that additional Section 8 housing drove down property values in low-income neighborhoods in which there already was a high concentration of such housing.

That finding raised new questions: “Is there a magic number? Is there a magic density? Is there a break point?” he said, noting that it’s a question for a future study.

Dries argued that if people already working to pull themselves out of poverty were living in neighborhoods with mostly middle- to high-income earners, they might have the opportunity to prosper and pull themselves up into the middle class. But some of those individuals are stymied when they are forced to live in majority low-income neighborhoods where there often are fewer job opportunities and higher crime rates.

“If you get to know the people,” Dries said, “many of them don’t care to be on Section 8 and would like to get a better job and get out.”