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Public Policy and Administration


Mark DeVirgilio


Owning a home is often referred to as the American Dream. However, the reality for low income homeowners is often problematic. Some scholars suggested that homeowners are better off than renters are, while others suggested that the current quest for low-income homeownership interferes with other affordable housing initiatives. Yet, few researchers examined the decision-making process of low-income homeowners. This phenomenological study explores and describes the experiences, attitudes, and perspectives of low-income individuals and their homeownership decisions. This study further delineates the costs and benefits of the Housing Choice Voucher Homeownership Program (HCVH) as perceived by low-income families in a southern U.S. city. Rational choice and social cognitive theories serve as a conceptual framework to explore the decision-making processes of people considering participating in the HCVH. Ten HCV clients responded to 13 semistructured questions. The results of the study generated 5 key themes: the pride of owning a home, weighing the costs and benefits of homeownership, leaving a legacy for children and grandchildren, lack of knowledge of the HCVH and other mortgage assistance programs, and “they did it so can I.” These findings suggest that all 10 participants believed in the benefits of owning a home. Several of the participants noted that there are also substantial costs associated with owning a home. This study has policy and social change implications for policymakers and low-income families considering purchasing a home. The recommendations include requiring all housing authorities establish HCVH programs and requiring housing authorities to provide post follow-up services for HCVH clients who exit the program.

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