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Harvard-MIT Center Studies Direct Money Housing Aid

Harvard and MIT's Joint Center for Urban Studies is investigating the benefits of providing low-income families with direct money allowances to be used to pay for housing in the commercial market.

The study, which may be used to formulate national policy, is being financed by a $360,000 grant from the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Bernard J. Frieden, director of the Joint Center and professor of city planning at MIT, said that the study is being made because of demand for reform in the country's housing policy.

Housing policy in the past has attempted, according to Frieden, to encourage building construction and to give support to low-income families that might not otherwise be able to afford decent housing. "While both of these goals should clearly be reflected in any enlightened overall housing policy, it is questionable whether programs can be devised which will accomplish both simultaneously," Frieden said.

Recent Joint Center studies have concluded that programs designed to aid construction of new housing often work to the disadvantage of the families living in the buildings.

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Arthur P. Solomon, associate director of the Joint Center and assistant professor of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, said the study will involve investigation of the early experiment in direct housing assistance in Kansas City.

A good proportion of the 150 families involved in the Kansas City experiment, Solomon said, left their neighborhoods when the experiment began. "That indicates a considerable capacity in the housing market to offer low-income families a choice of where to live, at least in the Kansas City area," he said.

An earlier study by the Joint Center showed, however, that welfare recipients have more trouble obtaining good housing than the working poor even when they have more money to spend on housing, because landlords are reluctant to take the risks associated with welfare income.

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