Landlords are essential actors within the rental housing market, and there is much to be learned about their willingness to participate in rental assistance programs that improve access to stable housing. Because the success of these programs, such as the Mobility (Location-Based) Voucher program sponsored by the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP) in Pennsylvania, can be derailed by landlord opposition, it is important to test strategies that can increase landlords’ participation.

Using data from a unique survey of small-scale landlords who owned residential, non-owner occupied units in Pittsburgh, this study provides experimental evidence for the potential effectiveness of an asset-framing approach to increasing landlords’ participation in the City of Pittsburgh’s Mobility Voucher program.


  • Exposing landlords to an asset-framing narrative that highlighted the social, economic, and health benefits of receiving a mobility voucher increased landlords’ reported willingness to rent to a mobility voucher recipient by 21 percentage points.
  • Treatment-group landlords were 16 percentage points less likely to report that they would be unlikely or very unlikely to rent to mobility voucher recipients than control-group landlords.
  • Reported willingness was also higher among landlords who believed that housing affordability was connected to health.

Implications for Policy and Practice

Families’ access to affordable housing through housing voucher programs relies on the participation of private landlords, particularly those owning properties in high-opportunity neighborhoods. Productive strategies for engaging landlords to participate in housing programs are becoming increasingly important given shifts in housing policy orientation toward neighborhood mobility and the use of rental assistance programs to achieve this goal. This research provides evidence for increasing the engagement of landlords using asset-framing. Asset-framing narratives have the potential to dispel negative beliefs and perceptions of housing affordability as an individual problem rather than a structural one, while also increasing support for effective interventions. Such narratives may increase the recognition of families as experiencing “housing burden” but avoid defining them as the “housing burdened."