Research Projects Neighborhood Change

Affordable Housing And Crime In New York City

Place-based affordable housing is often opposed by local residents on the grounds that such housing will increase crime and decrease property values. These fears likely owe much to the reputation of large-scale public housing developments, which have long been thought of as dangerous properties inflicting blight on their surrounding neighborhoods. Given the mixed empirical evidence on this relationship, this reputation has not always been well-deserved. Moreover, government-subsidized housing production takes many forms, and it is likely that these different forms lead to different effects on the surrounding neighborhoods. Using point-specific data on crime in New York City from 2004-2008, we are studying whether and how different types of subsidized housing investments affect crime in the immediately surrounding neighborhood.

American Murder Mystery Revisited: Do Housing Voucher Households Cause Crime?

Although potential neighbors often express concern that Housing Choice Voucher holders will heighten crime, no research systematically examines the link between the presence of voucher holders in a neighborhood and crime. Our research aims to do just this, using longitudinal, neighborhood-level crime and voucher utilization data in 10 large U.S. cities. We test whether the presence of additional voucher holders leads to elevated rates of crime, controlling for neighborhood fixed effects and broader trends in crime and neighborhood conditions. We also test for the reverse relationship – that is, whether proportion of residents with vouchers increases with rising crime, which would suggest that voucher holders move into neighborhoods where crime rates are increasing.

Are Voucher Households Reaching Safe Neighborhoods?

Since the early 1990s, HUD has emphasized the goal of helping Housing Choice Voucher recipients move to higher quality neighborhoods. Although prior analyses have described the poverty rate and demographic characteristics of the neighborhoods attained by voucher holders, no work has examined an equally salient aspect of the neighborhoods lived in by voucher holders: the levels of crime. To address this gap, we are comparing crime rates in the neighborhoods where voucher households are located in 91 cities in 2000 to the average neighborhood crime rates experienced by households receiving other forms of federally-assisted housing and by other poor and renter households in the same city. In addition, we are examining nine cities more carefully to learn whether voucher holders in those cities are living in safer neighborhoods today than they were in 1996, and whether levels of crime exposure vary with the race of the voucher recipient.

Long-Term Outcomes Of Neighborhood Gains: Can Low-Income Neighborhoods Become Stable, Integrated Communities?

While community development advocates celebrate improvements in the economic standing of low-income neighborhoods, some skeptics caution that observed gains may be fleeting. Others worry that short-run economic gains may trigger gentrification and wholesale displacement of low–income residents. This paper explores the sustainability of economic gains in lower income neighborhoods in metropolitan areas across the United States over multiple decades. The research explores neighborhood turnover, changes in poverty and changes in relative income, and we explore whether neighborhoods that experience racial as well as economic change are less stable.  We also explore whether patterns differ in central city versus suburban neighborhoods, as an increasing share of low-income neighborhoods are located outside of urban centers.

The Effects Of Crime On Children’s School Performance

In partnership with NYU’s Institute for Education and Social Policy, the Furman Center is studying how exposure to violent crime affects children’s academic achievement. Using five years of point-specific crime data and individual-level demographic, achievement, and residential address data for roughly 1.1 million students in 1,400 New York City public schools, we will estimate the impacts of exposure to violent crimes and study whether and how urban schools vary in their ability to moderate these impacts. We will explore whether variation in the impact of local violence is explained by specific organizational or institutional features of the school setting (school size, peer composition, support staff, extracurricular offerings, and location). The centerpiece of the research is a set of econometric models that are designed to identify causal estimates of the impact of crime on student outcomes and the moderating effects of schools.

Urban ‘Pioneers’: When Do Higher-Income Households Choose Lower-Income Neighborhoods?

Neighborhood change research suggests that higher-income households moving into lower-income neighborhoods are key drivers of economic change, yet we know little about the conditions under which such moves are made. Our research aims to shed light on this important question. Specifically, which households are more likely to make these types of residential decisions and what motivates these ‘pioneering moves’? Are these moves more likely, for instance, in neighborhoods with historic housing stocks, less subsidized housing, or more stable demographics? Are such moves more likely in metropolitan areas with particularly hot housing markets or in cities with low levels of crime? And have the patterns of these moves changed over time? Understanding the conditions under which households are willing to make pioneering moves is critical for local policymakers who wish to promote neighborhood development. The Furman Center is using the internal, geo-coded version of the American Housing Survey, which follows a nationally representative sample of housing units (and the households who live in them) from 1985 through 2009 and identifies the census tract and metropolitan area in which housing units are located.

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