Publications

  • Decoding the Foreclosure Crisis: Causes, Responses and Consequences

    In a Point/Counterpoint exchange, Furman Center researchers discuss the causes and consequences of the foreclosure crisis. Each of the Point/Counterpoint teams was asked to address a set of questions covering the scope and causes of the foreclosure crisis, whether the federal policy response was appropriate, and how the future of mortgage lending may change in response to the crisis.

  • How Low Income Neighborhoods Change: Entry, Exit, and Enhancement

    The 1990s were a decade of economic improvement for low-income neighborhoods.  The number of high-poverty neighborhoods declined (Jargowsky, 2003), and the number of low-income neighborhoods experiencing a gain in average income greatly exceeded those experiencing a decline. In this study we have three research questions focused on neighborhoods that gain economically.  First, do we indeed find evidence of displacement, particularly among those with fewest resources?  Second, what are the sources of neighborhood income change? Are the sole sources of change selective entry and exit, or does incumbent upgrading also play a role?  And finally, what other changes accompany neighborhood income gains?

  • Minimum parking requirements and housing affordability in New York City

    Many cities throughout the United States require developers of new residential construction to provide a minimum number of accompanying off-street parking spaces. However, critics argue that these requirements increase housing costs by bundling an oversupply of parking with new housing and by reducing the number of units developers could otherwise fit on a given lot. In this article, we explore the theoretical objections to minimum parking requirements and the limited empirical literature. We then use lot-level data and GIS to analyze parking requirements in New York City to determine to what extent they are already effectively sensitive to transit proximity. Finally, we examine developer response to parking requirements by comparing the number of spaces that are actually built to the number required by applicable zoning law. Our results indicate that the per-unit parking requirement in New York is, on average, lower in areas near rail transit stations, but the required number of spaces per square foot of lot area is higher, on average, in transit accessible areas. We also find that by and large, developers tend to build only the bare minimum of parking required by zoning, suggesting that the minimum parking requirements are binding for developers, as argued by critics, and that developers do not simply build parking out of perceived marked need. Our results raise the possibility that even in cities with complex and tailored parking requirements, there is room to tie the requirements more closely to contextual factors. Further, such changes are likely to result in fewer parking spaces from residential developers.

  • How do New York City’s Recent Rezonings Align With its Goals for Park Accessibility?

    In 2007, New York City adopted a long-term sustainability plan that announced a goal of ensuring that almost every New Yorker lives within a ten minute walk of a park of substantial size. At the same time, policymakers are rewriting the City’s land use map through an unprecedented series of neighborhood level rezonings that involve changing the use type and residential capacity of affected lots or groups of lots. Despite the confluence of these interventions, no research has analyzed how the rezonings interact with the City’s park infrastructure, and specifically, whether residential capacity changes in areas close to parks differ from those in areas further away. In this research, we employ a database of every tax lot in New York City to investigate how well the City-initiated rezonings correlate with the goal of providing New Yorkers with good access to the City’s parks. Our results indicate a mixed picture; while most ‘upzoned’ lots (lots where residential capacity was added) were near parks, we also find that the majority of ‘downzoned’ lots (lots where residential capacity was reduced) were also close to parks. The net impact of these rezonings was a modest increase in residential capacity for the City as a whole, but the increases were disproportionately focused in areas further from parks.

  • Crime and Urban Flight Revisited: The Effect of the 1990s Drop in Crime on Cities

    For most of the twentieth century, concerns about safety and high crime rates have beset U.S. cities. Researchers and policymakers pointed to these high urban crime rates as one of the chief ‘urban blights’ from which middle class, mobile (and typically white) households fled during the post-War period, fueling suburbanization. But this picture changed dramatically in the 1990s, a decade during which the crime rate in the U.S. fell by a remarkable thirty percent, and crime rates in many U.S. cities declined even further. This paper builds on the ‘flight from blight’ literature, and considers what effect (if any) the 1990s drop in crime rates had on urban population changes.

  • Public Schools, Public Housing: The Education of Children Living in Public Housing

    In the United States, public housing developments are predominantly located in neighborhoods with low median incomes, high rates of poverty and disproportionate concentrations of minorities. While research consistently shows that public housing developments are located in economically and socially disadvantaged neighborhoods, we know little about the characteristics of the schools serving students living in public housing. In this paper, we examine the characteristics of elementary and middle schools attended by students living in public housing developments in New York City. Using the proportion of public housing students attending each elementary and middle school as our weight, we calculate the weighted average of school characteristics to describe the typical school attended by students living in public housing. We then compare these characteristics to those of the typical school attended by other students throughout the city in an effort to assess whether students living in public housing attend systematically different schools than other students. We find no large differences between the resources of the schools attended by students living in public housing and the schools attended by their peers living elsewhere in the city; however we find significant differences in student characteristics and performance on standardized exams. These school differences, however, fail to fully explain the performance disparities amongst students. Our results point to a need for more nuanced analyses of the policies and practices in schools, as well as the outside-of-school factors that shape educational success, to identify and address the needs of students in public housing.

  • Silver Bullet or Trojan Horse? The Effects of Inclusionary Zoning on Local Housing Markets in the United States

    Many local governments are adopting inclusionary zoning (IZ) as a means of producing affordable housing without direct public subsidies. In this paper, we use panel data on IZ in the San Francisco metropolitan area and Suburban Boston to analyze how much affordable housing the programs produce and how IZ affects the prices and production of market-rate housing. The amount of affordable housing produced under IZ has been modest and depends primarily on how long IZ has been in place. Results from Suburban Boston suggest that IZ has contributed to increased housing prices and lower rates of production during periods of regional house price appreciation. In the San Francisco area, IZ also appears to increase housing prices in times of regional price appreciation but depresses prices during cooler regional markets. There is no evidence of a statistically significant effect of IZ on new housing development in the Bay Area.

  • 31 Flavors of Inclusionary Zoning: Comparing Policies From San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Suburban Boston

    As housing costs have risen in the U.S. and federal subsidies for affordable housing programs have declined, inclusionary zoning (IZ) has become an increasingly popular local policy for producing low-income housing without direct public subsidy. The structure of IZ policies can vary in a number of ways; consequently, there is not yet a consensus about what policies constitute “true” inclusionary zoning. In this paper we compare the ways in which IZ programs have been structured in three regions in which it is relatively widespread and long-standing. Our results demonstrate that IZ programs are highly complex and exhibit considerable variation in their structures and outcomes. In the San Francisco Bay Area, IZ programs tend to be mandatory and apply broadly across locations and structure types, but attempt to soften potential negative impacts with cost offsets and alternatives to on-site construction. In the Washington DC area, most IZ programs are also mandatory, but have broader exemptions for small developments and low-density housing types. IZ programs in the Suburban Boston area exhibit the most withinregion heterogeneity. In this area, IZ is more likely to be voluntary and to apply only to a narrow range of developments, such as multifamily or age-restricted housing, or within certain zoning districts. The amount of affordable housing produced under IZ varies considerably, both within and across the regions. The flexibility of IZ allows planners to create a program that accommodates local policy goals, housing market conditions and political circumstances.

  • No Renters in My Suburban Backyard: Land Use Regulation and Rental Housing

    Academics and policymakers have argued that the ability of low- and moderate-income families to move into desirable suburban areas is constrained by the high cost of housing. Local zoning and other forms of land use regulation are believed to contribute to increased housing prices by reducing supply and increasing the size of new housing. Suburban restrictions on rental housing are particularly likely to reduce mobility for low-income families. In this paper, I employ an instrumental variables approach to examine the effects of zoning on the quantity and price of rental housing in Massachusetts, using historical municipal characteristics to instrument for current regulations. Results suggest that communities with more restrictive zoning issue significantly fewer building permits for multifamily housing but provide only weak evidence of the effects of regulations on rents. The lack of effects on rents may reflect the low level of multifamily development, while analysis is complicated by development of subsidized housing under the state’s affordable housing law.

  • Tenants: Innocent Victims of the Nation’s Foreclosure Crisis

    Renters are innocent victims of the foreclosure crisis, losing their homes through no fault of their own when their landlord goes into foreclosure. Until lately, the national discussion on the foreclosure crisis largely focused on owner-occupied homes, but recent analysis reveals that the crisis is significantly impacting renters across the country. New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy found that in New York City, well over half of all foreclosure filings in 2007 were on two to four family or multi-family buildings, and a growing body of data and anecdotal evidence indicates that the problem is not isolated to New York City; heart wrenching stories of renters losing their homes have appeared in newspapers nationwide.