Publications

  • Give Credit Where Credit Is Due: Overhauling the CRA

    The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) is in need of a major overhaul. Since the CRA was enacted in 1977, and since the last major rewrite of the regulations more than 15 years ago, much about the financial services industry has changed. This chapter discusses why the regulatory system needs to be redesigned to allow for more regular and timely updates, allowing more rapid  responses to what is working and what is not. By being more amenable to continuous improvement, the CRA should be more open to innovation and experimentation given the greater opportunity for making midterm corrections. This chapter starts with a brief overview of the CRA and its successes. It then outlines some ways to facilitate more regular updating of the CRA regulations, followed by a review of a number of ways to increase the effectiveness of CRA in helping to stabilize and revitalize low-and moderate-income (LMI) communities. 

  • How New York Housing Policies Are Different—and Maybe Why

    This chapter describes New York's housing policies, exploring how and why they differ from those in Los Angeles and other large cities, and whether they have shaped how New York's housing market has weathered the recent downturn. The policies considered are public housing, in rem properties, other subsidized housing, rent control, housing allowances, city capital subsidies for construction and rehabilitation, special needs housing, local tax structures, and building codes. The chapter is organized as follows. Section I describes the city's housing policies and contrasts them with those in Los Angeles and other large cities in the U.S. Section II compares how the housing markets in New York and Los Angeles have fared during the recent downturn and considers whether differences in policies have shaped differences in outcomes. Section III explores some likely explanations for New York's set of housing policies, while the final section concludes.

  • Racial Segregation in Multiethnic Schools: Adding Immigrants to the Analysis

    The authors explore how increases in immigration are likely to affect school segregation by comparing the schools that foreign-born and native-born minorities in New York City attend. They find that foreign-born blacks, Hispanics, and Asians tend to be more racially isolated than their native-born counterparts, even after controlling for differences in language skills and income. The heightened isolation is partially linked to the clustering of immigrant students from particular regions or countries within the same schools. How an increase in foreign-born students in a school district will shape racial segregation therefore will depend on the racial composition of the immigrant students as well as their country of origin.

  • Gentrification: Perspectives of Economists and Planners

    Gentrification touches on issues at the core of the fields of urban economics, planning, and geography. This article aims to look across disciplines and review the literature on gentrification. It begins by discussing how gentrification is defined and understood by different researchers and assessing its importance or prevalence over time. It then contrasts the theoretical approaches used to explain the causes of gentrification in different fields. It focuses on different models used by economists on the one hand and planners, on the other. The economic models of neighborhood change focus more on market forces and individual choices, while planning and geography models emphasize class and politics. Following this, the article reviews the literature on the consequences of gentrification, summarizing the empirical evidence. Finally, it highlights what is still unknown about gentrification, in terms of the process and drivers, its consequences, and the role it might play in future urban revitalization.

  • Exploring Changes in Low-Income Neighborhoods in the 1990s

    While there has been much talk of the resurgence of lower-income urban neighborhoods in the United States over the past ten to fifteen years, there has been surprisingly little empirical examination of the extent and nature of the phenomenon. Our chapter aims to address these key questions. In the first half, we undertake a broad empirical investigation of income changes in low-income neighborhoods in U.S. cities during the 1990s, comparing them to the changes that occurred during the two previous decades. In the second half of the chapter, we explore some reasons why the fortunes of lower-income urban neighborhoods improved during the 1990s.

  • The American Mortgage System: Crisis and Reform

    The Secondary Mortgage Market for Housing Finance in the United States: A Brief Overview

    Understanding both the current problems in the secondary market and the proposed solutions requires an understanding of the role of the secondary mortgage market in U.S. housing finance. In this chapter, the authors focus in particular on the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which for decades were the largest players in the U.S. system. The authors conclude that while the described weaknesses within the chapter are important, and the structure of the GSE’s should surely be improved, it would be a mistake to assume that simply reforming the GSEs, without making significant reforms to the private-label market, would prevent another crisis.


    The Community Reinvestment Act: Evaluating Past Performance and Reviewing Options for Reform

    The passage of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) in 1977 set in motion a bold experiment that has yet to achieve its full potential. This chapter analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of implementation of the CRA over the last 33 years and provides potential directions for reform, one of which recommends that the Obama administration designate one agency to take the lead and give the agency a tight timetable, sufficient staffing and analytic resources, and the authority to resolve disputes. While reform may also involve legislation, it is important to make sure that it does not become overly prescriptive and stifle innovation. The banking world will continue to evolve, as will the best ideas on how to revitalize and strengthen communities.


    Improving U.S. Housing Finance Through Reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: A Framework for Evaluating Alternatives

    This chapter lays out criteria for evaluating proposals for reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The authors introduce the basic goals of a healthy secondary market for both the single-family and multi-family markets, which include access to liquid credit markets nationwide, countercyclical stability and availability of safe products that are reasonably priced and clearly understood by borrowers and investors.The authors also offer a framework that will help describe and understand the different proposals for reform and how variants of Fannie and Freddie might fit into that picture. As federal government officials contemplate the future of these two entities, the authors hope that this chapter offers a useful framework to use in evaluating the alternative proposals.

  • Matching Words and Deeds? How Transit-Oriented are the Bloomberg-era Rezonings in New York City?

    Anticipating that New York City will grow to more than nine million residents by 2030, the City has launched an ambitious planning agenda focused on development in neighborhoods well served by public transit. Between 2002 and 2009, New York City’s government enacted 100 significant changes to its zoning code, constituting the most significant change to the City’s land use regulations since the original version of the current zoning code was adopted in 1961. This chapter explores the cumulative impact of the individual zoning actions on residential capacity, and how the rezonings match the City’s stated development, environmental and transportation goals. The authors found that, consistent with desired development patterns, there has been a modest overall increase in residential capacity concentrated in neighborhoods near rail transit stations.

  • The Evolving Crisis in Context: Recent Developments for Tenants in the Foreclosure Crisis

    Although the plight of renters in the foreclosure crisis has entered the consciousness of national policymakers, renters have more often than not been omitted from the narratives offered to describe the ongoing crisis. Despite the lack of attention they have received, many thousands of rent-paying tenants have also been affected by the foreclosure crisis. Fortunately, tenants have received specific protections from mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as new rights under new federal laws. But while these new protections and rights should help, tenants still face significant uncertainty as the foreclosure crisis continues to unfold and outreach and communication of these rights will be essential. This chapter, assesses the extent and scale of the challenges facing renters in the foreclosure crisis, as well federal action and GSE policy changes designed to address their rights. It is an excerpt from a report by The National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, “Forging a New Housing Policy: Opportunity in the Wake of Crisis.”

  • How to House the Homeless

    Homelessness is one of the most troubling and persistent social problems in the United States, yet experts can neither agree on its root causes nor on how to eradicate it. Is homelessness the result of individual life conditions, such as poverty, addiction, or mental illness, or is there simply not enough affordable housing? And which services are the most successful? In How to House the Homeless, editors Ingrid Gould Ellen and Brendan O’Flaherty propose that the answers entail rethinking how housing markets operate and developing more efficient interventions in existing service programs. The book critically reassesses where we are now, analyzes the most promising policies and programs going forward, and offers a new agenda for future research.

  • Siting, Spillovers, and Segregation: A Re-examination of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program

    As of the end of 2005, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program had allocated $7.5 billion in federal tax credits and supported the development of more than 1.5 million units. A growing number of advocates and observers worry that the LIHTC program, by failing to monitor the siting of developments and, more directly, by giving priority to developers building housing in  high-poverty areas, is furthering poverty and racial concentration. Yet, many community development organizations see the tax credit program as a central tool in their efforts to revitalize these high-poverty, urban neighborhoods. In this chapter, the authors try to inject some empirical evidence into this debate by examining the extent to which the tax credit program may have contributed to poverty concentration as well as to neighborhood revitalization.