Publications

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  • The Low Income Housing Tax Credit and Racial Segregation

    This paper addresses a critical but almost unexamined aspect of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program—whether its use (and in particular, the siting of developments in high poverty/high minority neighborhoods), is associated with increased racial segregation. Using data from HUD and the census, supplemented with data on the racial composition of LIHTC tenants in three states, we examine three potential channels through which the LIHTC could affect segregation: where LIHTC units are built relative to where other low income households live, who lives in these tax credit developments, and changes in neighborhood racial composition in neighborhoods that receive tax credit projects. The evidence on each of these channels suggests that LIHTC projects do not contribute to increased segregation, even those in high poverty neighborhoods. On net, we find that increases in the use of tax credits are associated with declines in racial segregation at the metropolitan level.

  • Creating a Metric of Educational Opportunities for Assisted Households

    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s strategic plan identifies the use of “housing as a platform for improving quality of life” as one of its five strategic goals. It further establishes a sub-goal to improve educational outcomes and early learning and development for children in HUD-assisted housing. This paper is intended to advise HUD about how to use readily available data to create a metric for school quality. This metric is the measure of success in providing “access to schools scores at or above the local average” for children in assisted households. The researchers recommend a ratio that compares the test scores of the elementary schools nearest subsidized households to the test scores of other schools in that same county or metropolitan area, with perhaps a comparison to the schools nearest other renters or low-income households. Using this local-comparison ratio can overcome differences in state methodologies for evaluating schools, differences in homeownership rates across metropolitan areas, and differences in income levels. This score will allow HUD to identify metropolitan areas to target for mobility efforts and to track progress over time.

  • Community Benefits Agreements: A New Local Government Tool or Another Variation on the Exactions Theme?

    Community benefits agreements (CBAs) are the latest in a long line of tools neighbors have used to protect their neighborhood from the burdens of development, and to try to secure benefits from the proposed development. This Article canvasses the benefits and drawbacks various stakeholders perceive CBAs to offer or to threaten, and reviews the legal and policy questions CBAs present. It recommends that local governments avoid the use of CBAs in land use approval processes unless the CBAs are negotiated through processes designed to ensure the transparency of the negotiations, the representativeness and accountability of the negotiators, and the legality and enforceability of the CBAs’ terms.

  • Underused Lots in New York City

    Despite a robust real estate market for most of this decade, researchers and policymakers have observed that many areas of New York City have remained built out well below their zoning capacity. This study aims to contribute to our understanding of urban redevelopment by compiling and analyzing a large database of underdeveloped lots in the City. We identify about 200,000 such lots as of 2003 that were built out at less than 50% of their zoning capacity, representing about a quarter of all residentially zoned lots. Of these, about 8% were redeveloped during the subsequent four years. Our preliminary analysis reveals that underdeveloped lots are primarily made up of low density 1-4 family houses and are disproportionately located in poor and minority neighborhoods. We plan to use this analysis as the foundation for further analysis to assess whether market failures and regulatory and other barriers impede desirable development in mature cities.

  • Can Homeownership Transform Communities? Evidence on the Impact of Subsidized, Owner-Occupied Housing Investments on the Quality of Local Schools

    While recent evidence demonstrates that subsidized investments in owneroccupied housing can lead to increases in property values (Schwartz et al. 2006), the impact of such housing on other community amenities is largely unexamined. Yet, the response of local services to public investments is crucial for policy-makers and community development practitioners who view increasing subsidized homeownership as a mechanism to improve urban neighborhoods. Drawing on evidence from New York City, we examine the impact of subsidized housing on the quality of local schools by studying exogenous variation in city investments in owner and rental units. Specifically, we explore whether – and in what ways – publicly financed investments in owner- or renter-occupied housing made in the late 1980s and 1990s by the City of New York affected the characteristics and performance of local public schools. Our results suggest that the completion of subsidized, owner-occupied housing is associated with a decrease in schools’ percentage of free lunch eligible students, an increase in schools’ percentage of white students, and controlling for these compositional changes, a positive change in pass rates on standardized reading and math exams.

  • Welcome to the Neighborhood: What can Regional Science Contribute to the Study of Neighborhoods?

    In this paper the authors argue that neighborhoods are highly relevant for the types of issues at the heart of regional science. First, residential and economic activity takes place in particular locations, and particular neighborhoods. Many attributes of those neighborhood environments matter for this activity, from the physical amenities, to the quality of the public and private services received. Second, those neighborhoods vary in their placement in the larger region and this broader arrangement of neighborhoods is particularly important for location choices, commuting behavior and travel patterns. Third, sorting across these neighborhoods by race and income may well matter for educational and labor market outcomes, important components of a region's overall economic activity. For each of these areas we suggest a series of unanswered questions that would benefit from more attention. Focused on neighborhood characteristics themselves, there are important gaps in our understanding of how neighborhoods change - the causes and the consequences. In terms of the overall pattern of neighborhoods and resulting commuting patterns, this connects directly to current concerns about environmental sustainability and there is much need for research relevant to policy makers. And in terms of segregation and sorting across neighborhoods, work is needed on better spatial measures. In addition, housing market causes and consequences for local economic activity are under researched. The authors expand on each of these, finishing with some suggestions on how newly available data, with improved spatial identifiers, may enable regional scientists to answer some of these research questions.

  • Crime and U.S. Cities: Recent Patterns and Implications

    For most of the twentieth century, U.S. cities – and their high-poverty neighborhoods in particular—were viewed as dangerous, crime-ridden places that middle class, mobile (and typically white) households avoided, fueling suburbanization. While some pundits and policy analysts bemoaned this urban flight, others voiced concern over the potential impact of crime-ridden environments on the urban residents who were left behind. In the past decade or so, the media has instead highlighted the dramatic reductions in crime taking place in many large cities. In this paper we explore these crime reductions and their implications for urban environments.

  • The Effects of Inclusionary Zoning on Local Housing Markets

    Many local governments in metropolitan areas with high housing costs are adopting inclusionary zoning (IZ) as a means of producing housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income households without direct public subsidies. Critics charge that IZ ordinances impose additional costs on new development and may lead to reductions in supply and increases in the price of market rate housing. Advocates of IZ argue that any negative effects IZ might have on production can be mitigated through density bonuses or other cost offsets. Rigorous empirical study of the effects of inclusionary zoning ordinances has been hampered by the lack of accurate, timely data describing IZ and the land use regulatory schemes in which IZ programs fit. In this paper, we use panel data on the adoption and characteristics of IZ in the San Francisco and Washington DC metropolitan areas and the Boston-area suburbs to analyze which jurisdictions adopt IZ, how much affordable housing the programs produce and the effects of IZ on the prices and production of market-rate housing. The IZ programs among our sample jurisdictions are complex policies and exhibit considerable variation in their design, particularly across the three regions. We find that larger, more highly educated jurisdictions and those surrounded by more neighbors with IZ are more likely to adopt IZ. Whether and how many affordable units are produced under IZ depends primarily on the length of time IZ has been in place. The results from Boston-area suburbs provide some evidence that IZ has contributed to increased housing prices and lower rates of housing production. There is no evidence that IZ has constrained supply or increased prices among Bay Area jurisdictions. Limitations on the availability and quality of our data suggest that our results should be interpreted cautiously, but also suggest that IZ programs should be designed cautiously to mitigate possible negative impacts on housing supply.

  • The Impact of Low Income Housing Tax Credit Housing on Surrounding Neighborhoods: Evidence from NYC

    In this report, we examine the neighborhood impact of low income housing tax credit developments in New York City, where 42,077 units of LIHTC housing were newly constructed or rehabilitated between 1987 and 2003.

  • The Impact of Subsidized Housing Investment on New York City’s Neighborhoods

    The contemporary assumption is that the production of subsidized housing, if anything, accelerates neighborhood decline – “there goes the neighborhood” is the common refrain.  Partially as a result, we’ve seen the policy pendulum swing away from place-based housing investment towards demand-side housing programs, such as housing vouchers. Through multiple studies, the Furman Center has consistently found significant, positive impacts from subsidized housing investment, suggesting that publicly-funded housing investments aimed at distressed urban properties can deliver significant benefits to the surrounding community.