Publications

  • Lucas vs. The Green Machine

    This title provides a law student with an enriched understanding of twelve leading property cases. It focuses on how lawyers, judges, and policy factors shaped the litigation, and why the cases have attained noteworthy status. The volume is suitable for adoption as a supplement in a first-year property course, or as a text for an advanced seminar.

  • Maintenance and Investments in Small Rental Properties: Findings from New York City and Baltimore

    Nearly half of all poor, urban renters in the United States live in rental buildings of fewer than four units, and such buildings make up nearly half our nation’s rental housing stock. Yet small rental properties remain largely overlooked by researchers. We present two reports—from New York City and Baltimore—both providing suggestive evidence, drawn from a variety of sources, about the characteristics of small rental housing. We find that while small buildings offer lower rents and play a crucial role in housing low-income renters, these lower rents are largely explained by neighborhood location. Ownership matters, however. In New York, lower rents are associated with small buildings with resident landlords. Further, we also find better unit conditions in small rental buildings when compared to most larger properties, especially in small buildings with resident landlords. In Baltimore, we find that smaller-scale “mom-and-pop” owners dominate the small rental property market, but that the share of larger-scale owners increases in higher poverty areas of the city. The properties owned by these larger-scale owners receive fewer housing code violations and that these owners appear to invest more frequently in major improvements to their properties.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Neighborhood Effects of Concentrated Mortgage Foreclosures

    As the national mortgage crisis has worsened, an increasing number of communities are facing declining housing prices and high rates of foreclosure. Central to the call for government intervention in this crisis is the claim that foreclosures not only hurt those who are losing their homes to foreclosure, but also harm neighbors by reducing the value of nearby properties and in turn, reducing local governments’ tax bases. The extent to which foreclosures do in fact drive down neighboring property values has become a crucial question for policy-makers. In this paper, we use a unique dataset on property sales and foreclosure filings in New York City from 2000 to 2005 to identify the effects of foreclosure starts on housing prices in the surrounding neighborhood. Regression results suggest that above some threshold, proximity to properties in foreclosure is associated with lower sales prices. The magnitude of the price discount increases with the number of properties in foreclosure, but not in a linear relationship.

  • Pathways After Default: What Happens to Distressed Mortgage Borrowers and Their Homes?

    We use a detailed dataset of seriously delinquent mortgages to examine the dynamic process of mortgage default – from initial delinquency and default to final resolution of the loan and disposition of the property. We estimate a two-stage competing risk hazard model to assess the factors associated with whether a borrower behind on mortgage payments receives a legal notice of foreclosure, and with what ultimately happens to the borrower and property. In particular, we focus on a borrower’s ability to avoid a foreclosure auction by getting a modification, by refinancing the loan, or by selling the property. We find that the outcomes of the foreclosure process are significantly related to: the terms of the loan; the borrower’s credit history; current loan-to-value and the presence of a junior lien; the borrower’s post-default payment behavior; the borrower’s participation in foreclosure counseling; neighborhood characteristics such as foreclosure rates, recent house price depreciation and median income; and the borrower’s race and ethnicity.

  • Preserving History or Hindering Growth? The Heterogeneous Effects of Historic Districts on Local Housing Markets in New York City

    Historic district designation has long been a topic of considerable debate. This report, conducted in collaboration with the National Bureau of Economic Research, provides new evidence to inform one aspect of this discussion—the effect that historic district designation has on housing. The report considers how designation of historic districts in New York City affects property values both within district boundaries and in the buffer areas just outside district boundaries, and explores how these effects vary across neighborhoods. Read the full report, the research brief, or view the press release.

  • Rental Housing Policy in the United States

    In this volume of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s policy development and research journal, Cityscape, guest editors Vicki Been and Ingrid Gould Ellen bring together seven innovative proposals from leading housing researchers calling for changes in government policies to benefit renters and their communities. This collection of articles propose reforms, such as the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction, which could serve as viable alternatives to traditional federal rental programs.  These perspectives offer U.S. policymakers ways to potentially adapt international housing assistance models to reform the domestic housing market.

  • Responding to Changing Households: Regulatory Challenges for Micro-Units and Accessory Dwelling Units

    In many areas of the country, the existing stock of rental housing falls significantly short of the need, both in terms of affordability and the sizes and configurations of available housing matching the needs of prospective tenants. In response to these and other concerns, a number of jurisdictions have revised their regulations to permit the development of more compact rental housing units, including both accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and micro-units.This paper provides a detailed analysis of the regulatory and other challenges to developing both ADUs and micro-units, focusing on five cities: New York; Washington, D.C.; Austin; Denver; and Seattle. This research was conducted as part of the What Works Collaborative. For more, see the accompanying research brief, Compact Units: Demand and Challenges; download a zip file with city-level data; or view the press release

  • Searching for the Right Spot: Minimum Parking Requirements and Housing Affordability in New York City

    The policy brief examines New York City’s minimum residential parking requirements in communities throughout the city and explores the possible effects on housing affordability and on the city’s sustainability goals. The brief finds that the requirements may be causing developers to supply more off-street parking spaces than they expect tenants and homebuyers to demand, potentially driving up the cost of housing and promoting inefficient car ownership.