Publications

  • The Potential Costs to Public Engagement of HUD’s Assessment of Fair Housing Delay

    In January 2018, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it would extend the deadlines by which local governments and public housing authorities receiving federal housing and urban development funds must submit Assessments of Fair Housing (AFHs), and allow jurisdictions to continue to file Analysis of Impediments (AIs) instead. HUD justified the delay by noting that of the first 49 AFH initial submissions, HUD initially did not accept 35% of the submissions. Many observers, however, believed that the initial submissions were superior to the AIs they replaced. To evaluate one important aspect of the AFH and AI processes, the NYU Furman Center compared the public engagement involved in the AIs and AFHs filed by 19 of the 28 jurisdictions who were first to file under the new AFH requirements. The authors find that the public engagement processes used under the AFH requirement were much more robust than the most recent AIs the jurisdictions had filed along five distinct dimensions: the number of opportunities for public engagement; the inclusiveness of those opportunities; the provision of data for assessing public engagement; documentation and consideration of the public input; and existence of cross-jurisdictional or cross-sector engagement.

  • The Role of Neighborhood Characteristics in Mortgage Default Risk: Evidence from New York City

    We construct a database of non-prime hybrid adjustable and fixed rate mortgages from New York City that augments a rich set of loan and borrower risk characteristics with a variety of census tract level neighborhood characteristics. We find that these neighborhood characteristics are important for default behavior, even after an extensive set of controls. First, default rates increase with the rate of foreclosure notices and the number of lender-owned properties (REOs) in the tract. Second, default rates for home purchase mortgages are higher in predominantly black tracts, regardless of the borrower’s own race. We explore possible explanations for our findings.

  • Transferable Development Rights Programs: ‘Post’ Zoning?

    Transferable Development Rights (TDR) programs allow property owners to sell unused development capacity at their property and transfer it to another site, where it is typically used to increase the permitted size of a development. In recent years, New York City has enacted programs that use TDRs in increasingly sophisticated ways. These uses share three common attributes: an increased focus on directing the location and density at sites that receive development rights; the use of TDRs as an integral component of more comprehensive rezoning initiatives; and the creation of regulatory incentives that strengthen the market for TDRs. In this essay, we conclude that TDRs in New York can no longer be understood just as a creative mechanism to soften the effect of rigid zoning restrictions, but should also be recognized as a tool land use decision makers increasingly use in place of, or in tandem with, upzonings, bonuses, and other devices for increasing density.

  • Transforming Foreclosed Properties into Community Assets

    Last May, the Furman Center, with support from the Ford Foundation, convened leading housing researchers, policymakers, lenders, and nonprofit housing organizations to discuss how best to leverage public and private resources to reuse foreclosed properties in a manner that helps stabilize neighborhoods. The Furman Center has produced a White Paper, Transforming Foreclosed Properties into Community Assets, that documents that roundtable conversation, summarizes much of the discussion’s substance, and includes links to resources—ranging from existing research papers on related topics to listings of REO properties—that we hope will be useful to practitioners, researchers and policymakers involved in neighborhood stabilization projects.

  • 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.

  • Unlocking the Right to Build: Designing a More Flexible System for Transferring Development Rights

    This report details the untapped potential for NYC’s transferable air rights program, a critical tool for high-density housing development in New York City. Using case study examples, the report outlines limitations to the city’s current TDR policies and suggests a policy approach that could unlock millions of square feet of unused air rights to help produce more affordable housing. 

  • Urban Land-Use Regulation: Are Homeowners Overtaking the Growth Machine?

    The leading theory about urban land-use regulation argues that city zoning officials are full partners in the business and real estate elite’s “growth machine.” Suburban land-use officials, in contrast, are thought to cater to the interests of the majority of their electorate— “homevoters.” A unique database regarding over 200,000 lots that the New York City Planning Commission considered for rezoning between 2002 and 2009 allows us to test various hypotheses suggested by these competing theories of land-use regulation. This analysis reveals that homevoters are more powerful in urban politics than scholars, policymakers, and judges have assumed.

  • Why It’s So Hard to Storm-Proof an Apartment Building

    If Superstorm Sandy taught us anything, it's that we need housing that can withstand natural disasters. But resiliency efforts often focus on detached, single-family houses and ignore larger multifamily dwellings. There are a huge number of physical, financial, and political obstacles to storm-proof apartment buildings.