Publications

  • A Canary in the Mortgage Market? Why the Recent FHA and GSE Loan Limit Reductions Deserve Attention

    Explores the potential implications of recent reductions in the maximum loan size that can be guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (Government-Sponsored Enterprises or GSEs), or insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) in many parts of the country. The changes, which went into effect on Oct. 1, 2011, represent the first step in a long-term policy goal to reduce the federal government’s current role in the mortgage system. They will also be a significant test of the private mortgage finance system.

  • Buying Sky: The Market for Transferable Development Rights in New York City

    This policy brief analyzes development right transfers in New York City between 2003 and 2011, looking at the prices paid, number of rights transferred, location of the sending and receiving parcels, and legal mechanisms used, in order to shed light on an important but hard-to-track market. The report, “Buying Sky: The Market for Transferable Development Rights in New York City,” examines 243 arms-length transactions for which complete data is available, and finds wide variation in the price paid per square foot of development rights, even for sales within the same neighborhoods, programs, and time periods. See the press release or read the full report.

  • Creating Affordable Housing Out of Thin Air: The Economics of Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning in New York City

    This policy brief examines the economic potential of a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy to produce new affordable units tied to upzonings across New York City’s neighborhoods. It finds that a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy in New York City has the potential to produce affordable units in neighborhoods that already command high rent, such as East Harlem. But the city’s low-rent neighborhoods, such as East New York and Jerome Avenue, may not have sufficient market strength to justify high-density mixed-income development without other forms of subsidy. The study considers the role of 421-a, as well as key policy trade-offs including on-site vs. off-site, depth of affordability, and permanent affordability. View the white paper, press release, and briefing presentation deck. 

  • 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.

  • Foreclosed Properties in NYC: A Look at the Last 15 Years

    In 2009, New York City saw a record number of foreclosure filings, passing 20,000 for the first time since we started tracking foreclosures in early 1990s.  Yet little is known about what happens to these properties after they receive a foreclosure notice.  This report analyzes the outcomes of 1-4 family properties that entered foreclosure in New York City between 1993 and 2007, paying particular attention to trends in recent years.  The report identifies a current inventory of 1,750 bank-owned (termed Real Estate Owned or “REO” by lenders) properties citywide—up dramatically from about 290 at the end of 2006. While the overall number of REO properties in New York remains small compared to harder hit cities, the report finds that these properties are highly concentrated in Eastern Queens, Central Brooklyn, and the North Shore of Staten Island—not surprisingly, the same neighborhoods that have been hardest hit by the mortgage crisis.

  • 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.

  • How Have Recent Rezonings Affected the City’s Ability to Grow?

    How Have Recent Rezonings Affected the City’s Ability to Grow? is the first comprehensive statistical analysis of the City’s rezoning strategy. The report examines the net impact of the 76 rezonings initiated by the City between 2003 and 2007.  It finds that, of the 188,000 rezoned lots citywide, 86% were rezoned to reduce or limit new development through either a downzoning or a contextual-only rezoning.  Nevertheless, the 14% of lots that were upzoned resulted in a net gain of 100 million square feet of new capacity citywide. The report explores the likelihood that this new capacity will be developed for residential use, and examines the characteristics of neighborhoods that gained new capacity and of those that lost capacity.

  • Inclusionary Housing Policy in New York City: Assessing New Opportunities, Constraints, and Trade-offs

    Many jurisdictions with high housing costs, including New York City, have supplemented traditional affordable housing production programs with inclusionary housing programs. By tying the creation of affordable units to market-rate development, these programs aim to produce new affordable housing and preserve economic diversity in high-rent neighborhoods, often with little or no direct cash subsidies from local government budgets. As rents continue to rise and the pace of market-rate development remains strong, policymakers in New York City and elsewhere will continue to look to new and expanded inclusionary housing programs as a source of affordable housing. View the related policy brief, Creating Affordable Housing Out of Thin Air: The Economics of Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning in New York City.

  • 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.