Publications

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  • Supply Skepticism:  Housing Supply and Affordability

    Growing numbers of affordable housing advocates and community members are questioning the premise that increasing the supply of market-rate housing will result in housing that is more affordable. This article is meant to bridge the divide, addressing each of the key arguments supply skeptics make and reviewing what research has shown about housing supply and its effect on affordability. It ultimately concludes, from both theory and empirical evidence, that adding new homes moderates price increases and therefore makes housing more affordable to low- and moderate-income families. It also emphasizes that new market-rate housing is necessary but not sufficient, and that government intervention is critical to ensure that supply is added at prices affordable to a range of incomes.

  • 21st Century SROs: Can Small Housing Units Help Meet the Need for Affordable Housing in New York City?

    Single-room occupancy housing (SROs) used to be a readily available affordable housing type in New York City. During the second half of the 20th century, many SROs came to serve as housing of last resort, and mounting criticism of SROs led to laws banning their construction and discouraging their operation. Today, New York City faces a significant housing affordability crisis. In this context, it is worth considering whether the city needs an updated housing model that helps meet the need SROs filled in the last century. Here we analyze the benefits, risks, and challenges of reintroducing small housing units (self-contained micro units and efficiency units with shared facilities) in order to shed light on whether and how a new small-unit model could help meet the demand for affordable housing in the city today.

  • Airbnb Usage Across New York City Neighborhoods: Geographic Patterns and Regulatory Implications

    This paper offers new empirical evidence about actual Airbnb usage patterns and how they vary across neighborhoods in New York City. We combine unique, census-tract level data from Airbnb with neighborhood asking rent data from Zillow and administrative, census, and social media data on neighborhoods. We find that as usage has grown over time, Airbnb listings have become more geographically dispersed, although centrality remains an important predictor of listing location. Neighborhoods with more modest median household incomes have also grown in popularity, and disproportionately feature “private room” listings (compared to “entire home” listings). We find that compared to long-term rentals, short-term rentals do not appear to be as profitable as many assume, and they have become relatively less profitable over our time period. Additionally, short-term rentals appear most profitable relative to long-term rentals in outlying, middle-income neighborhoods. Our findings contribute to an ongoing regulatory conversation catalyzed by the rapid growth in the short-term rental market, and we conclude by bringing an economic lens to varying approaches proposed to target and address externalities that may arise in this market. 

  • What Do We Know About Housing Choice Vouchers?

    Four decades after its creation, the Housing Choice Voucher Program is the largest low-income housing subsidy program managed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This literature review covers what we know and don’t know about the Housing Choice Voucher Program. 

    Research shows that vouchers reduce the rent burdens of low-income households, allow them to live in less crowded homes, and help them to avoid homelessness. The program has been less successful, however, in getting recipients to better neighborhoods and schools, and perhaps the greatest disappointment of the program is its limited reach. Families wait for years in most places to receive a voucher, and only one in four households eligible for a voucher nationally receives any federal housing assistance. Further, a significant minority of households who receive vouchers never use them, in part because of the difficulty of finding willing landlords with acceptable units. Thus, as effective as the program is, there is still much to learn about its operation and how we might improve it.

  • Planning For An Uncertain Future: Can Multi-Criteria Analysis Support Better Decision-Making In Climate Planning?

    This paper by Ingrid Gould EllenJessica YagerMelinda Hanson, and Luke Bo'sher, published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, examines how multicriteria analysis (MCA), a decision-making tool, compares to other commonly used tools for making decisions about climate-change planning. The authors find that MCA has the potential to perform better than cost benefit analysis and working group approaches in supporting decision making processes that are more participatory, transparent, comprehensive, rigorous, and scenario-driven (five principles of effective planning). The paper also explores the ways in which MCA might fall short of these principles in practice, including when planners have limited resources.

  • Why Don’t Housing Voucher Recipients Live Near Better Schools? Insights from Big Data

    This paper by Ingrid Gould Ellen, Keren Mertens Horn, and Amy Ellen Schwartz, published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, uses administrative data to explore why voucher households do not live near to better schools, as measured by school-level proficiency rates. It seeks to shed light on whether voucher households are more likely to move toward better schools when schools are most relevant, and how market conditions shape that response. The authors find that families with vouchers are more likely to move toward a better school in the year before their oldest child meets the eligibility cutoff for kindergarten. Further, the magnitude of the effect is larger in metropolitan areas with a relatively high share of affordable rental units located near high-performing schools and in neighborhoods in close proximity to higher-performing schools. Results suggest that, if given the appropriate information and opportunities, more voucher families would move to better schools when their children reach school age.

  • Desvinculado y Desigual: Is Segregation Harmful to Latinos?

    Despite the high levels of metropolitan area segregation experienced by Latinos, there is a lack of research examining the effects of segregation on Latino socio-economic outcomes and whether those effects differ from the negative effects documented for African Americans. The authors find that segregation is consistently associated with lower levels of educational attainment and labor market success for both African-American and Latino young adults compared to whites, with associations of similar magnitudes for both groups. One mechanism through which segregation may influence outcomes is the difference in the levels of neighborhood human capital to which whites, Latinos, and African Americans are exposed. The authors find that higher levels of segregation are associated with lower black and Latino neighborhood exposure to residents with college degrees, relative to whites. They also find support for other commonly-discussed mechanisms, such as exposure to neighborhood violent crime and the relative proficiency of the closest public school.

  • Utility Allowances in Federally Subsidized Multifamily Housing

    This paper provides an analysis of the statutes, regulations, and guidance that govern the treatment of utility costs in the four largest federal subsidized housing programs—Public Housing, Project-Based Section 8, Housing Choice Vouchers, and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits—and the incentives these rules create for the consumption of utilities. It finds that many of these programs are structured such that tenants and owners are either indifferent about utility costs or are rewarded for overconsumption. This paper makes several recommendation for how these programs can be restructured to incentivize lower utility consumption, which can reduce the environmental footprint of subsidized housing, improve the financial viability of existing subsidized properties, and free resources that can be repurposed for other HUD goals.

  • Low-Income Housing Policy

    The United States government devotes about $40 billion each year to means-tested housing programs, plus another $6 billion or so in tax expenditures on the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). What exactly do we spend this money on, why, and what does it accomplish? The authors focus on these questions. They begin by reviewing the history of low-income housing programs in the U.S., and then summarize the characteristics of participants in means-tested housing programs and how programs have changed over time. The authors consider important conceptual issues surrounding the design of and rationale for means-tested housing programs in the U.S. and review existing empirical evidence, which is limited in important ways. Finally, we conclude with thoughts about the most pressing questions that might be addressed in future research in this area.

  • Race and Neighborhoods in the 21st Century: What Does Segregation Mean Today?

    Recent research has argued that racial segregation is no longer a concern in the 21st century. In response, this paper revisits these concerns about racial segregation and neighborhoods to assess their relevance today. This working paper finds that while segregation levels between blacks and whites have certainly declined, they remain quite high; Hispanic and Asian segregation have, meanwhile, remained unchanged. Further, this paper shows that the neighborhood environments of minorities continue to be highly unequal to those enjoyed by whites. Blacks and Hispanics continue to live among more disadvantaged neighbors, to have access to lower performing schools, and to be exposed to more violent crime. Further, these differences are amplified in more segregated metropolitan areas. See the Research Brief: Race and Neighborhoods in the 21st Century.