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.
Landlord abandonment of rental housing has affected many American cities since the 1960’s. Because of data limitations, there have been few empirical analyses of the determinants of housing abandonment. In this paper, we use a rich database that contains information on individual residential properties in New York City to estimate a reduced form model of owner abandonment. We model an owner’s decision to abandon his or her property as being similar to an investor’s decision to exercise a put option on a financial instrument. When required to pay delinquent taxes, a wealth-maximizing landlord has an incentive to cede ownership of his or her residential property when the value of all outstanding liens exceeds the property’s market value. Estimates from the model are used to examine whether empirical evidence supports this option model of abandonment.