Publications

  • Research Area: Neighborhood Conditions ×
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  • 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.

  • Valuing Urban Land: Comparing the use of Teardown and Vacant Land Sales

    This study explores the use of “teardown” sales to estimate the value of urban land. When a buyer purchases a property intending to tear down the existing structure and rebuild, the value of land can potentially be estimated as the purchase price plus demolition costs. There has been little exploration of teardown sales in cities around the country, or any explicit comparisons between the estimates of land values derived from teardown sales and those derived through vacant land sales. This paper undertakes just such an explicit comparison, analyzing approximately 3800 teardown sales and 4900 vacant land sales occurring in New York City between 2003 and 2009. The two approaches yield surprisingly similar estimates of the value of both parcel attributes and locational amenities. However, vacant parcels are disproportionately located in very distressed neighborhoods and tend to be valued less highly than teardown parcels, even in the same neighborhood. Teardown parcels appear to be more representative of the city as a whole and may be a more useful approach to developing estimates of land prices, at least in the central cities of large urban areas where sample sizes are large enough.

  • Welcome Neighbors? New Evidence on the Possibility of Stable Racial Integration

    The conventional wisdom on racial integration in the United States is that there are three kinds of neighborhoods: the all-white neighborhood, the all-black neighborhood, and the exceedingly rare, highly unstable, racially mixed neighborhood. The only real disagreement is about why so few neighborhoods are successfully integrated. Some attribute it to white discrimination pure and simple: whites, that is, have consciously and determinedly excluded blacks from their communities. Others contend that it is a matter of minority choice. Like Norwegians in Brooklyn's Bay Ridge and Italians in Manhattan's Little Italy, African Americans, they explain, prefer to live among their own kind. Finally, others maintain that segregation is driven mainly by income differences across racial groups. But almost all agree that when African Americans do manage to gain a foothold in a previously all-white community, the whites move away in droves—a phenomenon well known as "white flight." Integration is no more than, in the words of Saul Alinsky, the "time between when the first black moves in and last white moves out."

  • Welcome to the Neighborhood: What can Regional Science Contribute to the Study of Neighborhoods?

    In this paper the authors argue that neighborhoods are highly relevant for the types of issues at the heart of regional science. First, residential and economic activity takes place in particular locations, and particular neighborhoods. Many attributes of those neighborhood environments matter for this activity, from the physical amenities, to the quality of the public and private services received. Second, those neighborhoods vary in their placement in the larger region and this broader arrangement of neighborhoods is particularly important for location choices, commuting behavior and travel patterns. Third, sorting across these neighborhoods by race and income may well matter for educational and labor market outcomes, important components of a region's overall economic activity. For each of these areas we suggest a series of unanswered questions that would benefit from more attention. Focused on neighborhood characteristics themselves, there are important gaps in our understanding of how neighborhoods change - the causes and the consequences. In terms of the overall pattern of neighborhoods and resulting commuting patterns, this connects directly to current concerns about environmental sustainability and there is much need for research relevant to policy makers. And in terms of segregation and sorting across neighborhoods, work is needed on better spatial measures. In addition, housing market causes and consequences for local economic activity are under researched. The authors expand on each of these, finishing with some suggestions on how newly available data, with improved spatial identifiers, may enable regional scientists to answer some of these research questions.

  • What do Business Improvement Districts do for Property Owners?

    The article explores on the impact of business improvement districts (BIDS) to property owners in New York City. The scheme is essential to private local governments through the businesses' pay fees to supplement the package of public services in their local area. By using difference-in-difference (DD) hedonic modeling approach, one can estimate changes in property values in BID areas compared to those non-BID areas.

  • 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.

  • What Have We Learned from HUD’s Moving to Opportunity Program?

    “Choosing a Better Life?” is the first distillation of years of research on the MTO project, the largest rigorously designed social experiment to investigate the consequences of moving low-income public housing residents to low-poverty neighborhoods. In this book, leading social scientists and policy experts examine the legislative and political foundations of the project, analyze the effects of MTO on lives of the families involved, and explore lessons learned from this important piece of U.S. social policy.

  • Why Do Higher Income Households Move Into Low Income Neighborhoods? Pioneering or Thrift?

    This paper offers several hypotheses about which US higher-income households choose to move into low-income neighbourhoods and why. It first explores whether the probability that a household moves into a relatively low-income neighbourhood (an RLIN move) varies with predicted household and metropolitan area characteristics. Secondly, it estimates a residential choice model to examine the housing and neighbourhood preferences of the households making such moves. Thirdly, it explores responses to survey questions about residential choices. Evidence is found that, in the US, households who place less value on neighbourhood services and those who face greater constraints on their choices are more likely to make an RLIN move. No evidence is found that households making RLIN moves are choosing neighbourhoods that are more accessible to employment. Rather, it is found that households making RLIN moves appear to place less weight on neighbourhood amenities than other households and more weight on housing costs.

  • 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.