Publications

  • Research Area: Neighborhood Conditions ×
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  • Mortgage Foreclosures and the Shifting Context of Crime in Micro-Neighborhoods

    In the wake of the housing crisis there is growing concern that increased mortgage foreclosures may lead to physical deterioration of buildings and increased vacancy rates in neighborhoods, undermining neighborhood social controls, and causing increases in local crime. While some recent research suggests that increased mortgage foreclosures in micro-neighborhoods cause modest increases in crime (Ellen, Lacoe, and Sharygin, 2013; Cui, 2010), this paper considers whether foreclosures lead to increased crime on a block, as well as the mechanisms through which foreclosures affect neighborhood crime. To shed light on mechanisms, we investigate whether and how foreclosures shift the location and type of criminal activity by changing the relative attractiveness to potential offenders of one location versus another. For instance, the presence of a vacant, foreclosed building may make it more likely that a drug dealer will sell drugs in a building rather than on the street. As a result, crime occurring inside residences (and in vacant buildings in particular) and on the street may increase by different magnitudes. In addition, we consider whether foreclosures affect resident reports of disorder. Using richly detailed foreclosure, 311, and crime data geo-coded to the blockface (a street segment in-between the two closest cross-streets), we estimate the impact of foreclosures on the location of crime within blockfaces. This research focuses on Chicago, Illinois. Like many areas of the country, housing prices in Chicago reached a peak in 2006, and declined through 2011. In September 2011, 8.7 percent of the mortgages in the Chicago metropolitan area were in foreclosure, giving Chicago the 11th highest foreclosure rate among the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country. Recent media reports claim that foreclosed and abandoned buildings in Chicago attract criminal activity including gang activity, drug use, and burglaries, in addition to graffiti, and theft of copper pipes and radiators (Knight and O’Shea, 2011). This study takes an empirical look at how foreclosures have changed patterns of crime in Chicago.

  • Do Housing Choice Voucher Holders Live Near Good Schools?

    The Housing Choice Voucher program was created, in part, to help low-income households reach a broader range of neighborhoods and schools. This study explores whether low-income households use the flexibility provided by vouchers to reach neighborhoods with high performing schools. "Do Housing Choice Voucher holders live near good schools?" was published in the Journal of Housing Economics in March 2014.

  • High Stakes in the Classroom, High Stakes on the Street: The Effects of Community Violence on Students’ Standardized Test Performance.

    This paper examines the effect of exposure to violent crime on students’ standardized test performance among a sample of students in New York City public schools. To identify the effect of exposure to community violence on children’s test scores, we compare students exposed to an incident of violent crime on their own blockface in the week prior to the exam to students exposed in the week after the exam. The results show that such exposure to violent crime reduces performance on English Language Arts assessments, and no effect on Math scores. The effect of exposure to violent crime is most pronounced among African Americans, and reduces the passing rates of black students by approximately 3 percentage points.

  • 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 research 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.

  • NYC Housing 10 Issues Series #4: City Pension Funds

    In the 2013 NYC mayoral election, some candidates suggested tapping the city pension funds as a way to maintain or increase the funding available to create and preserve affordable housing. The pension funds of New York City have some $137 billion in assets and might appear to be a valuable source of capital. However, the law limits the potential uses of these funds and restricts the mayor’s ability to control their use. This brief outlines the tradeoffs of using city pension funds as a potential source of capital to fund affordable housing efforts, as well as the severe limits on their use and the mayor's control of that money. 

    The #NYChousing series, published in 2013 prior to the New York City mayoral election, identified 10 key affordable housing issues that were likely to confront the next mayor of New York City. The series aimed to inform the public about the policy tradeoffs by providing an objective analysis of the pros, cons, and questions related to key housing issues facing New York City. How the incoming New York City mayor would choose address the city's housing challenges in an environment of increasing needs, declining federal support, and a strengthening real estate market would have an enormous effect on the livability, diversity, and character of the city.

  • Investigating the Relationship Between Housing Voucher Use and Crime

    This policy brief debunks the long-held myth that the influx of households with vouchers causes crime in a neighborhood to increase. Rather, the report finds that housing voucher recipients tend to move into neighborhoods with high existing levels of crime. These findings should reassure communities worried about entry of voucher holders, but also raise questions about whether the Housing Choice Voucher program is reaching its stated goal of helping recipients reach “better” neighborhoods.

  • Sandy’s Effects on Housing in New York City

    Four months after Superstorm Sandy, New Yorkers continue to pick up the pieces and rebuild. This report summarizes newly available information about the characteristics of properties in the area in New York City flooded by Sandy’s storm surge, as well as demographic characteristics of households that have registered to receive assistance from FEMA. Released in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, who provided a similar analysis on Long Island and New Jersey, the reports find that low-income renters were disproportionately impacted by Sandy and will require special assistance to fully recover. In addition to viewing the full report below, the source data is available here.

  • Do Foreclosures Cause Crime?

    Foreclosures affect not only individual homeowners, but also the crime levels of the surrounding neighborhood. This study found that neighborhoods with concentrated foreclosures see an uptick in crime for each foreclosure notice issued. These effects are pronounced in hardest hit neighborhoods; that is, those with concentrated foreclosures. The report suggests that policing and community stabilizing efforts should prioritize areas with concentrated foreclosures, especially those where crime rates are already moderate to high.

  • 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.

  • Do Federally Assisted Households Have Access to High Performing Schools?

    This study describes the elementary schools closest to families receiving four different forms of housing assistance, and finds that families in Project-based Section 8 developments and Public Housing and recipients of Housing Choice Vouchers tend to live near schools with lower test scores than the schools near the typical poor household. Only families in Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) housing have access to schools that are slightly better than the schools available to other poor families.  The report also finds that, despite the flexibility provided by vouchers, families with Housing Choice Vouchers, on average, live near lower performing schools than families in Project-based Section 8 or LIHTC developments. The report provides results for the 100 largest metropolitan areas, which show that assisted households tend to live near relatively higher performing schools in metropolitan areas with certain characteristics, including smaller size and less racial segregation. The analysis relies on a variety of different large data sources that have been brought together for the first time, including a national file of subsidized housing tenants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), HUD’s publicly available LIHTC dataset, and data from the U.S. Department of Education on proficiency rates in math and English and additional school characteristics. In addition to the report below, the complete findings may be found in Appendix A (state-by-state tables), Appendix B (metropolitan area tables), Appendix C (national distributions of family units by school performance), and Appendix D (top 100 MSAs – percentile rankings for each housing program).