• 15 Years of Research, Analysis and Insight

    In celebration of our 15th year, the Furman Center assembled a report taking stock of our accomplishments and outlining a plan for the future to ensure that we remain a distinctive and trusted voice at the forefront of academic and public policy debates.

    • Date: February 2011
    • Research Area(s):
    • Publication Type:
  • 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.

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

    This brief explores the potential demand for smaller, cheaper units to help address New York City’s affordable housing need. It considers the feasibility of self-contained micro units as well as efficiency units with shared kitchens and/or baths. The report considers the economics of building and operating small units and models their financial feasibility. It concludes by analyzing the main barriers to the creation of small units that exist in New York City and suggesting possible reforms that New York City can make to address these barriers.

  • 31 Flavors of Inclusionary Zoning: Comparing Policies From San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Suburban Boston

    As housing costs have risen in the U.S. and federal subsidies for affordable housing programs have declined, inclusionary zoning (IZ) has become an increasingly popular local policy for producing low-income housing without direct public subsidy. The structure of IZ policies can vary in a number of ways; consequently, there is not yet a consensus about what policies constitute “true” inclusionary zoning. In this paper we compare the ways in which IZ programs have been structured in three regions in which it is relatively widespread and long-standing. Our results demonstrate that IZ programs are highly complex and exhibit considerable variation in their structures and outcomes. In the San Francisco Bay Area, IZ programs tend to be mandatory and apply broadly across locations and structure types, but attempt to soften potential negative impacts with cost offsets and alternatives to on-site construction. In the Washington DC area, most IZ programs are also mandatory, but have broader exemptions for small developments and low-density housing types. IZ programs in the Suburban Boston area exhibit the most withinregion heterogeneity. In this area, IZ is more likely to be voluntary and to apply only to a narrow range of developments, such as multifamily or age-restricted housing, or within certain zoning districts. The amount of affordable housing produced under IZ varies considerably, both within and across the regions. The flexibility of IZ allows planners to create a program that accommodates local policy goals, housing market conditions and political circumstances.

  • 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.

  • Accessibility of America’s Housing Stock: Analysis of the 2011 American Housing Survey (AHS)

    The American Housing Survey (AHS) is the most comprehensive national housing survey in the United States. Since 2009, AHS has included six core disability questions used in the American Community Survey. The questions address hearing, visual, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care, and independent living difficulties for each household member. For 2011, AHS added a topical module on accessibility. The module asked about the presence of accessibility features in housing units, including wheelchair accessibility features, and whether the accessibility features were used or not. Together, these data provide an unprecedented opportunity to examine the accessibility of the U.S. housing stock and to ask whether people with disabilities reside in accessible homes.

    In this report, the authors present summary measures of housing accessibility based on the 2011 AHS. To develop these summary measures, they examined United States (U.S.) and international standards and regulations regarding housing accessibility, reviewed the relevant literature, and conducted interviews with a set of disability and housing design experts. These interviews are further described in appendix A. Based on these summary measures, the authors describe how accessibility varies by housing market characteristics as well as resident characteristics such as age, disability status, and income. They also present evidence on the relationship between the need for and availability of accessible housing units, taking affordability of accessible units into account.

  • American Murder Mystery Revisited: Do Housing Voucher Households Cause Crime?

    In recent years, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has shifted resources from public housing to the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV or “voucher”) program. There were 2.2 million vouchers nationwide in 2008, compared to 1.2 million public housing units. Although the academic and policy communities have welcomed this shift, community opposition to vouchers can be fierce, due to perceptions that voucher-holders will both reduce property values and heighten crime. Despite the public concerns, however, there is virtually no research that systematically examines the link between the presence of voucher holders in a neighborhood and crime. Our paper uses longitudinal, neighborhood-level crime and voucher utilization data in 10 large U.S. cities over 12 years, and finds voucher-holders moving to a neighborhood does not, in fact, increase crime. We do see, on the other hand, that households with vouchers tend to move to communities when crime rates are rising.

  • American Murder Mystery Revisited: Do Housing Voucher Households Cause Crime?

    Critics of Housing Choice Vouchers have alleged that an increased presence of voucher holders leads to increased crime in some neighborhoods. Systematically and empirically studying the question for the first time, this paper finds that while neighborhoods with a higher proportion of voucher holding residents tend to see higher crime rates, there was not a causal relationship. The research reveals that other neighborhood characteristics are much more significant in determining crime. Instead, it appears that voucher holders tend to move in after a neighborhood experiences a rise in crime, suggesting that the intended role of vouchers to enhance holders’ neighborhood choice may be limited.

  • An Economic Analysis of Housing Abandonment

    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.

  • An Opportunity to Stabilize New York City’s Neighborhoods:  A Fact Sheet on the Neighborhood Stabilization Program

    A core mission of the Furman Center is to provide essential data and analysis about New York City’s housing and neighborhoods to those involved in land use, real estate development, community economic development, housing, research and urban policy. Towards this end, we present this fact sheet describing some of the ways that government agencies and other stakeholders can use data to target the use of funds made available to stabilize neighborhoods in the wake of the foreclosure crisis.