• Do Vouchers Help Low Income Households Live in Safer Neighborhoods? Evidence on the Housing Choice Voucher Program

    This article examines an important potential justification for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, namely, whether participants are able to access safer neighborhoods. We found that, in 2000, voucher households occupied neighborhoods that were about as safe as those housing the average poor renter household and were significantly safer than those in which households assisted through place-based programs lived. 

  • Rental Housing Policy in the United States

    In this volume of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s policy development and research journal, Cityscape, guest editors Vicki Been and Ingrid Gould Ellen bring together seven innovative proposals from leading housing researchers calling for changes in government policies to benefit renters and their communities. This collection of articles propose reforms, such as the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction, which could serve as viable alternatives to traditional federal rental programs.  These perspectives offer U.S. policymakers ways to potentially adapt international housing assistance models to reform the domestic housing market.

  • Does City-Subsidized Owner-Occupied Housing Improve School Quality? Evidence from New York City

    Policymakers have long promoted homeownership as a mechanism for community change. While previous studies have shown a positive association between homeownership and education at the individual level, ours is the first to systematically report on the effect of subsidized, owner-occupied housing on local schools. This New York City-focused analysis suggests that investments in subsidized, owner-occupied housing are associated with an increase in standardized reading and math scores at local schools, whereas similar investments in rental housing are not associated with any improvement in school quality.  Subsidized, owner-occupied housing has also changed the demographic characteristics of local schools in New York City, increasing the percentage of white students and decreasing the percentage eligible for free lunch.

  • Does Losing Your Home Mean Losing Your School?:  Effects of Foreclosures on the School Mobility of Children

    In the last few years, millions of homes around the country have entered foreclosure, pushing many families out of their homes and potentially forcing their children to move to new schools. Unfortunately, despite considerable attention to the causes and consequences of mortgage defaults, we understand little about the distribution and severity of these impacts on school children. This paper takes a step toward filling that gap through studying how foreclosures in New York City affect the mobility of public school children across schools. A significant body of research suggests that, in general, switching schools is costly for students, though the magnitude of the effect depends critically on the nature of the move and the quality of the origin and destination schools.

  • Decoding the Foreclosure Crisis: Causes, Responses and Consequences

    In a Point/Counterpoint exchange, Furman Center researchers discuss the causes and consequences of the foreclosure crisis. Each of the Point/Counterpoint teams was asked to address a set of questions covering the scope and causes of the foreclosure crisis, whether the federal policy response was appropriate, and how the future of mortgage lending may change in response to the crisis.

  • How Low Income Neighborhoods Change: Entry, Exit, and Enhancement

    The 1990s were a decade of economic improvement for low-income neighborhoods.  The number of high-poverty neighborhoods declined (Jargowsky, 2003), and the number of low-income neighborhoods experiencing a gain in average income greatly exceeded those experiencing a decline. In this study we have three research questions focused on neighborhoods that gain economically.  First, do we indeed find evidence of displacement, particularly among those with fewest resources?  Second, what are the sources of neighborhood income change? Are the sole sources of change selective entry and exit, or does incumbent upgrading also play a role?  And finally, what other changes accompany neighborhood income gains?

  • Minimum parking requirements and housing affordability in New York City

    Many cities throughout the United States require developers of new residential construction to provide a minimum number of accompanying off-street parking spaces. However, critics argue that these requirements increase housing costs by bundling an oversupply of parking with new housing and by reducing the number of units developers could otherwise fit on a given lot. In this article, we explore the theoretical objections to minimum parking requirements and the limited empirical literature. We then use lot-level data and GIS to analyze parking requirements in New York City to determine to what extent they are already effectively sensitive to transit proximity. Finally, we examine developer response to parking requirements by comparing the number of spaces that are actually built to the number required by applicable zoning law. Our results indicate that the per-unit parking requirement in New York is, on average, lower in areas near rail transit stations, but the required number of spaces per square foot of lot area is higher, on average, in transit accessible areas. We also find that by and large, developers tend to build only the bare minimum of parking required by zoning, suggesting that the minimum parking requirements are binding for developers, as argued by critics, and that developers do not simply build parking out of perceived marked need. Our results raise the possibility that even in cities with complex and tailored parking requirements, there is room to tie the requirements more closely to contextual factors. Further, such changes are likely to result in fewer parking spaces from residential developers.

  • How do New York City’s Recent Rezonings Align With its Goals for Park Accessibility?

    In 2007, New York City adopted a long-term sustainability plan that announced a goal of ensuring that almost every New Yorker lives within a ten minute walk of a park of substantial size. At the same time, policymakers are rewriting the City’s land use map through an unprecedented series of neighborhood level rezonings that involve changing the use type and residential capacity of affected lots or groups of lots. Despite the confluence of these interventions, no research has analyzed how the rezonings interact with the City’s park infrastructure, and specifically, whether residential capacity changes in areas close to parks differ from those in areas further away. In this research, we employ a database of every tax lot in New York City to investigate how well the City-initiated rezonings correlate with the goal of providing New Yorkers with good access to the City’s parks. Our results indicate a mixed picture; while most ‘upzoned’ lots (lots where residential capacity was added) were near parks, we also find that the majority of ‘downzoned’ lots (lots where residential capacity was reduced) were also close to parks. The net impact of these rezonings was a modest increase in residential capacity for the City as a whole, but the increases were disproportionately focused in areas further from parks.

  • Crime and Urban Flight Revisited: The Effect of the 1990s Drop in Crime on Cities

    For most of the twentieth century, concerns about safety and high crime rates have beset U.S. cities. Researchers and policymakers pointed to these high urban crime rates as one of the chief ‘urban blights’ from which middle class, mobile (and typically white) households fled during the post-War period, fueling suburbanization. But this picture changed dramatically in the 1990s, a decade during which the crime rate in the U.S. fell by a remarkable thirty percent, and crime rates in many U.S. cities declined even further. This paper builds on the ‘flight from blight’ literature, and considers what effect (if any) the 1990s drop in crime rates had on urban population changes.

  • Public Schools, Public Housing: The Education of Children Living in Public Housing

    In the United States, public housing developments are predominantly located in neighborhoods with low median incomes, high rates of poverty and disproportionate concentrations of minorities. While research consistently shows that public housing developments are located in economically and socially disadvantaged neighborhoods, we know little about the characteristics of the schools serving students living in public housing. In this paper, we examine the characteristics of elementary and middle schools attended by students living in public housing developments in New York City. Using the proportion of public housing students attending each elementary and middle school as our weight, we calculate the weighted average of school characteristics to describe the typical school attended by students living in public housing. We then compare these characteristics to those of the typical school attended by other students throughout the city in an effort to assess whether students living in public housing attend systematically different schools than other students. We find no large differences between the resources of the schools attended by students living in public housing and the schools attended by their peers living elsewhere in the city; however we find significant differences in student characteristics and performance on standardized exams. These school differences, however, fail to fully explain the performance disparities amongst students. Our results point to a need for more nuanced analyses of the policies and practices in schools, as well as the outside-of-school factors that shape educational success, to identify and address the needs of students in public housing.