Publications

  • The Redevelopment of Distressed Public Housing: Early Results from HOPE VI Projects

    The redevelopment of distressed public housing under the Urban Revitalization Demonstration Program, or HOPE VI, has laudable social, physical, community, and economic goals. Three public housing projects in Atlanta, Chicago, and San Antonio demonstrate the complexity and trade-offs of trying to lessen the concentration of low-income households, leverage private resources, limit project costs, help residents achieve economic self-sufficiency, design projects that blend into the community, and ensure meaningful resident participation in project planning.

  • The Utilization of Rental Housing Assistance By Immigrants in the United States and New York City

    The large influx of immigrants to the United States and New York City from poorer countries has sparked considerable debate as to whether immigrants are becoming a “public charge” to American society. Most arguments have centered around immigrants’ use of cash assistance programs. This article compares immigrants’ receipt of rental housing assistance with that of native-born Americans.

    Bivariate analyses reveal that immigrants, as a group, are no more likely than native-born households to use any form of rental housing assistance. Indeed, in most instances immigrants are less likely than native-born households to receive assistance, with two exceptions: immigrants who have been in the United States since 1970 and immigrants from the former Soviet Union in New York City. Multivariate analyses reveal similar results, except that immigrants who have been in the United States since 1970 are no more likely than other immigrants to receive housing assistance when we control for other factors.

  • Updating CRA Geography: It’s Not Just About Assessment Areas

    In his recent paper, “Updating CRA Geography: It’s Not Just About Assessment Areas,” NYU Furman Center Senior Policy Fellow Mark A. Willis offers his suggestions on how to effectively modernize one crucial regulation authorized under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). Published by the Penn Institute for Urban Research, the paper proposes a method to evaluate the CRA performance of large retail internet banks. 

    The core of the proposal involves separately weighing a bank’s CRA activity both within its AA from its CRA activities beyond the AA, with the latter evaluation consisting of tests for both the bank’s retail products and community development activities to ensure they are meeting the needs of Low and Moderate Income Households. By combining these evaluations together, the paper asserts that banks will be more confident in their ability to get CRA credit for conducting CRA activities in areas of high need that may be outside their AA.

  • Urban Land-Use Regulation: Are Homeowners Overtaking the Growth Machine?

    The leading theory about urban land-use regulation argues that city zoning officials are full partners in the business and real estate elite’s “growth machine.” Suburban land-use officials, in contrast, are thought to cater to the interests of the majority of their electorate— “homevoters.” A unique database regarding over 200,000 lots that the New York City Planning Commission considered for rezoning between 2002 and 2009 allows us to test various hypotheses suggested by these competing theories of land-use regulation. This analysis reveals that homevoters are more powerful in urban politics than scholars, policymakers, and judges have assumed.

  • 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."

  • 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?

    The Housing Choice Voucher Program provides assistance to approximately 2.2 million households each year, making it the largest low-income housing subsidy program managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This paper reviews what we know about the program. In brief, experimental research shows that vouchers help to reduce the rent burdens of low-income households, allow them to live in less crowded homes, and minimize the risk of homelessness. Research also shows, however, that the program has been far less successful in getting recipients to better neighborhoods and schools. And perhaps the greatest disappointment of the program is its limited reach. Families typically wait for years to receive a voucher, and only one in four households eligible for a voucher nationally receives any federal rental housing assistance. Another issue is that a significant share 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 room for improvement.

  • What’s Happened to the Price of College? Quality Adjusted Net Price Indices for 4 Year College

    In this paper we estimate hedonic models of the (consumer) price of college to construct quality-adjusted net price indexes for U.S. four-year colleges, where the net price of college is defined as tuition and fees minus financial aid. For academic years 1990–91 to 1994–95, we find adjusting for financial aid leads to a 22 percent decline in the estimated price index for all four year colleges, while quality adjusting the results leads to a further, albeit smaller, decline. Nevertheless, public comprehensive colleges, perhaps an important gateway to college for students from low-income backgrounds, experienced the largest net price increases.

  • Why It’s So Hard to Storm-Proof an Apartment Building

    If Superstorm Sandy taught us anything, it's that we need housing that can withstand natural disasters. But resiliency efforts often focus on detached, single-family houses and ignore larger multifamily dwellings. There are a huge number of physical, financial, and political obstacles to storm-proof apartment buildings.