Over the past 30 years, the share of renters in the United States spending over 30% of their income on rent, and thereby qualifying as rent burdened, has increased. This trend has particularly affected low-income families. At the same time, owners of thousands of privately owned, publicly subsidized rental housing units have left, or “opted out,” of subsidy programs across the country. The efforts of local governments to preserve these properties as affordable housing are handicapped by a lack of understanding of the underlying factors that drive owners’ decisions to opt out. This paper employs a unique dataset on subsidized properties in New York City and uses hazard models to explore why property owners in the Mitchell-Lama program, a New York State affordable housing program, choose to opt out. Our results suggest that properties located in neighborhoods with high property value growth, those with for-profit owners, and those past the affordability restrictions on all subsidies, are more likely to opt out. While our study focuses on Mitchell-Lama properties, the findings have broader implications for properties around the country that receive supply-side rental subsidies.
To reduce the financial burden that low- and moderate-income families in New York City face, city, state and federal agencies have employed numerous subsidy programs to encourage private developers to own and manage affordable housing developments. With the cooperation of government housing agencies, the Furman Center created the Subsidized Housing Information Project (SHIP)—an online searchable database containing information on the nearly 235,000 units of privately-owned, subsidized affordable rental housing in New York City developed with major subsidy programs. This report is the first comprehensive analysis of properties in our SHIP database, and identifies opportunities to preserve affordable housing in the coming years.