In recent years, the federal government has increasingly relied upon states and cities to create and administer social policy. This paper examines available theory and evidence regarding the appropriate role of different levels of government, focusing in particular on the role of cities. Exploring the case of New York City, the paper also offers new empirical evidence on the extent to which investments in affordable housing can help to eliminate externalities and rebuild inner city communities. The authors conclude that although cities should play a major role in administering housing programs, they should only fund them under a limited set of circumstances. Redistribution of income, a major objective of most housing subsidy programs, should generally be paid for by the federal government, not cities. In contrast, cities should consider funding housing production programs when they are part of a comprehensive strategy either to remove negative externalities or to generate positive spillovers. The authors' empirical analysis of New York City's investment in new housing suggests that housing programs can generate significant external benefits to their neighborhoods. Thus, the results point to a potentially important role for cities, based upon the spillover effects of housing construction and rehabilitation in distressed neighborhoods.
Housing affordability continues to be a major concern for residents across the country. In this report, the authors look at what local governments can do to mitigate rising costs of rental housing in the U.S. The report reviews the root causes of high rent burdens and the consequences, including the impact of housing choice vouchers and modest increases in income. It also discusses why housing costs rise, looking more closely at housing markets and the factors that contribute to rising rent burdens. The report then reviews government policy responses at the local, state, and federal level before laying out a framework that municipalities can use to help provide citizens affordable housing options. It serves as a helpful tool for local officials considering new housing strategies or those interesting in improving existing policies.
“Choosing a Better Life?” is the first distillation of years of research on the MTO project, the largest rigorously designed social experiment to investigate the consequences of moving low-income public housing residents to low-poverty neighborhoods. In this book, leading social scientists and policy experts examine the legislative and political foundations of the project, analyze the effects of MTO on lives of the families involved, and explore lessons learned from this important piece of U.S. social policy.