Publications

  • Research Area: Affordable & Subsidized Housing ×
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  • Investigating the Relationship Between Housing Voucher Use and Crime

    This policy brief debunks the long-held myth that the influx of households with vouchers causes crime in a neighborhood to increase. Rather, the report finds that housing voucher recipients tend to move into neighborhoods with high existing levels of crime. These findings should reassure communities worried about entry of voucher holders, but also raise questions about whether the Housing Choice Voucher program is reaching its stated goal of helping recipients reach “better” neighborhoods.

  • Katherine M. O’Regan Testimony to U.S. Senate Committee on Finance Hearing on Affordable Housing

    On Tuesday, August 1, 2017, Dr. Katherine O’Regan, faculty of NYU Wagner and Faculty Director at the NYU Furman Center, testified at the United State Senate Committee on Finance’s hearing entitled, “America’s Affordable Housing Crisis: Challenges and Solutions.” Dr. O’Regan’s statement outlines the extent of the nation’s affordable housing crisis and its consequences for households and markets. In discussing the federal government’s role in responding to the crisis, she discusses three proposed reforms to the Low Income Housing Tax Credit to “increase its flexibility and feasibility in a broader set of market conditions, to streamline, and to more effectively meet key policy goals.” Read Dr. O'Regan's full statement or watch a video of the hearing.

  • Laboratories of Regulation: Understanding the Diversity of Rent Regulation Laws

    Debates about rent regulation are not known for their nuance. The world tends to divide into fierce opponents and strong supporters. Moreover, debates rarely engage with the details of local ordinances, even though those details may significantly affect outcomes for tenants, landlords, and broader housing markets. This paper catalogs the multiplicity of choices that local policymakers must make in enacting and implementing rent regulation ordinances and consider the implications those choices may have for tenant protections and broader market outcomes. This paper then highlights the wide variety of regimes that jurisdictions with rent regulation have adopted in practice. It ends with a call for new empirical research to study the effects of different regulatory features.

  • Low hanging fruit? Energy Efficiency and the Split Incentive in Subsidized Multifamily Housing

    This paper explores whether and how the rules governing utility billing arrangements of subsidized housing programs impact energy consumption and exacerbate market failures that create incentives for both tenants and owners to be indifferent about their consumption levels. We test whether these incentives or dis-incentives result in higher energy consumption in subsidized properties than in comparable non-subsidized properties.The analysis focuses on three subsidized housing portfolios: Public Housing, Project-based Section 8, and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). Using several multivariate regression models, we find that subsidized properties are associated with higher utility consumption than market-rate properties and, of the subsidized housing programs, Public Housing tends to consume the most energy. 

  • Low-Income Housing Policy

    The United States government devotes about $40 billion each year to means-tested housing programs, plus another $6 billion or so in tax expenditures on the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). What exactly do we spend this money on, why, and what does it accomplish? The authors focus on these questions. They begin by reviewing the history of low-income housing programs in the U.S., and then summarize the characteristics of participants in means-tested housing programs and how programs have changed over time. The authors consider important conceptual issues surrounding the design of and rationale for means-tested housing programs in the U.S. and review existing empirical evidence, which is limited in important ways. Finally, we conclude with thoughts about the most pressing questions that might be addressed in future research in this area.

  • Maintenance and Investments in Small Rental Properties: Findings from New York City and Baltimore

    Nearly half of all poor, urban renters in the United States live in rental buildings of fewer than four units, and such buildings make up nearly half our nation’s rental housing stock. Yet small rental properties remain largely overlooked by researchers. We present two reports—from New York City and Baltimore—both providing suggestive evidence, drawn from a variety of sources, about the characteristics of small rental housing. We find that while small buildings offer lower rents and play a crucial role in housing low-income renters, these lower rents are largely explained by neighborhood location. Ownership matters, however. In New York, lower rents are associated with small buildings with resident landlords. Further, we also find better unit conditions in small rental buildings when compared to most larger properties, especially in small buildings with resident landlords. In Baltimore, we find that smaller-scale “mom-and-pop” owners dominate the small rental property market, but that the share of larger-scale owners increases in higher poverty areas of the city. The properties owned by these larger-scale owners receive fewer housing code violations and that these owners appear to invest more frequently in major improvements to their properties.

  • 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.

  • Neighborhood Crime Exposure Among Housing Choice Voucher Households

    The federal government increasingly relies on housing vouchers to make housing more affordable and hopefully enable low-income households to reach higher quality neighborhoods. This study analyzes the efficacy of the voucher program at achieving this goal, focusing on neighborhood crime. Using census tract-level crime and subsidized housing data from 91 large cities in 2000, the study compares neighborhood crime rates of voucher holders to those of public housing, Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, and unassisted poor renter households. Our paper finds that while voucher households resided in neighborhoods about as safe as that of poor renter households, and with much lower crime rates than those lived in by other subsidized households, the voucher households did not choose a lower poverty neighborhood. In addition, the study finds differences by race, which suggest that housing vouchers may be more effective helping black households reach safer neighborhoods than white and Hispanic households.

  • Neighbors and networks: The role of social interactions on the residential choices of housing choice voucher holders

    This study considers the role of information and social influence in determining the effective set of potential housing choices for participants in the Housing Choice Voucher Program. It finds that pairs of voucher participants in close proximity are 40% more likely to move to the same neighborhood than pairs that live more than 1,000 feet apart, and that the neighborhoods selected by close proximity pairs are likely to be more economically disadvantaged by several measures. These findings were magnified in tight rental markets, and in highly segregated cities.

  • No Renters in My Suburban Backyard: Land Use Regulation and Rental Housing

    Academics and policymakers have argued that the ability of low- and moderate-income families to move into desirable suburban areas is constrained by the high cost of housing. Local zoning and other forms of land use regulation are believed to contribute to increased housing prices by reducing supply and increasing the size of new housing. Suburban restrictions on rental housing are particularly likely to reduce mobility for low-income families. In this paper, I employ an instrumental variables approach to examine the effects of zoning on the quantity and price of rental housing in Massachusetts, using historical municipal characteristics to instrument for current regulations. Results suggest that communities with more restrictive zoning issue significantly fewer building permits for multifamily housing but provide only weak evidence of the effects of regulations on rents. The lack of effects on rents may reflect the low level of multifamily development, while analysis is complicated by development of subsidized housing under the state’s affordable housing law.