This article published in the Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law explores the growing trend of opposition to development in cities. It describes the academic discussions to date focused on growing opposition to development in cities, reviews the known impact of opposition and regulatory barriers to development, explores the potential impact of creating additional barriers to development, and proposes factors that may explain the growing opposition to development in cities. In conclusion, the report discusses what the underlying causes of opposition to development reveal about the differences between suburban and city-focused Nimbyism, and suggests research and policy analysis that might help land-use decision makers respond more effectively to opposition to development in cities.
Policy Brief: 21st Century SROs: Can Small Housing Units Help Meet the Need for Affordable Housing in New York City?
This brief explores the potential demand for smaller, cheaper units to help address New York City’s affordable housing need. It considers the feasibility of self-contained micro units as well as efficiency units with shared kitchens and/or baths. The report considers the economics of building and operating small units and models their financial feasibility. It concludes by analyzing the main barriers to the creation of small units that exist in New York City and suggesting possible reforms that New York City can make to address these barriers.
21st Century SROs: Can Small Housing Units Help Meet the Need for Affordable Housing in New York City?
Single-room occupancy housing (SROs) used to be a readily available affordable housing type in New York City. During the second half of the 20th century, many SROs came to serve as housing of last resort, and mounting criticism of SROs led to laws banning their construction and discouraging their operation. Today, New York City faces a significant housing affordability crisis. In this context, it is worth considering whether the city needs an updated housing model that helps meet the need SROs filled in the last century. Here we analyze the benefits, risks, and challenges of reintroducing small housing units (self-contained micro units and efficiency units with shared facilities) in order to shed light on whether and how a new small-unit model could help meet the demand for affordable housing in the city today.
Planning For An Uncertain Future: Can Multi-Criteria Analysis Support Better Decision-Making In Climate Planning?
This paper by Ingrid Gould Ellen, Jessica Yager, Melinda Hanson, and Luke Bo'sher, published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, examines how multicriteria analysis (MCA), a decision-making tool, compares to other commonly used tools for making decisions about climate-change planning. The authors find that MCA has the potential to perform better than cost benefit analysis and working group approaches in supporting decision making processes that are more participatory, transparent, comprehensive, rigorous, and scenario-driven (five principles of effective planning). The paper also explores the ways in which MCA might fall short of these principles in practice, including when planners have limited resources.
The Latest Reform Proposal for the 421-a Program
This report analyzes the potential impact of the most recent reform proposal for the 421-a program on housing development in New York City, which is currently under consideration by the New York State Legislature. In evaluating the proposal, the report finds that the proposed 421-a program’s increase in tax exemption exceeds the additional affordable housing benefit by $2.6 to $5.7 million for a 300-unit building. The report also finds that the higher tax break for developers may support a 10-18% rise in hard construction costs without affecting long-term financial returns.
Zoning for Affordability: Using the Case of New York to Explore Whether Zoning can be Used to Achieve Income-Diverse Neighborhoods
This article considers the legal limitations on a locality’s ability to regulate land use, in order to evaluate whether mandatory inclusionary zoning can withstand legal challenge. It uses New York City’s recently adopted, ambitious, mandatory inclusionary zoning policy as a case study, and considers how the city might justify the policy in the face of both constitutional and state law challenges. The article concludes that New York City’s policy is likely to survive, but there are open legal questions that make it hard to predict with certainty how the policy will ultimately fare. Inclusionary zoning policies in other jurisdictions are likely to face similar challenges, and the experience of New York City will hold important lessons for other high-cost cities interested in using land use r egulation to foster economically diverse neighborhoods.
Fifty Years of Historic Preservation in New York City
This white paper offers a detailed overview of the process of designation and the spread of historic districts and landmarks throughout New York City. In addition, it provides additional analyses comparing the land uses, building types, commercial uses, and population in historic districts with those attributes of nearby neighborhoods and lots. A summary of the white paper's findings is available in the accompanying policy brief of the same name.
Policy Brief: Fifty Years of Historic Preservation in New York City
This policy brief compares the development characteristics, housing stock, demographic characteristics, and commercial characteristics between historic districts and areas that are not regulated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). It finds that New York City’s historic districts have similar population and built density to non-LPC regulated areas, but also contains a higher proportion of market-rate housing. Residents of the city’s historic districts are also higher-income, more highly educated, and more likely to be white.
Creating Affordable Housing Out of Thin Air: The Economics of Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning in New York City
This policy brief examines the economic potential of a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy to produce new affordable units tied to upzonings across New York City’s neighborhoods. It finds that a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy in New York City has the potential to produce affordable units in neighborhoods that already command high rent, such as East Harlem. But the city’s low-rent neighborhoods, such as East New York and Jerome Avenue, may not have sufficient market strength to justify high-density mixed-income development without other forms of subsidy. The study considers the role of 421-a, as well as key policy trade-offs including on-site vs. off-site, depth of affordability, and permanent affordability. View the white paper, press release, and briefing presentation deck.
Preserving History or Hindering Growth? The Heterogeneous Effects of Historic Districts on Local Housing Markets in New York City
Historic district designation has long been a topic of considerable debate. This report, conducted in collaboration with the National Bureau of Economic Research, provides new evidence to inform one aspect of this discussion—the effect that historic district designation has on housing. The report considers how designation of historic districts in New York City affects property values both within district boundaries and in the buffer areas just outside district boundaries, and explores how these effects vary across neighborhoods. Read the full report, the research brief, or view the press release.