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.
31 Flavors of Inclusionary Zoning: Comparing Policies From San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Suburban Boston
As housing costs have risen in the U.S. and federal subsidies for affordable housing programs have declined, inclusionary zoning (IZ) has become an increasingly popular local policy for producing low-income housing without direct public subsidy. The structure of IZ policies can vary in a number of ways; consequently, there is not yet a consensus about what policies constitute “true” inclusionary zoning. In this paper we compare the ways in which IZ programs have been structured in three regions in which it is relatively widespread and long-standing. Our results demonstrate that IZ programs are highly complex and exhibit considerable variation in their structures and outcomes. In the San Francisco Bay Area, IZ programs tend to be mandatory and apply broadly across locations and structure types, but attempt to soften potential negative impacts with cost offsets and alternatives to on-site construction. In the Washington DC area, most IZ programs are also mandatory, but have broader exemptions for small developments and low-density housing types. IZ programs in the Suburban Boston area exhibit the most withinregion heterogeneity. In this area, IZ is more likely to be voluntary and to apply only to a narrow range of developments, such as multifamily or age-restricted housing, or within certain zoning districts. The amount of affordable housing produced under IZ varies considerably, both within and across the regions. The flexibility of IZ allows planners to create a program that accommodates local policy goals, housing market conditions and political circumstances.
Breaking Barriers, Boosting Supply
The Urban Institute’s "Opportunity for All" project aims to promote federal strategies that support strong and inclusive neighborhoods. In one of the project’s briefs, “Breaking Barriers, Boosting Supply,” Furman Center Faculty Director Ingrid Gould Ellen and the Urban Institute’s Solomon Greene advocate for the federal government to tie state funding opportunities to local affordable housing goals. They highlight the potential for national policy reform to incentivize communities to take action in improving land use and zoning regulations, ultimately allowing for more affordable housing and healthier, more diverse neighborhoods.
Building Environmentally Sustainable Communities: A Framework for Inclusivity
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has decided to include two key goals in all of its programs: encouraging sustainable communities and enhancing access to opportunity for lower-income people and people of color. This paper examines the relationship between these two goals through a literature review and an original empirical analysis of how these goals interact at the neighborhood and metropolitan area levels. We also offer policy recommendations for HUD.
Challenges and Opportunities for Hotel-to-Housing Conversions in New York City
As the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath, policymakers in New York City and Albany have debated whether and how to support the conversion of hotels into housing—and especially affordable housing—as part of a solution to the city’s ongoing housing crisis. To better understand what opportunities for hotel conversion exist in New York City, this paper examines the legal regime governing hotel conversions to identify the most important regulatory barriers to such adaptive uses.
Challenges Facing Housing Markets in the Next Decade: Developing a Policy-Relevant Research Agenda
This paper proposes a research agenda that addresses the major challenges facing the U.S. housing market: the long-term effects of the housing market crisis on today’s households and on the next generation, increasing poverty coupled with persistently high income inequality and volatility, continued concentration of poor and minority households in low-quality housing and low-opportunity neighborhoods, and the growing need for sustainable and resilient buildings and communities. This analysis is a framing paper for the What Works Collaborative, a foundation-supported research partnership that conducts timely research and analysis to help inform the implementation of an evidence-based housing and urban policy agenda.
Comment on ‘The Effects of Affordable and Multifamily Housing on Market Values of Nearby Homes’
Advocates of growth management and smart growth often propose policies that raise housing prices, thereby making housing less affordable to many households trying to buy or rent homes. Such policies include urban growth boundaries, zoning restrictions on multi-family housing, utility district lines, building permit caps, and even construction moratoria. Does this mean there is an inherent conflict between growth management and smart growth on the one hand, and creating more affordable housing on the other? Or can growth management and smart growth promote policies that help increase the supply of affordable housing?
Community Benefits Agreements: A New Local Government Tool or Another Variation on the Exactions Theme?
Community benefits agreements (CBAs) are the latest in a long line of tools neighbors have used to protect their neighborhood from the burdens of development, and to try to secure benefits from the proposed development. This Article canvasses the benefits and drawbacks various stakeholders perceive CBAs to offer or to threaten, and reviews the legal and policy questions CBAs present. It recommends that local governments avoid the use of CBAs in land use approval processes unless the CBAs are negotiated through processes designed to ensure the transparency of the negotiations, the representativeness and accountability of the negotiators, and the legality and enforceability of the CBAs’ terms.
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.
Ending Exclusionary Zoning in New York City’s Suburbs
New York stands alone among its peer states—coastal states with high housing costs and healthy regional economies—in giving its local governments such broad authority over local land use. The result is a state with fewer homes, more expensive rents, and starker segregation than it would otherwise have. By some measures, New York has the most exclusionary zoning in the country. This paper therefore offers a guide for New York State to follow, and improve upon, its peer states and reform its broken suburban land use process.