Publications

  • Underused Lots in New York City

    Despite a robust real estate market for most of this decade, researchers and policymakers have observed that many areas of New York City have remained built out well below their zoning capacity. This study aims to contribute to our understanding of urban redevelopment by compiling and analyzing a large database of underdeveloped lots in the City. We identify about 200,000 such lots as of 2003 that were built out at less than 50% of their zoning capacity, representing about a quarter of all residentially zoned lots. Of these, about 8% were redeveloped during the subsequent four years. Our preliminary analysis reveals that underdeveloped lots are primarily made up of low density 1-4 family houses and are disproportionately located in poor and minority neighborhoods. We plan to use this analysis as the foundation for further analysis to assess whether market failures and regulatory and other barriers impede desirable development in mature cities.

  • Can Homeownership Transform Communities? Evidence on the Impact of Subsidized, Owner-Occupied Housing Investments on the Quality of Local Schools

    While recent evidence demonstrates that subsidized investments in owneroccupied housing can lead to increases in property values (Schwartz et al. 2006), the impact of such housing on other community amenities is largely unexamined. Yet, the response of local services to public investments is crucial for policy-makers and community development practitioners who view increasing subsidized homeownership as a mechanism to improve urban neighborhoods. Drawing on evidence from New York City, we examine the impact of subsidized housing on the quality of local schools by studying exogenous variation in city investments in owner and rental units. Specifically, we explore whether – and in what ways – publicly financed investments in owner- or renter-occupied housing made in the late 1980s and 1990s by the City of New York affected the characteristics and performance of local public schools. Our results suggest that the completion of subsidized, owner-occupied housing is associated with a decrease in schools’ percentage of free lunch eligible students, an increase in schools’ percentage of white students, and controlling for these compositional changes, a positive change in pass rates on standardized reading and math exams.

  • 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.

  • An Opportunity to Stabilize New York City’s Neighborhoods:  A Fact Sheet on the Neighborhood Stabilization Program

    A core mission of the Furman Center is to provide essential data and analysis about New York City’s housing and neighborhoods to those involved in land use, real estate development, community economic development, housing, research and urban policy. Towards this end, we present this fact sheet describing some of the ways that government agencies and other stakeholders can use data to target the use of funds made available to stabilize neighborhoods in the wake of the foreclosure crisis.

  • Key Findings on the Affordability of Rental Housing from New York City’s HVS 2008

    Every three years, the U.S. Census Bureau releases the New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey (HVS), which assesses changes in various aspects of New York City’s housing and neighborhoods. The primary goal of the survey is to estimate the rental vacancy rate in the City, but the survey also provides valuable insight into other trends in the housing stock. However, the data are released in a format that is hard to understand without statistical software. In order to make the findings available to a wider audience, we have analyzed the data about New York City’s neighborhoods and compiled this summary of noteworthy trends.

  • Siting, Spillovers, and Segregation: A Re-examination of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program

    As of the end of 2005, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program had allocated $7.5 billion in federal tax credits and supported the development of more than 1.5 million units. A growing number of advocates and observers worry that the LIHTC program, by failing to monitor the siting of developments and, more directly, by giving priority to developers building housing in  high-poverty areas, is furthering poverty and racial concentration. Yet, many community development organizations see the tax credit program as a central tool in their efforts to revitalize these high-poverty, urban neighborhoods. In this chapter, the authors try to inject some empirical evidence into this debate by examining the extent to which the tax credit program may have contributed to poverty concentration as well as to neighborhood revitalization.

  • Welcome to the Neighborhood: What can Regional Science Contribute to the Study of Neighborhoods?

    In this paper the authors argue that neighborhoods are highly relevant for the types of issues at the heart of regional science. First, residential and economic activity takes place in particular locations, and particular neighborhoods. Many attributes of those neighborhood environments matter for this activity, from the physical amenities, to the quality of the public and private services received. Second, those neighborhoods vary in their placement in the larger region and this broader arrangement of neighborhoods is particularly important for location choices, commuting behavior and travel patterns. Third, sorting across these neighborhoods by race and income may well matter for educational and labor market outcomes, important components of a region's overall economic activity. For each of these areas we suggest a series of unanswered questions that would benefit from more attention. Focused on neighborhood characteristics themselves, there are important gaps in our understanding of how neighborhoods change - the causes and the consequences. In terms of the overall pattern of neighborhoods and resulting commuting patterns, this connects directly to current concerns about environmental sustainability and there is much need for research relevant to policy makers. And in terms of segregation and sorting across neighborhoods, work is needed on better spatial measures. In addition, housing market causes and consequences for local economic activity are under researched. The authors expand on each of these, finishing with some suggestions on how newly available data, with improved spatial identifiers, may enable regional scientists to answer some of these research questions.

  • 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.

  • Tenants: Innocent Victims of the Nation’s Foreclosure Crisis

    Renters are innocent victims of the foreclosure crisis, losing their homes through no fault of their own when their landlord goes into foreclosure. Until lately, the national discussion on the foreclosure crisis largely focused on owner-occupied homes, but recent analysis reveals that the crisis is significantly impacting renters across the country. New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy found that in New York City, well over half of all foreclosure filings in 2007 were on two to four family or multi-family buildings, and a growing body of data and anecdotal evidence indicates that the problem is not isolated to New York City; heart wrenching stories of renters losing their homes have appeared in newspapers nationwide.

  • Crime and U.S. Cities: Recent Patterns and Implications

    For most of the twentieth century, U.S. cities – and their high-poverty neighborhoods in particular—were viewed as dangerous, crime-ridden places that middle class, mobile (and typically white) households avoided, fueling suburbanization. While some pundits and policy analysts bemoaned this urban flight, others voiced concern over the potential impact of crime-ridden environments on the urban residents who were left behind. In the past decade or so, the media has instead highlighted the dramatic reductions in crime taking place in many large cities. In this paper we explore these crime reductions and their implications for urban environments.