Publications

  • 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.

  • Housing, Neighborhoods, and Children’s Health

    In theory, improving low-income families’ housing and neighborhoods could also improve their children’s health, through any number of mechanisms. For example, less exposure to environmental toxins could prevent diseases such as asthma; a safer, less violent neighborhood could improve health by reducing the chances of injury and death, and by easing the burden of stress; and a more walkable neighborhood with better playgrounds could encourage children to exercise, making them less likely to become obese. Yet although neighborhood improvement policies generally achieve their immediate goals— investments in playgrounds create playgrounds, for example—Ingrid Gould Ellen and Sherry Glied find that many of these policies don’t show a strong effect on poor children’s health. One problem is that neighborhood improvements may price low-income families out of the very neighborhoods that have been improved, as new amenities draw more affluent families, causing rents and home prices to rise. Policy makers, say Ellen and Glied, should carefully consider how neighborhood improvements may affect affordability, a calculus that is likely to favor policies with clear and substantial benefits for low-income children, such as those that reduce neighborhood violence. Housing subsidies can help families either cope with rising costs or move to more affluent neighborhoods. Unfortunately, demonstration programs that help families move to better neighborhoods have had only limited effects on children’s health, possibly because such transitions can be stressful. And because subsidies go to relatively few low-income families, the presence of subsidies may itself drive up housing costs, placing an extra burden on the majority of families that don’t receive them. Ellen and Glied suggest that policy makers consider whether granting smaller subsidies to more families would be a more effective way to use these funds.

  • Accessibility of America’s Housing Stock: Analysis of the 2011 American Housing Survey (AHS)

    The American Housing Survey (AHS) is the most comprehensive national housing survey in the United States. Since 2009, AHS has included six core disability questions used in the American Community Survey. The questions address hearing, visual, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care, and independent living difficulties for each household member. For 2011, AHS added a topical module on accessibility. The module asked about the presence of accessibility features in housing units, including wheelchair accessibility features, and whether the accessibility features were used or not. Together, these data provide an unprecedented opportunity to examine the accessibility of the U.S. housing stock and to ask whether people with disabilities reside in accessible homes.

    In this report, the authors present summary measures of housing accessibility based on the 2011 AHS. To develop these summary measures, they examined United States (U.S.) and international standards and regulations regarding housing accessibility, reviewed the relevant literature, and conducted interviews with a set of disability and housing design experts. These interviews are further described in appendix A. Based on these summary measures, the authors describe how accessibility varies by housing market characteristics as well as resident characteristics such as age, disability status, and income. They also present evidence on the relationship between the need for and availability of accessible housing units, taking affordability of accessible units into account.

  • 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. 

  • Inclusionary Housing Policy in New York City: Assessing New Opportunities, Constraints, and Trade-offs

    Many jurisdictions with high housing costs, including New York City, have supplemented traditional affordable housing production programs with inclusionary housing programs. By tying the creation of affordable units to market-rate development, these programs aim to produce new affordable housing and preserve economic diversity in high-rent neighborhoods, often with little or no direct cash subsidies from local government budgets. As rents continue to rise and the pace of market-rate development remains strong, policymakers in New York City and elsewhere will continue to look to new and expanded inclusionary housing programs as a source of affordable housing. View the related policy brief, Creating Affordable Housing Out of Thin Air: The Economics of Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning in New York City.

  • Density and Disaster: New Models of Disaster Recovery for Housing in High-Density Cities

    JAPA Disaster Planning Special Issue Planning Note

  • Race and Neighborhoods in the 21st Century: What Does Segregation Mean Today?

    Recent research has argued that racial segregation is no longer a concern in the 21st century. In response, this paper revisits these concerns about racial segregation and neighborhoods to assess their relevance today. This working paper finds that while segregation levels between blacks and whites have certainly declined, they remain quite high; Hispanic and Asian segregation have, meanwhile, remained unchanged. Further, this paper shows that the neighborhood environments of minorities continue to be highly unequal to those enjoyed by whites. Blacks and Hispanics continue to live among more disadvantaged neighbors, to have access to lower performing schools, and to be exposed to more violent crime. Further, these differences are amplified in more segregated metropolitan areas. See the Research Brief: Race and Neighborhoods in the 21st Century.

  • Race and Neighborhoods in the 21st Century

    This research brief explores the state of racial segregation in American neighborhoods, and the connection between segregation and gaps in neighborhood conditions. Based on a working paper that analyzed U.S. segregation patterns between the years 1980 and 2010, the research finds that minority groups and whites continue to live in separate and highly unequal neighborhoods. Black and Hispanic households tend to live in neighborhoods with higher poverty rates, fewer college-educated neighbors, lower-performing schools, and higher violent crime rates. Moreover, these differences in neighborhood conditions are amplified in more segregated metropolitan areas. View the working paper, press release, and other resources here.  

  • Housing, Neighborhoods, and Opportunity: The Location of New York City’s Subsidized Affordable Housing

    This report examines changes in the location and neighborhood characteristics of subsidized rental housing in New York City. The study shows that the distribution of subsidized rental units across New York City’s neighborhoods changed significantly between 2002 and 2011, not just as a result of new development, but also because of differential opt-out rates across neighborhoods. As a result, the city is losing affordable housing in the neighborhoods with the highest quality schools, lowest crime rates, and greatest access to jobs. Released in conjuction with the report, the Subsidized Housing Information Project (SHIP) is an online, searchable database of privately-owned, subsidized rental housing in New York City. View the press release or view the NYU Furman Center's infographic, New York City's Opt-Out Outlook

  • Quarterly Housing Update: 4th Quarter 2014

    The number of properties receiving notices of foreclosure was 25 percent lower in the fourth quarter of 2014 than in the same quarter in 2013, according to the Furman Center’s New York City 2014 Quarterly Housing Update: 4th Quarter. Compared to the fourth quarter of 2013, the number of residential sales declined about two percent citywide, and housing prices increased over six percent citywide. Residential building permit rates varied across the boroughs: more units were authorized in the fourth quarter of 2014 than in the same quarter of the previous year in Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island, but the Bronx and Brooklyn saw sizable declines. Read the full report.