Housing & Community Development

Mobility, Economic Opportunity and New York City Neighborhoods

Mobility, Economic Opportunity and New York City Neighborhoods
NYU Rudin Center

Sarah M. Kaufman, Mitchell L. Moss, Justin Tyndall and Jorge Hernandez
12/29/2014

Although public transit provides access to jobs throughout the New York City region, there are actually substantial inequalities in mobility. By focusing on the neighborhood level, the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation has identified communities that are substantially underserved by the public transportation system.  The Rudin Center ranked New York City’s 177 neighborhoods according to the number of jobs accessible from the neighborhoods by transit, within 60 minutes and completed by 9:00 a.m. on a Monday morning. This analysis reveals high variation in levels of transit access across New York affect residents’ employment levels, travel modes and incomes. This report seeks to affect the implementation of new policies and transit services to increase economic opportunity for New Yorkers, and ensure that the transportation system is fully leveraged to connect workers with jobs. These improvements will benefit all New Yorkers’ access to job opportunities and economic mobility.

Walking, Obesity and Urban Design in Chinese Neighborhoods

Walking, Obesity and Urban Design in Chinese Neighborhoods
Preventive Medicine, Vol. 39, supp., pp. S799-S85

Alfonzo, M., Z. Guo, L. Lin, and K. Day
12/01/2014

Objective: We examined the connections (1) between the design of the built environment and walking, (2) between the design of the built environment and obesity, and (3) between walking and obesity and income in urban settings in China. 

Methods: Six neighborhoods with different built environment characteristics, located in the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Hangzhou, were studied. Data on walking and other physical activity and obesity levels from 1070 residents were collected through a street intercept survey conducted in 2013. Built environment features of 527 street segments were documented using the Irvine–Minnesota Inventory-China (IMI-C) environmental audit. Data were analyzed using the State of Place™ Index. 

Results: Walking rates, household income and Body Mass Index (BMI) were related; neighborhoods with a higher State of Place™ Index were associated with higher rates of walking. 

Conclusion: This study began to establish an evidence base for the association of built environment features with walking in the context of Chinese urban design. Findings confirmed that the associations between “walkable” built environment features and walking established in existing research in other countries, also held true in the case of Chinese neighborhoods.

Profile of Rent-Stabilized Units and Tenants in New York City

Profile of Rent-Stabilized Units and Tenants in New York City
Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. June 2014 Fact Brief.

NYU Furman Center
06/17/2014

Rent Stabilization is a New York State law that restricts how much rents in certain residential housing units can increase annually. The law generally applies to buildings constructed prior to 1974 that have six or more units, or to buildings that opt into the program in exchange for certain public subsidies. Rent Stabilization protects tenants from sharp increases in rents and protects their right to renew their leases.

In 2011, rent stabilized units comprised nearly one million units of housing in New York City—roughly 45 percent the city’s rental housing stock. Stabilized units house many low-income residents across New York City; roughly 66 percent of tenants living in rent-stabilized units were considered low-income in 2011.

This Fact Brief is an update to the NYU Furman Center’s April 2012 publication, Rent Stabilization in New York City. The data in this brief remain the most recent available from the New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey. Data from the 2014 Housing and Vacancy Survey are expected to released next year.

The State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods in 2013

The State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods in 2013
Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, New York University

I.G. Ellen et al.
05/28/2014

The State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods in 2013 report , published annually by the NYU Furman Center, provides a compendium of data and analysis about New York City’s housing, land use, demographics, and quality of life indicators for each borough and the city’s 59 community districts.

The report combines timely and expert analysis of NYU Furman Center researchers with data transparency. It is presented in three parts:

Part 1: Focus on Economic Inequality

Each year, the State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods describes, contextualizes, and provides analysis on a pressing and policy-relevant issue affecting New York City. In 2013, the report focuses on economic inequality in New York City, analyzing changes over time in the distribution of the city’s income, economic segregation of city residents, and the neighborhood environments experienced by people of different incomes.

Part 2: City-Wide Analysis

The City-Wide Analysis provides a broad, longitudinal analysis of the New York City's housing and neighborhoods. The chapter is divided into five parts: land use and the built environment; homeowners and their homes; renters and their homes; income and workers; and neighborhood services and conditions.

Part 3: City, Borough, and Community District Data

The data section provides current and historical statistics for over 50 housing, neighborhood, and socioeconomic indicators at the city, borough, and community district levels. It also includes indicator definitions and rankings; methods; and an index of New York City’s Community Districts and Sub-Borough Areas.

Where, When, Why, and For Whom Do Residential Contexts Matter? Moving Away from the Dichotomous Understanding of Neighborhood Effects

Where, When, Why, and For Whom Do Residential Contexts Matter? Moving Away from the Dichotomous Understanding of Neighborhood Effects
Annual Review of Sociology. 2014. 40:559–79. 10.1146/annurev-soc-071913-043350

Sharkey, P., and J. Faber
05/05/2014

The literature on neighborhood effect frequently is evaluated or interpreted in relation to the question, "Do neighborhoods matter?" We argue that this question has had a disproportionate influence on the field and does not align with the complexity of theoretical models of neighborhood effects or empirical findings that have arisen from the literature. In this article, we focus on empirical work that considers how different dimensions of individuals' residential contexts become salient in their lives, how contexts influence individuals' lives over different timeframes, how individuals are affected by social processes operating at different scales, and how residential contexts influence the lives of individuals in heterogeneous ways. In other words, we review research that examines where, when, why, and for whom do residential contexts matter. Using the large literature on neighborhoods and educational and cognitive outcomes as an example, the research we review suggests that any attempt to reduce the literature to a single answer about whether neighborhoods matter is misguided. We call for a more flexible study of context effects in which theory, measurement, and methods are more closely aligned with the specific mechanisms and social processes under study.

Unlocking the Right to Build: Designing a More Flexible System for Transferring Development Rights

Unlocking the Right to Build: Designing a More Flexible System for Transferring Development Rights
Furman Center Policy Brief; March 2014

Vicki Been, John Infranca, Josiah Madar, Jessica Yager
03/19/2014

A new report by the NYU Furman Center details the untapped potential for NYC’s transferable air rights program, a critical tool for high-density housing development in New York City. Using case study examples, the report outlines limitations to the city’s current TDR policies and suggests a policy approach that could unlock millions of square feet of unused air rights to help produce more affordable housing.

The Foreclosure Crisis and Community Development: Exploring the Foreclosed Stock in Hard-Hit Neighborhoods

The Foreclosure Crisis and Community Development: Exploring the Foreclosed Stock in Hard-Hit Neighborhoods
Housing Studies, forthcoming

Ingrid Gould Ellen, Josiah Madar, and Max Weselcouch
03/06/2014

As the foreclosure crisis continues, many communities are faced with a glut of properties that have completed the foreclosure process and are now owned by banks or other mortgage lenders. These properties, referred to as “real estate owned (REO),” often sit vacant for extended periods and, recent studies suggest, depress neighboring property values. They also impose significant costs on local governments, which must try to address the risk of crime, fire, and blight that vacant buildings pose. In addition, many worry that REO properties sold to unscrupulous short-term investors hasten neighborhood decline.

In this article we shed new light on the “REO problem” by studying the stock of REO properties at the neighborhood level in three urban areas: Fulton County, Georgia (which includes Atlanta), Miami-Dade County, Florida, and New York City. Using a combination of longitudinal administrative data sets on foreclosure filings, auction sales, and property transactions provided by local government sources, we identify every property transfer into REO ownership in recent years and all subsequent transfers of these properties. To explore the ongoing neighborhood and community development challenges, we divide census tracts into four groups based on their concentrations of REO properties as of the end of 2011. We then compare these neighborhood types across several dimensions. Because we use a uniform methodology for all three areas, we are also able to compare neighborhood groups across jurisdictions with the metrics we calculate.

We find several neighborhoods in Fulton County and Miami-Dade County with extremely high concentrations of REO properties as of the end of 2011, including some tracts with more than 100 REO properties. In New York City, however, REO concentrations are generally much lower, and no census tract had more than 12 REO properties. In all three jurisdictions, the neighborhoods with relatively high concentrations of REO properties are generally not the most distressed areas of their regions in terms of poverty and unemployment, but are still high-poverty and potentially vulnerable. Moreover, they are disproportionately black, highlighting the uneven impact the foreclosure crisis may be having on communities. Importantly, we find that that the number of REO properties in the hardest-hit neighborhoods of each area was declining as of the end of 2012 (or 2011, our latest year of data in Miami-Dade County), generally in line with the countywide or citywide trend in REO inventories, and that investors did not account for an appreciably higher proportion of purchasers of REO properties in the hardest-hit neighborhoods. Furthermore, few of the properties that were purchased by investors appear to have been “flipped” within a short period. On the other hand, we also find that those REO properties that remained in these cities as of the end of 2012 or 2011 (including those in hard-hit neighborhoods) had been in REO for a longer duration than was typical one year earlier, so the composition of the REO stock may shifting towards more problematic properties. Additionally, in Fulton County’s hardest-hit tracts REO properties made up about 40 percent of all sales in 2012, so were likely still exerting significant downward pressure on housing prices. Finally while the National Stabilization Program (NSP) may be improving neighborhoods in other ways, we find that only a negligible share of the REO sales in the hardest-hit tracts of Fulton and Miami-Dade Counties in 2010 and 2011 were to non-profit entities and developers using NSP funds.

Do Housing Choice Voucher Holders Live Near Good Schools

Do Housing Choice Voucher Holders Live Near Good Schools
Journal of Housing Economics 23(1), 2014: 28-40. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhe.2013.11.005

Ingrid Gould Ellen, Amy Ellen Schwartz, and Keren Horn
03/06/2014

The Housing Choice Voucher program was created, in part, to help low income households reach a broader range of neighborhoods and schools. Rather than concentrating low income households in designated developments, vouchers allow families to choose their housing units and neighborhoods. In this project we explore whether low income households use the flexibility provided by vouchers to reach neighborhoods with high performing schools. Unlike previous experimental work, which has focused on a small sample of voucher holders constrained to live in low-poverty neighborhoods, we look at the voucher population as a whole and explore the broad range of neighborhoods in which they live. Relying on internal data from HUD on the location of assisted households, we link each voucher holder in the country to the closest elementary school within their school district. We compare the characteristics of the schools that voucher holders are likely to attend to the characteristics of those accessible to other households receiving place based housing subsidies, other similar unsubsidized households and fair market rent units within the same state and metropolitan area. These comparisons provide us with a portrait of the schools that children might have attended absent HUD assistance. In comparison to other poor households in the same metropolitan areas, we find that the schools near voucher holders have lower performing students than the schools near other poor households without a housing subsidy. We probe this surprising finding by exploring whether differences between the demographic characteristics of voucher holders and other poor households explain the differences in the characteristics of nearby schools, and whether school characteristics vary with length of time in the voucher program. We also examine variation across metropolitan areas in the relative quality of schools near to voucher holders and whether this variation is explained by economic, socio-demographic or policy differences across cities.

Introduction: Special issue on housing policy in the United States

Introduction: Special issue on housing policy in the United States
J. Housing Econ. (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhe.2014.02.001

Bostic, R. and Ellen, I.G
02/22/2014

The recent housing crisis has spawned much reflection among academics, practitioners and policy-makers regarding both the causes and the consequences of this upheaval, especially in the market for owner-occupied homes. But many questions remain. This special issue of the Journal of Housing Economics features a series of articles that seeks to answer some of these questions, with attention given to both the ownership and rental markets. We hope the nine articles in this issue help to provide some insights for both policy makers and researchers.

Pathways After Default: What Happens to Distressed Mortgage Borrowers and Their Homes

Pathways After Default: What Happens to Distressed Mortgage Borrowers and Their Homes
Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics 48(2), February 2014.

Sewin Chan, Vicki Been, Andrew Haughwout and Claudia Sharygin
02/01/2014

We use a detailed dataset of seriously delinquent mortgages to examine the dynamic process of mortgage default—from initial delinquency and default to final resolution of the loan and disposition of the property. We estimate a two-stage competing risk hazard model to assess the factors associated with post-default outcomes, including whether a borrower receives a legal notice of foreclosure. In particular, we focus on a borrower’s ability to avoid a foreclosure auction by getting a modification, by refinancing the loan, or by selling the property. We find that the outcomes of the foreclosure process are significantly related to: loan characteristics including the borrower’s credit history, current loan-to-value and the presence of a junior lien; the borrower’s post-default payment behavior, including the borrower’s participation in foreclosure counseling; neighborhood characteristics such as foreclosure rates, recent house price depreciation and median income; and the borrower’s race and ethnicity.

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