Housing & Community Development

Preserving History or Restricting Development: The Heterogenous Effects of Historic Districts on Local Housing Markets in New York City

Preserving History or Restricting Development: The Heterogenous Effects of Historic Districts on Local Housing Markets in New York City
2016. Journal of Urban Economics, 92(2016): 16-30.

Vicki Been, Ingrid Gould Ellen, Michael Gedal, Edward Glaeser, and Brian McCabe
01/10/2016

Since Brooklyn Heights was designated as New York City's first landmarked neighborhood in 1965, the Landmarks Preservation Commission has designated 120 historic neighborhoods in the city. This paper develops a theory in which landmarking has heterogeneous impacts across neighborhoods and exploits variation in the timing of historic district designations in New York City to identify the effects of preservation policies on residential property markets. We combine data on residential transactions during the 35-year period between 1974 and 2009 with data from the Landmarks Preservation Commission on the location of the city's historic districts and the timing of the designations. Consistent with theory, properties just outside the boundaries of districts increase in value after designation. Further, designation raises property values within historic districts, but only outside of Manhattan. As predicted, impacts are more positive in areas where the value of the option to build unrestricted is lower. Impacts also appear to be more positive in districts that are more aesthetically appealing.

Does Preservation Accelerate Neighborhood Change? Examining the Impact of Historic Preservation in New York City

Does Preservation Accelerate Neighborhood Change? Examining the Impact of Historic Preservation in New York City
2016. Journal of the American Planning Association, 82(2): 134-146.

Ingrid Gould Ellen and Brian J. McCabe
01/10/2016

A number of studies have examined the property value impacts of historic preservation, but few have considered how preservation shapes neighborhood composition.  In this study, we ask whether the designation of historic districts contributes to changes in the racial composition and socioeconomic status of New York City neighborhoods.  Bringing together data on historic districts with a panel of census tracts, we study how neighborhoods change after the designation of a historic district.  We find little evidence of changes in the racial composition of a neighborhood, but report a significant increase in socioeconomic status following historic designation.

Building prosecutorial autonomy from within: The transformation of the Ministério Público in Brazil

Building prosecutorial autonomy from within: The transformation of the Ministério Público in Brazil

Coslovsky, Salo and Amit Nigam
12/28/2015

How do prosecutors acquire professional prerogatives, organizational autonomy, and legal authority? In contrast to previous research, which identifies top-down, bottom-up and outside-in models of reform, we show that government officials can engage in transformation from within their own ranks. Specifically, we examine how Brazilian prosecutors evolved from a low profile assemblage of transient and politically dependent prosecutors into one of the most autonomous and authoritative public agencies in the country. We find that they created cohesion among their ranks, lobbied incessantly, and crafted alliances that nonetheless keep their options open. Thanks to this responsive and pragmatic strategy, they took full advantage of ongoing turbulence in Brazilian politics: whenever the opportunity context expanded, they advanced their cause; whenever the context contracted, they strengthened their mobilizing structures and protected their gains. While previous research looks at one transition at a time, this longitudinal study shows the heterogeneous strategies of long-term reform.

Housing, Neighborhoods, and Children’s Health

Housing, Neighborhoods, and Children’s Health
Future of Children, Volume 25 Number 1 Spring 2015

Ingrid Gould Ellen and Sherry Glied
09/17/2015

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 transi- tions 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.

 

Income Gains and Month-to-Month Income Volatility: Evidence from the US Financial Diaries

Income Gains and Month-to-Month Income Volatility: Evidence from the US Financial Diaries
2016. In Economic Mobility: Selected Papers from the 2015 Federal Reserve Community Development Research Conference. Online publication. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Jonathan Morduch & Anthony Hannagan
09/11/2015

The US Financial Diaries track the daily finances of low and moderate-income households over a year. The households faced substantial swings in income from month to month. On average, they experienced 2.7 months when income fell more than 25 percent below average, and 2.7 months when income was more than 25 percent above average. The volatility is summarized by an average coefficient of variation of monthly income (within year, averaged across households) of 39 percent. The CV is greatest (55 percent) for households below the poverty line, but the CV remained relatively high (33-35 percent) and steady for households with income from 100 percent of the poverty line up to 300 percent. Thus, in the non-poor sample, greater income did not imply notably greater income stability.

Determinants of Mortgage Default and Consumer Credit Use: The Effects of Foreclosure Laws and Foreclosure Delays

Determinants of Mortgage Default and Consumer Credit Use: The Effects of Foreclosure Laws and Foreclosure Delays
March-April 2016. Journal of Money, Credit and Banking 48(2-3).

Sewin Chan, Andrew Haughwout, Andrew Hayashi and Wilbert van der Klaauw
06/01/2015

The mortgage default decision is part of a complex household credit management problem. We examine how factors affecting mortgage default spill over to other credit markets. As home equity turns negative, homeowners default on mortgages and HELOCs at higher rates, whereas they prioritize repaying credit cards and auto loans. Larger unused credit card limits intensify the preservation of credit cards over housing debt. Although mortgage non-recourse statutes increase default on all types of housing debt, they reduce credit card defaults. Foreclosure delays increase default rates for both housing and non-housing debts. Our analysis highlights the interconnectedness of debt repayment decisions.

Do Homeowners Mark to Market? A Comparison of Self-reported and Market-based Home Value Estimates During the Housing Boom and Bust

Do Homeowners Mark to Market? A Comparison of Self-reported and Market-based Home Value Estimates During the Housing Boom and Bust
Real Estate Economics, forthcoming.

Sewin Chan, Sam Dastrup & Ingrid Gould Ellen
06/01/2015

This paper examines homeowners’ self-reported values in the American Housing Survey and the Health and Retirement Study from the start of the recent housing price run-ups through recent price declines. We compare zip code level market-based estimates of housing prices to those derived from homeowners’ self-reported values. We show that there are systematic differences which vary with market conditions and the amount of equity owners hold in their homes. When prices have fallen, homeowners systematically state that their homes are worth more than market estimates suggest, and homeowners with little or no equity in their homes state values above the market estimates to a greater degree. Over time, homeowners appear to adjust their assessments to be more in line with past market trends, but only slowly. Our results suggest that underwater borrowers are likely to understate their losses and either may not be aware that their mortgages are underwater or underestimate the degree to which they are.

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