Urban Policy

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.

Dispelling An Urban Legend: Frequent Emergency Department Users Have Substantial Burden Of Disease

Dispelling An Urban Legend: Frequent Emergency Department Users Have Substantial Burden Of Disease
Health Affairs, 32, no.12 (2013):2099-2108

Billings, John and Maria C. Raven
12/01/2013

Urban legend has often characterized frequent emergency department (ED) patients as mentally ill substance users who are a costly drain on the health care system and who contribute to ED overcrowding because of unnecessary visits for conditions that could be treated more efficiently elsewhere. This study of Medicaid ED users in New York City shows that behavioral health conditions are responsible for a small share of ED visits by frequent users, and that ED use accounts for a small portion of these patients’ total Medicaid costs. Frequent ED users have a substantial burden of disease, and they have high rates of primary and specialty care use. They also have linkages to outpatient care that are comparable to those of other ED patients. It is possible to use predictive modeling to identify who will become a repeat ED user and thus to help target interventions. However, policy makers should view reducing frequent ED use as only one element of more-comprehensive intervention strategies for frequent health system users.

Buying Sky: The Market for Transferable Development Rights in New York City

Buying Sky: The Market for Transferable Development Rights in New York City
Furman Center Policy Brief; October 2013

The Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy
10/22/2013

New York City’s zoning code (known as the “Zoning Resolution”) regulates land use in part by limiting the square footage of the building that landowners can develop on their property. Some buildings are built below the applicable limit—because they are constrained by other regulations such as historic preservation rules, they were built subject to earlier, more-restrictive zoning rules, or the owner chose to develop the property less intensely than the zoning allows because of market conditions or other considerations applicable when the building was built. The Zoning Resolution provides limited opportunities for an owner of land that is less than fully developed to transfer her unused development rights to other properties. This enables the recipients of those development rights (known at that point as “transferrable development rights,” “TDRs,” or “air rights”) to develop larger buildings than the Zoning Resolution otherwise permits, while the seller loses the right to ever use those rights on her own property.

Home parking convenience, household car usage, and implications to residential parking policies

Home parking convenience, household car usage, and implications to residential parking policies
Transport Policy, 29, 97-106

Guo, Zhan
09/16/2013

This paper investigates the effect of home parking convenience on households' car usage, and the implications to residential parking policies. A random sample of 840 households is selected from a travel survey in the New York City region, and their home parking types are identified through Google Street View. It found that with the same car ownership level, households without off-street parking used cars much less, and relied more on alternative modes than those with off-street parking. For households with access to both garage and street parking, those who use the handy street parking tend to make more car tours than those who do not. In general, convenient home parking encourages households' car usage. Policy implications to the minimum off-street parking requirement, residents parking permit, street cleaning, and new urbanism neighborhood design are discussed.

From minimum to maximum: The impact of parking standard reform on residential parking supply in London

From minimum to maximum: The impact of parking standard reform on residential parking supply in London
Urban Studies, 50 (6), 1181 - 1198. doi: 10.1177/0042098012460735

Guo, Z and S Ren
05/01/2013

This research examines residential parking supply in London before and after the minimum off-street parking standard was replaced by a maximum one in 2004. Based on 11 428 residential developments after and 216 developments before the reform, it is found that parking supply was reduced by approximately 40 per cent. Ninety-eight per cent was caused by the removal of the minimum standard, while only 2 per cent was due the imposition of the maximum standard. However, the parking supply is actually higher in areas with the highest density and the best transit service than in the areas immediately outside; the adopted maximum standard follows a similar pattern. The market-oriented approach to parking regulation can reduce excessive parking, but it depends on the particular sub-markets. Complementary policies such as strict parking maxima, on-street parking controls and parking taxes are often necessary to form an efficient parking market.

Duet of the commons: Impact of street cleaning on household car usage in New York City

Duet of the commons: Impact of street cleaning on household car usage in New York City
Journal of Planning Education and Research, 33, 1, 34-48. doi: 10.1177/0739456X12459360

Guo, Z and P Xu
03/05/2013

This article explores the concept of “public commons” and its relationship with travel decisions under a unique setting: street cleaning in the New York City area. Using a natural experimental design, it investigates the impact of street cleaning on car usage for five hundred randomly selected households. Street cleaning encourages car usage for households without off-street parking and discourages car usage for households with off-street parking. The net effect is an increase of vehicle miles traveled by 7.1 percent, at least 27 percent of which is not a mere redistribution from non-street-cleaning days.

Hong Kong and Other World Cities

Hong Kong and Other World Cities
In Aging in Hong Kong (pp. 5 - 30). Springer Publishing Company

P.H. Chau, Jean Wook, M.K. Gusmano, and V.G. Rodwin
01/01/2013

With population aging and increasing urbanization, it is important to examine the quality of life of older people living in cities, in particular world cities. However, few comparative studies of world cities examine their health, long-term care systems, or the characteristics of their older populations. To assess how well world cities are addressing the challenges associated with aging populations, it is helpful to review comparable data on the economic and health status of older persons, as well as the availability and use of health, social, and long-term care services. By extending the work of the “CADENZA: A Jockey Club Initiative for Seniors” Project and the World Cities Project, this chapter compares three world cities—Hong Kong, New York City, and London. The three world cities are similar in the size and proportion of their older populations, but the characteristics of older people and the health and long-term care systems available to them differ in significant ways. These comparisons reveal how Hong Kong, New York City, and London are responding to a rapidly aging population. They should be valuable to other cities that face the challenges of population aging.

What Can We Learn About the Low Income Housing Tax Credit By Examining the Tenants?

What Can We Learn About the Low Income Housing Tax Credit By Examining the Tenants?
Housing Policy Debate.

Horn, Keren and Katherine O'Regan
01/01/2013

Using tenant-level data from 18 states that represent almost 40% of all Low-Income Housing Tax Credit units, this article examines tenant incomes, rental assistance, and rent burdens to shed light on key questions about our largest federal supply-side affordable housing program. Specifically, what are the incomes of the tenants, and does this program reach those with extremely low incomes? What rent burdens are experienced, and is economic diversity within developments achieved? We find that approximately 45% of tenants have extremely low incomes, and the overwhelming majority of such tenants also receive some form of rental assistance. Rent burdens are lower than that for renters with similar incomes nationally but generally higher than that presumed for housing programs of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Rent burdens vary greatly by income level and are lowered by the sizable share of owners who charge below federal maximum rents. Finally, we find evidence of both economically diverse developments and those with concentrations of households with extremely low incomes.

Do Federally Assisted Households Have Access to High Performing Public Schools?

Do Federally Assisted Households Have Access to High Performing Public Schools?
Poverty & Race Research Action Council

Ellen, Ingrid Gould and Horn, Keren Mertens.
11/01/2012

A family’s housing unit provides more than simply shelter. It also provides a set of neighborhood amenities and a package of local public services, including, most critically, a local school. Yet housing and education policymakers rarely coordinate their efforts, and there has been little examination of the schools that voucher holders or other assisted households actually reach. In this project we describe the elementary schools nearest to households receiving four different forms of housing assistance in the country as a whole, in each of the 50 states, and in the 100 largest metropolitan areas.We compare the characteristics of these schools to those accessible to other comparable households. We pay particular attention to whether voucher holders are able to reach neighborhoods with higher performing schools than other low-income households in the same geographic area.

 

In brief, we find that assisted households as a whole are more likely to live near low-performing schools than other households. Surprisingly, Housing Choice Voucher holders do not generally live near higher performing schools than households receiving other forms of housing assistance, even though the voucher program was created, in part, to help low-income households reach a broader range of neighborhoods and schools. While voucher holders typically live near schools that are higher performing than those nearest to public housing tenants, they also typically live near schools that are slightly lower performing than those nearest to households living in Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and Projectbased Section 8 developments and lower performing than those nearest to other poor households.

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