Furman Center

NYC Housing Commissioner Vicki Been Discusses Affordable Housing Initiative at Urban Policy Forum

NYC Housing Commissioner Vicki Been Discusses Affordable Housing Initiative at Urban Policy Forum

Vicki Been returned to NYU Wagner to discuss her role at the helm the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the ambitious city program to build and preserve 200,000 affordable apartment units in a decade’s time.

The eagerly-anticipated 2015 Henry Hart Rice Urban Policy Forum drew a capacity crowd of more than 150 students, researchers, policy makers, advocates, and developers on April 7. Commissioner Been was familiar to many in the audience as Professor of Law at the NYU School of Law and Associated Professor of Public Policy at NYU Wagner. She was interviewed by Ingrid Gould Ellen, Professor of Urban Planning and Policy at NYU Wagner. Until Been's appointment approximately a year ago, she had collaborated closely with Professor Ellen at the NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a joint endeavor of the Law School and Wagner.

As the evening discussions began, Mitchell Moss, the Henry Hart Rice Professor of Urban Policy and Planning at Wagner, welcomed Commissioner Been, noting her shift from academia to what another New Yorker, Theodore Roosevelt, once described as the “arena” of policy making. “She is the woman in the arena,” he said.

The arena, and the goal of the five-borough "Housing New York" program that she is stewarding, can only be described as challenging, if not daunting. In New York, according to data from the Furman Center, 54 percent of renter households devote at least 30 percent of their income to rent currently, compared to 42 percent of renter households in 2000. In addition to Housing New York's preservation aspects, the program calls for the building of 80,000 new units for low- and moderate-income households within 10 years. That's double the average rate of new construction of the past 20 years, and must be accomplished in a city where publicly owned property and vacant lots are scarce and building-related costs have skyrocketed.

“It’s an enormous scope,” Commissioner Been explained in reference to the new initiative, “not because we wanted it to be ‘big and bold,’ but because that’s what is required to meet the affordable housing crisis of the city.”

Among the policymaking approaches she touched upon are HPD's use of comprehensive planning across city agencies to address open-space, mobility, recreation, and education needs in the neighborhoods where affordable-housing preservation and development are planned; strategic efforts to prevent displacement; drawing direction from neighborhood-based data and community interaction; helping owners of small buildings to navigate red tape and obtain financial help; and encouraging developers to include within their market-rate developments the affordable-rate units required for tax subsidies.

“It costs more to build [the affordable units] on site. On the other hand, the point of Mayor de Blasio’s administration is to reduce income inequality,” the Commissioner said.

NYU Furman Center's www.PlanNYC.org is named 'Top Website'

NYU Furman Center's www.PlanNYC.org is named 'Top Website'

Planetizen.com, the leading news and information website for the planning, design and development community, has placed NYU Furman Center's www.PlanNYC.org on its list of the top 10 online resources for 2007.

The Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy's website was originally designed by Jordan Anderson as part of his NYU Master of Urban Planning Capstone project at NYU Wagner, under the supervision of Professor Mitchell Moss.

A complete urban planning web portal for citizens interested in housing and development in New York City, PlanNYC.org is currently managed by a team of NYU Wagner and School of Law students headed up by Wagner Master of Urban Planning student Grant Poujade.

According to www.planetizen.com, the web site allows users to sort information by development project or neighborhood, and doesn't play favorites regarding certain perspectives - all points of view are offered.PlanNYC stands as an excellent model for local community planning portals.

The NYU Furman Center (furmancenter@nyu.edu) is directed by Vicki Been, the Elihu Root Professor of Law. Ingrid Gould Ellen, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Planning, is the Co-Director of the Center. More than 15 faculty from the Law School, the Wagner School and NYU's Faculty of Arts and Sciences are involved in the Furman Center's work.

For more information on the Top 10 Websites, click here.


NYU Wagner congratulates the Class of 2009, and celebrates Convocation at BAM

NYU Wagner congratulates the Class of 2009, and celebrates Convocation at BAM

In a Convocation speech to Wagner's Class of 2009, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan said he attended the 1977 World Series game when sports commentator Howard Cosell, observing a column of rising smoke in the vicinity of Yankee Stadium, told a national television audience, "Ladies and gentleman, the Bronx is burning." The wave of arson, crime, and abandonment afflicting much of New York City less than two years after the city government had narrowly avoided municipal bankruptcy captured Donovan's attention even then, as an 11 year old baseball enthusiast. And it's probably no accident that as someone who came of age in the 1970s and '80s in New York, he went on to devote his education and distinguished public career to understanding and innovating policy steps that helped rescue and transform New York and many other American cities in the wake of that "urban catastrophe."

Donovan quoted former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton in addressing the proud and excited graduates and their families gathered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on May 15: "Public service is not just a way of life, it is a way to live life fully."

According to Donovan, the rise of New York and the restoration of its once-strained civic bonds show that public-sector work - his own path-has enormous potential value, even though the challenges were amply demonstrated by the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. Citing President Obama's call to service, as well as his recently signed national service bill, Donovan said the mission of public employees and others embarked on public service work of all kinds is to give us "a reason to believe in public service again"  in our neighborhoods and across the nation and world.

"Wagner Class of 2009," Donovan said, "we need you to make it possible to believe again!...Together, we can put our shoulder up against the wheel and change the course of history."

Dean Ellen Schall enumerated the impressive accomplishments of the graduating students and faculty members, including Professors of the Year Shanna Rose and Anthony Kovner. She contended that the work of public service requires more than technical and analytical capabilities, as critical as those are, but also "artistry," saying, "Public service is as much about art as about science." Artistry is what is required to find bold new answers to problems that resist technical solutions, whether those are ending poverty, overcoming racism, ensuring equal health outcomes for all, creating public school systems that work, or building cities that are sustainable.

The dean told the graduates that she wrote an essay for the Convocation as if she were applying for admission to the school. She based her thoughts on a photograph she selected from a catalogue of visual images, just as many Wagner applicants are asked to do. The image she selected was that of a person bringing a pot to life on a pottery wheel, as it reminded her of an introduction to pottery class she took last fall.

"I showed up every Monday night from 6-9, much the way you showed up for a class," she told the graduates. "And it was very hard. It was the worst in the class, a fact clear to me and to everyone else. Yet I stayed and kept on trying. I knew there was learning in the trying, in sticking with what didn't come easily. I never actually cracked the code or became a potter. Yet at the end, I have these small little pieces of ‘pottery' in my house and the odd thing is, I display them...and they make me smile when I walk in. They remind me to take myself seriously, but not too seriously, to stretch even in the face of initial resistance, mine or others, to find pleasure in small wins."  

She referred to the image on a large screen on the BAM stage.

"This captures a simple visual image that I wish for each of you as you go forth. That you embrace the boldness of seeing yourself as artists, as creators and change makers, as people who bring passion and the fullness of yourselves to the critically important challenges of public service. And that you have the discipline and energy and commitment to keep on going, even if you don't get it right the first time around, that you learn from what works as well as what doesn't, and that you find joy in small things as well as big moves."

Michael C. Alfano, executive vice president of New York University, offered spirited welcoming remarks, while class speaker Tracey Gardner, who earned an MPA in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy, introduced Donovan, noting, "He's not beaten down, not jaded, and ever on the lookout for policy changes to improve how things are done and make our lives better."


NYU Wagner has Strong Presence in Mayor de Blasio's New Appointments

NYU Wagner has Strong Presence in Mayor de Blasio's New Appointments

NYU Wagner congratulates one of our faculty members, two alumni, and a current student for their newly announced appointments to leadership positions in New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration. Mayor de Blasio announced in a press conference on February 8 that Vicki Been, Shola Olatoye, Gary Rodney, and Mindy Tarlow will join his leadership team.

The Mayor announced the formation of a housing “dream team” focused on the preservation and development of affordable housing, and named Professor Vicki Been as the city’s Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development. Professor Been works at the cutting edge of legal scholarship in land use, urban policy, and housing, and is Director of New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a joint initiative of NYU Wagner and the NYU School of Law. She is an Associated Professor of Public Policy and the Boxer Family Professor of Law, with her recent research examining the effects of widespread mortgage foreclosures on neighborhoods, families, and children, and the role of zoning and other regulations in shaping development patterns.

Mayor de Blasio also named Shola Olatoye (MPA, 2001) as Chair of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) – the nation’s largest public housing authority, overseeing 180,263 units throughout the city. Shola previously served as Vice President of the New York Market Leader for Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit organization that builds and preserves affordable housing for low-income residents. She was Vice President and Senior Community Development Manager at HSBC Bank, and Director of Community Outreach at the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.  

Gary Rodney (MPA, 1999) was appointed as Director of the Housing Development Corp (HDC). HDC finances the creation and preservation of affordable housing for low- and middle-income New Yorkers. Gary was the Executive Vice President for Development of Omni New York, which finances community-based affordable housing projects. He previously worked at the city’s Housing Development Corporation in the Bloomberg and Giuliani administrations.

NYU Wagner student Mindy S. Tarlow was recently appointed as Director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations, where she is responsible for ensuring that City Hall is efficient, as well as fiscally and social responsible. While currently on leave from her studies, she remains enrolled in Wagner’s Executive MPA program and is on track to graduate in 2016. This past fall, she was a guest speaker in a Wagner course on Strategic Leadership. She has taught strategic management and managing public services organizations as an adjunct professor in the program.

NYU Wagner proudly congratulates Vicki, Shola, Gary, and Mindy, and is proud to be affiliated with these accomplished New York City public service leaders.



NYU Wagner Prof. Ingrid Gould Ellen co-edits new book: 'How to House the Homeless'

NYU Wagner Prof. Ingrid Gould Ellen co-edits new book: 'How to House the Homeless'

Homelessness is one of the most troubling and persistent social problems in the United States, yet experts can agree neither on its root causes nor on how to eradicate it. Is homelessness the result of individual life conditions, such as poverty, addiction, or mental illness, or is there simply not enough affordable housing? And which services are the most successful?

In "How to House the Homeless," editors Ingrid Gould Ellen and Brendan O'Flaherty propose that the answers entail rethinking how housing markets operate and developing more efficient interventions in existing service programs. The book, published by the Russell Sage Foundation, critically reassesses where we are now, analyzes the most promising policies and programs going forward, and offers a new agenda for future research.

Ingrid Ellen is a professor of public policy and urban planning at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and the co-director of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a leading academic research center devoted to the public policy aspects of real estate, land use and housing. O'Flaherty is professor of economics at Columbia University. How to House the Homeless grew out of a joint NYU Furman Center/Columbia University Center for Homeless Prevention conference in November, 2008.


Prof. Katherine O’Regan sworn in as HUD Assistant Secretary for Policy Development & Research

Prof. Katherine O’Regan sworn in as HUD Assistant Secretary for Policy Development & Research

Professor Katherine O’Regan was sworn in April 29 as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s new Assistant Secretary of Policy Development and Research. The swearing-in ceremony with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan came less than 24 hours after Professor O'Regan was confirmed unanimously by the Senate as President Barack Obama’s choice for the post.

Professor O’Regan has conducted extensive research on a variety of topics related to housing and urban development for more than 20 years. In her thirteen years as a professor at NYU Wagner, she has held a range of administrative and leadership roles, including directing the Public and Nonprofit Masters program since 2002 and serving as Associate Dean for Faculty from 2002 to 2004. Professor O’Regan taught at the Yale School of Management for ten years prior to joining NYU Wagner. She received a B.S. from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley.

The Assistant Secretary of Policy Development and Research at HUD directs the agency’s independent research and policy arm. The research activities of the Policy Development and Research unit are designed to have immediate relevance to the policy issues facing HUD Secretary Donovan and his principal staff.

“I am honored to be confirmed by the Senate and look forward to serving in this role,” O’Regan, who has been advising HUD since January, said.

Professor Ingrid Gould Ellen offers testimony to National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity

Professor Ingrid Gould Ellen offers testimony to National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity

NYU Wagner Professor Ingrid Gould Ellen briefed the National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity on her research on racially integrated neighborhoods, providing testimony at the panel's Sept. 22, 2008, hearing. Drawing in part on her book, "Sharing America's Neighborhoods: The Prospects for Stable, Racial Integration," Professor Ellen said "the causes of the current ongoing levels of segregation are complex and involve more than housing market discrimination."

"Accordingly," she added, "any effective policy response should be multi-faceted as well, supplmenting anti-discrimination efforts with other pro-integrative policies."

One cause of ongoing segregation, said Professor Ellen, is negative racial attitudes, particularly race-based neighborhood stereotyping by whites. "There is justification," she said, "for some carefuly tailored, non-coercive government policies to promote integration -- policies that go beyond combatting discrimination."

To read her testimony in full, click below.


Professors Receive MacArthur Grant to Help Study Impact of Foreclosures on Children

Professors Receive MacArthur Grant to Help Study Impact of Foreclosures on Children

The MacArthur Foundation has announced support for a multi-disciplinary, cross-university set of researchers, including three from NYU Wagner, to study the enormous instability in the housing arrangements of many American families over the last decade, and the impact of this instability on children.

According to the researchers, "policymakers know surprisingly little about how such instability affects children, and therefore are hampered in their ability to craft responses." The project approved for Foundation support aims to fill these gaps and provide better guidance to federal, state, and local housing and education officials, community organizations, and elected officials about the benefits of housing stability.

The three Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service professors working on the project are:

Ingrid Gould Ellen, professor of public policy and urban planning, and faculty co-director of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a joint initiative of NYU Wagner and the School of Law.

Amy Ellen Schwartz, professor of public policy, education, and economics, and director of the Institute for Education and Social Policy at NYU. She also teaches at NYU Steinhardt.

Leanna Stiefel, professor of economics, and associate director of Institute for Education and Social Policy, who also teaches at Steinhardt.

The trio's co-PI's include:

Vicki Been, Boxer Family Professor of Law, New York University, and faculty director of the Furman Center, and the principal investigator on this project; David Figlio, professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University; Ashlyn Aiko Nelson, assistant professor at Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs; and Stephen L. Ross, professor of economics at the University of Connecticut.

The co-investigators note that, to date, some research has examined how residential moves affect children's educational outcomes, but the research has been limited by concerns that effects attributed to moves cannot be separated from those of unobserved characteristics of the families that move and of the neighborhoods to which they move.

Further, existing research does not adequately distinguish between types of housing moves: those that the family plans versus those that are more involuntary; those that involve only a change in housing versus those that take the child to a new neighborhood or school; or those that place the child in better neighborhoods or schools versus those that do not.

Using longitudinal data linking foreclosures and other kinds of housing upheavals to individual public school student records in four major markets that are suffering from unusual housing instability-New York City, and the counties of San Diego and Fresno in California and Pinellas County in Florida - Professors Ellen, Schwartz, Stiefel and their co-investigators will test the hypothesis that housing instability negatively affects students' educational outcomes.

In addition, they we will assess whether any effect that housing instability has on children differs by the child's race or the predominant race of the neighborhood in which the child lives or to which the child moves, and if so, what explains those differences.

The research grant was announced as part of a group of nine new MacArthur Foundation grants totaling $5.6 million for explorations of the role that housing plays in the long-term health and well-being of children, families, and communities.



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