Planning for Opportunity: How Planners Can Expand Access to Affordable Opportunity Bargain Areas

Nicholas Kelley and Ingrid Gould Ellen
Journal of the American Planning Association.

Although there is strong evidence that living in high-opportunity neighborhoods can improve the long-run educational and economic outcomes of children, translating this into practical advice for planners is difficult. There is little consensus about how to operationalize neighborhood opportunity, and planning discussions rarely consider how much that opportunity costs, even though planners around the country must grapple with the typically higher cost of providing housing in opportunity areas. We offer concrete guidance to planners about how to best overcome these barriers. We argue for a streamlined measure called the school–violence–poverty (SVP) index based on three contemporary metrics that research shows enhance economic mobility for children: school quality, violent crime, and poverty. Combining the SVP index with data on rental prices in New York City (NY) and Greater Boston (MA), we identified a collection of high-opportunity bargain neighborhoods with lower rents than expected given their opportunity metrics and housing characteristics. We found that high-opportunity bargain areas tended to be more affordable because they lacked amenities such as restaurants and proximity to the city center that are associated with higher rents but are unlikely to be very related to children’s economic mobility.

Wagner Faculty