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Urban Prospect: Heavy Burdens
One of the most disturbing aspects of New York City’s housing environment is the large number of renters who spend the majority of their income on rent. According to the most commonly cited data, over 500,000 of the city’s households devote at least one-half of their gross income to rental payments on their apartments.
While such figures are often quoted by housing advocates, there has been relatively little analysis of the high rent-burden population. For some households, high rent-to-income ratios may be a temporary condition resulting from short term unemployment or other disturbances to income. For others, it may be …Read more
Urban Prospect: Brownfields Burnout
At one time a leader in environmental legislation, New York State now lags far behind the rest of the nation in brownfields remediation programs. As a result, thousands of acres of property sit idle while development drifts across state lines. In the five boroughs of New York City there are estimated to be as many as 5,000 brownfields sites, many of them located in waterfront neighborhoods. The absence of codified reuse programs has had a direct impact on the vitality of these neighborhoods, and on the entire city’s ability to remain competitive with neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut — both …Read more
Urban Prospect: Gentrification and Displacement
Buoyed by a booming national economy, a dramatic decline in crime, and continuing waves of immigration, New York City experienced a renaissance of sorts at the close of the 20th century. To college students who might have previously been deterred by New York’s infamous crime, dot comers who might once have drifted West, and retirees who have flocked to Florida in years past, the rejuvenation of New York made it an increasingly attractive place to live. The downside of this renaissance, however, was an increased demand for housing in an already expensive and tight housing market.
One effect of the …Read more
Urban Prospect: Housing and Schooling
In recent years the problems of the nation’s educational system have become a primary concern of American voters and consequently of their elected officials. The concern is especially intense in large central cities, where there is an increasing consensus that economic inequality will persist as long as educational inequality does. A variety of reform proposals, from for-profit schools to school vouchers, have polarized educators and befuddled parents. Yet there has been relatively little effort made to improve the general social conditions in which inner-city students live, a factor on which educators themselves place major emphasis.
Click here (pdf) to read …Read more
Urban Prospect: Disposition Disputes
While the late 1990s have witnessed the rapid escalation of development pressures throughout Manhattan, sizeable clusters of vacant land lie dormant in the surrounding boroughs. In neighborhoods of Central Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and portions of Southeastern Queens, many of these unused parcels languish in the city’s real estate portfolio.
Widespread tax default and abandonment during the 1960s and 1970s, combined with earlier urban renewal acquisitions, resulted in the accumulation of an extensive public sector portfolio of vacant lands. Starting with the Koch administration’s 10-year plan, the city began to dispose of its vacant properties in a manner that would …Read more
Urban Prospect: Attaining Home Equity
Owning a home signifies middle class status and the achievement of the American Dream. Through the tax code, banking regulation and direct market intervention, public policies have long been designed to foster homeownership. Unfortunately, the benefits have accrued mostly to white Americans, while numerous obstacles have been thrown in the path of blacks and other minorities. In recent years, however, both public agencies and private financial institutions have attempted to redress racial disparities in homeownership.
Click here (pdf) to read more about racial disparities in homeownership and what agencies are doing to address them as well as a discussion on …Read more
Urban Prospect: Up Cycle
With New York’s real estate market nearing another cyclical peak there is renewed concern in the press and political circles about the city’s housing crisis. Much discussion of the rediscovered crisis, however, is driven by anecdote based on middle-class experiences in a relatively few neighborhoods.
Fortunately, the Census Bureau has recently made available the raw data from the city’s 1999 Housing and Vacancy Survey (HVS). The complete microdata from the survey’s 16,000 respondent households is now available for downloading by researchers from the Bureau’s website, as are numerous data tabulations for those users not equipped to perform large-scale data analysis …Read more
Urban Prospect: The Skyline in Context
For the first time in forty years, New York has set in motion a broad-scale initiative to reform its zoning ordinance. The centerpiece – and the dominant topic of discussion in real estate and community board circles alike – is the Unified Bulk Program.
Through the passage of this reform, the city hopes to regain control of its physical destiny. The 1961 zoning reform established a modernistic vision of New York City with hightowers surrounded by park-like open spaces. This vision came to be known as Tower-in-the Park zoning. Soon after its passage, however, planners realized that the sharp contrast …Read more
Urban Prospect: Empire Sprawl
In the 1998 elections, voters in states and municipalities across the country approved more than 100 propositions intended to apply “smart growth” measures to curb urban sprawl. A sometimes vague rubric used to describe policies aimed at reducing infrastructure costs, preserving open space and mitigating traffic congestion, smart growth has become the major catch word in the urban planning field.
The smart growth movement combines some traditional planning and environmental approaches with a more contemporary blend of land use, mass transit and community development perspectives. It shifts the planning focus from reliance on restrictive regulation to an active promotion of …Read more
Urban Prospect: How much housing do we need?
There is a general consensus among both experts and the public at large that New York City suffers from a chronic shortage of affordable housing. For policy planning purposes it would be useful to know just how much of a shortage there is. Once the question is addressed directly, however, it quickly becomes apparent that it defies a simple answer and that underlying it are a host of value judgments about how families should live, what policies should be pursued, and how the market will respond to them.
The difficulties associated with defining housing need and anticipating market adjustments are …Read more
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