Wednesday, May 23, 2018

How Do We Proactively Preserve Unsubsidized Affordable Housing?

by David Luberoff
Deputy Director
Robust land bank and land trust partnerships, long-term lease-purchase programs, and low-interest renovation loans with affordability requirements are three tools that policymakers and mission-driven organizations can use to get ahead of real estate price appreciation, according to Proactive Preservation of Unsubsidized Affordable Housing in Emerging Markets: Lessons from Atlanta, Cleveland, and Philadelphia, a new working paper jointed published by the Joint Center for Housing Studies and NeighborWorks® America. Written by Matt Schreiber, a Master of Urban Planning student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design who was a 2017 Edward M. Gramlich Fellow in Community and Economic Development, the paper draws on work done by public and non-profit entities in all three cities.

North Philadelphia (Credit: Tony Fischer/Flickr)

In those places, Schreiber notes, median house prices range from $60,000 to $250,000, which suggests that they have an ample supply of affordable units. However, housing in those markets actually remains out of reach for so many residents, whose incomes are not growing as rapidly as house prices, which, according to Zillow's Home Value Index, rose by 8-11 percent in 2017. Such increases, and the fact that prices rose in more than 90 percent of the zip codes in those three cities, led Schreiber to ask what policymakers and the leaders of mission-driven organizations could do to get ahead of real estate price appreciation and, in doing so, proactively preserve their city's stock of affordable housing.

Schreiber used a four-part methodology to answer this question. First, he identified emerging markets; those areas that have not yet experienced the price appreciation effects of gentrification, but are likely to do so in the near future because they are close to each city's central business district, anchor institutions, or its other already-gentrified areas. Second, he reviewed the housing stock in these "likely-to-gentrify" areas, which made it clear that most of the affordable housing in these places are unsubsidized units located in one-to-four unit buildings. Third, he interviewed local stakeholders and national experts to learn their views on promising ways to find the balance between improving the quality of the housing stock while preserving its long-term affordability for low-income residents.

Those interview informed the fourth and final step: identifying and assessing three strategies that may address this challenge: building stronger partnerships between local land banks and local land trusts, creating lease-purchase programs that make homeownership more accessible for people of modest means, and offering low-interest loans that help owners renovate unsubsidized affordable units in return for long-term commitments to keep those units affordable for many years to come. Taken together, he notes, these strategies can help maximize the efficiency of the limited resources available to preserve and develop affordable housing. Moreover, the experiences in the three cities suggest "it is possible for mission-driven organizations and policymakers to get ahead of gentrification and proactively preserve vulnerable, unsubsidized affordable housing for low-income residents."

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What Would It Take for Cities Experiencing Gentrification Pressures to Foster Inclusion Rather than Replacement?

by Katie Gourley, Graduate Research Assistant

Fostering inclusion in gentrifying neighborhoods (rather than opening up exclusive suburbs) is the focus of four working papers released today by the Joint Center for Housing Studies. Originally presented at the Center's symposium on A Shared Future: Fostering Communities of Inclusion in an Era of Inequality, the papers focus on a variety of struggles for responding to gentrification taking place in a growing number of once-poor (and largely minority) urban neighborhoods. The promising approaches discussed by the authors include creating more permanently-affordable housing in changing neighborhoods, ensuring that existing low-income and minority residents have a greater voice in local decisions, developing policies that give long-term residents access to affordable homeownership options in their neighborhoods, and carrying out research that would help policymakers design and implement better policies for addressing key issues. The four papers are:

Ingrid Gould Ellen,
NYU Wagner
Can Gentrification Be Inclusive? by Ingrid Gould Ellen notes that while gentrification raises fears of displacement, it also offers some hope because the growth in higher-income households in previously poor areas can help to shore up city tax bases and possibly spur economic and racial integration. However, she warns, absent policy intervention, integration may be only fleeting because, left to its own devices, the market is unlikely to deliver on the promise of long-term integration. After reviewing some of the literature on gentrification, Ellen discusses three promising strategies. The first is to preserve existing affordable housing units in changing neighborhoods by investing in public housing, extending affordability restrictions on privately-owned units. The second is to expand the stock of long-term affordable units by making more strategic use of publicly-owned land, as well as tools like inclusionary zoning. The third is to work with local community groups to help ensure that low- and moderate-income residents can benefit from the expanded economic, educational, and social opportunities present in gentrifying neighborhoods. However, she cautions, none of this is easy or cheap. Some deals will simply be too expensive, but city and community leaders who wish to make gentrification more inclusive should be vigilant in searching for opportunities.

Malo Huston,
Columbia GSAPP
We Live Here Too: Incorporating Residents' Voices in Mitigating the Negative Impacts of Gentrification by Malo Hutson focuses on strategies for ensuring key actors hear and respond to the concerns of long-term residents in gentrifying areas. Hutson starts by reviewing key causes and consequences of gentrification, and notes that responding to its effects requires that longstanding community residents organize and make their voices heard. Moreover, he contends, governments and developers should work to include such residents in the planning of urban revitalization project from the outset. Hutson reports that community leaders in cities like Boston, Washington DC, and San Francisco have formed (or are forming) community coalitions focused on protecting their interests and transforming their communities into sustainable, healthy communities. Moreover, unlike some past efforts, these coalitions are not fighting to stop economic development and growth; rather, they are struggling to be a part of the new economic and social transformation taking place in their neighborhoods. Many of these initiatives, he adds, make use of legally-binding Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs), which define goals for housing, employment, and other facilities and programs that will be provided by the developers of major new projects. Such approaches, he notes, require not only extensive consultation with affected communities, but also that community leaders be willing to compromise. While a willingness to compromise has become more difficult in our current hyper-polarized political and social environment, he observes, it is often necessary for a community's goals to be realized.

Colvin Grannum,
Bedford Stuyvesant
Restoration Corporation
Inclusion through Homeownership by Colvin Grannum argues that increasing and stabilizing homeownership is a tangible means of fostering inclusion in communities experiencing rising home values and gentrification pressures, such as Brooklyn's Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood. Grannum describes several policy levers for pursuing this goal including preventing foreclosures through rigorous prosecution of predatory lending practices; establishing mission-based nonprofit funds to purchase non-performing mortgages underwritten by HUD, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac; and re-examining local policies, such as the use of tax-lien sales, to make sure that they do not disproportionately harm minority, working-, and middle-class homeownership. Grannum also suggests that policymakers promote homeownership opportunities for prospective working- and middle-class homebuyers, especially African Americans. Examples of such policies include expanded shared equity homeownership initiatives as well as down payment assistance, perhaps through the use of Individual Development Accounts

Vicki Been,
What More Do We Need to Know About How to Prevent and Mitigate Displacement of Low- and Moderate-Income Households from Gentrifying Neighborhoods? by Vicki Been notes that while local governments, land use and housing officials, and affordable housing providers and advocates are scrambling to find effective ways to counter concerns about displacement, urban policy researchers have thus far found little evidence that lower-income renters move from gentrifying neighborhoods at higher rates than they move from non-gentrifying areas. Moreover, she adds, researchers generally have not thoroughly assessed the efficacy of many policies that jurisdictions use to address concerns about gentrification and displacement. She goes on to review what is known—and what is unknown—about the six strategies that comprise the current "toolkit" for addressing gentrification and displacement. These are: preservation of existing affordable rental units; protections of long-time residents who wish to stay in the neighborhood; inclusion to ensure that a share of new development is affordable; revenue generation that harnesses growth to expand financial resources for affordable housing; and property acquisition of sites for affordable housing. She concludes by noting that policymakers considering potential remedies should be mindful of how little we know about the problem or potential solutions. That is not to say that jurisdictions should ignore the tools available; rather, the point is that researchers could provide significant value to policymakers by helping to fill some of the gaps.

Additional papers from the A Shared Future symposium are available on the JCHS website. The papers will also be collected into an edited volume to be published later this year.

Monday, May 14, 2018

What are the Impacts of Fertility Rates on Housing Markets?

by George Masnick
Senior Research Fellow
Since families with children are primary drivers of household formation and housing consumption, changes in fertility rates can have significant impacts on housing markets. But tracking and understanding those changes can be challenging, as illustrated by two seemingly contradictory high-profile accounts of changing fertility patterns that appeared earlier this year.

First came the Pew Research Center, which in January 2018 issued a report titled "They're Waiting Longer, but US Women today are More Likely to Have Children Than a Decade Ago." However, less than a month later, The New York Times published the seemingly contradictory headline: "American Women are Having Fewer Children than They'd Like."

Is it possible that both headlines were accurate? Is it possible that more women are having children while the overall fertility rate also is trending downward?

Answering these questions requires paying attention to both the measures being used to describe fertility trends and the data source used to measure the trend. Such an approach shows that it is quite possible for more women to become mothers and for all women to have fewer children overall.

Explaining the Trends

The General Fertility Rate (GFR)—the number of births per 1000 women age 15-49—has been trending downward over the past decade, according to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The drop is due to sharp declines in the number of children born to mothers younger than 30, somewhat but not completely offset by increases in the birthrate for mothers older than 30. Consequently, the total fertility rate has declined (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The General Fertility Rate Has Been Declining Due to Steep Declines Among Young Mothers

Note: Since births to women ate 45-49 are so few, they were excluded from this figure, which makes the GFR line an approximation of the General Fertility Rate.

Source: JCHS tabulations of National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System, Data Brief 287, Births in the United States, 2016.

It is noteworthy that, in 2016, for the first time ever, the fertility rate for 30-34 year olds exceeded the rate for 25-29 year olds. In contrast, the birth rate for women in their early 30s was about twice the birth rate for women in their late 30s, a trend that has no changed significantly in the past decade. Fertility rates for women in their early 40s did inch upward over the past decade, but remain at exceedingly low levels (rising from just under 1 percent to just over 1 percent).

What about the increase in motherhood highlighted in the Pew report? Motherhood is measured in that report by the share of women in each cohort having ever had a live birth by age 40-44. While that report indicates that the share of mothers is rising, there are important questions about the magnitude of its reported increase in motherhood. Specifically, the Pew report is based on an analysis of the Current Population Survey's biannual June Supplement, which asks women detailed questions concerning all children they have had over a lifetime. And these CPS data appear to show a significant recent increase in motherhood.

However, comparing the CPS data on the share of older women who have become mothers with vital statistics data from the NCHS suggests that the CPS may exaggerate the recent trend toward greater motherhood (Figure 2). Although the NCHS estimates are only available until 2010, the trends from the two data sources roughly parallel one another and show a sharp downward trend followed by a trend upward. But most importantly, the upward trend in the NCHS data began in 2000 and is more modest (a 2.1 percent increase over a 10-year period), while the CPS upward trend began in 2006 and is more dramatic (a 6.0 percent increase in 10 years). Significantly, most of the upward trend in the CPS since 2006 is accounted for by the change between 2010 and 2012, a period which accounted for more than half of the 6-point gain between 2006 and 2016.

Figure 2. Motherhood Is on the Rise, but Perhaps Not as Much as the Current Population Survey Indicates

Source: JCHS tabulations of US Census Bureau, Current Population Surveys, National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System, Data Brief 287, Births in the United States, 2016.

The NCHS percentages of women who have become mothers are higher, partly due to the fact that the NCHS women are slightly older (all age 44), while some of the CPS women (age 40-44) were still having children in their early 40s. The NCHS trend line is also much smoother because it is based on much larger number of people in the vital statistics database.

However, some of the differences are due to measurement errors that produced the lower motherhood shares in the CPS prior to 2012. As a 2015 Census Bureau working paper on this topic noted: "The June 2012 Current Population Survey (CPS) Fertility Supplement data showed a significant decrease from 2010 in the percent of women aged 35-44 who are childless... However, due to numerous changes in data and data processing, it is reasonable to think that some of the apparent changes shown in the data may be artifacts of changes in measurement, not an indication of an actual demographic shift."

We should not be surprised that the more reliable NCHS data show that the percentage of all women age 44 who are mothers has been trending only modestly upward since about 2000. One key factor in this shift is that the percentage of women in this age group who are Hispanic also increased, rising form just over 10 percent in 2000 to just under 20 percent in 2016 (Figure 3). The growth in the share of women in their early 40s who are Hispanic is due to two trends. First, the number of Hispanic women age 40-44 has been increasing, as the younger migrants from previous decades approach middle age. Second, the total number of women age 40-44 has been declining because many members of the smaller Generation-X cohort are now entering their early 40s.

Figure 3. The Increase in Motherhood is Due in Large Part to the Growing Share of Hispanic Women

Source: JCHS tabulations of US Census Bureau, Intercensal Population Estimates and 2016 Historical Series.

This is significant because Hispanic women at the end of their reproductive ages are more likely to have become mothers than non-Hispanics of the same age. Unfortunately, the NCHS fertility data are only available for all whites (including Hispanics) and all blacks (including Hispanics). Consequently, we cannot use the data to calculate motherhood by both ethnicity and race. However, the CPS, which does ask about both race and ethnicity, shows significant racial and ethnic differences in the share of women in their early 40s who have had at least one child. The Pew report, for example, which averaged CPS data for 2012, 2014, and 2016, calculated that 90 percent of Hispanic women in their early 40s had at least one child, compared to only 83 percent of non-Hispanic white women; 85 percent of non-Hispanic black women, and 86 percent of non-Hispanic Asian women.

Potential Impacts

The NYT article emphasized that the fertility decline in the US is consistent with declines in other developed countries; that American women are bearing far fewer children that they would like to; that declines in marriage (and sexual activity among unmarried women), along with increasing use of reliable contraception, are at the root of the fertility shortfall; and that the fertility decline has been widespread throughout the country. Regardless of the reasons, this delay in childbearing could have a variety of impacts not only on individuals, families, and society, but on housing markets as well.

Fewer births to teens and women in their early 20s, for example, should mean that more women are likely to complete high school, pursue higher education, and secure higher-paying jobs. The Pew report describes how the largest increases in motherhood have been among college-educated older women, the group with historically the lowest levels of completed fertility and the highest percent childless. Discounting the fact that these motherhood gains might not be as large as the CPS data indicate, and are partly driven by increases in college-educated Hispanics, such a trend could have important implications for housing demand. College-educated mothers are likely to have higher incomes which means they are more likely to have the financial resources to become homeowners, should the choose, or to rent larger units in locations better suited for growing families.

However, fewer overall births and smaller family sizes could impact housing consumption by making renting more likely or by reducing the demand for larger housing units. Moreover, fewer births will produce a smaller future labor force that may find it hard to support the very large generation of millennials when they reach retirement. If doing so requires higher taxes on young workers, then households may have less disposable income that might otherwise be used to pay for housing.

Regardless of the impact on housing, it is clear that some subtle but significant changes are likely to continue to affect both the overall fertility rate, and the total number of children in the US. The fertility decline would be further exacerbated if, as some policy makers are proposing, the country reduces the number of immigrants allowed to enter the United States, or prioritizes immigrants likely to have fewer children.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

With the Foreclosure Crisis Behind Us, Have We Stopped Adding Single-Family Rentals?

by Shannon Rieger
Research Analyst
A decade of growth in the single-family rental market has fundamentally reshaped the nature of rental housing across the country, with states hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis seeing particularly notable changes, according to Joint Center analyses of data from the American Community Survey (ACS) and other sources. Our review also showed that the stock of single-family rental homes, which grew dramatically between 2006 and 2014, has been roughly stable for the last few years.

According to the ACS data, the nation's stock of single-family rentals grew from 12.2 million units to 16.1 million units in 2016, with virtually all of the growth (99 percent) occurring between 2006 and 2014. This 32 percent increase in the single-family rental stock far outpaced the 11 percent increase in the nation's stock of multifamily rental units, which grew from 26.0 million to 28.9 million between 2006 and 2016.

As a result, single-family homes now represent more than one-third (34 percent) of the rental stock nationwide. Additionally, the growth in single-family rentals has provided an important source of housing for families with children. In fact, single-family homes accommodated 84 percent of the growth in renter households with children between 2006 and 2016.

However, most of these new rental units were not new construction. According to our analysis of data collected by the US Census Bureau, between 2006 and 2016, only 366,000 new attached and detached single-family homes were built as rental units. This, in turn, indicates that about 3.5 million of the single-family rental units added to the stock 20062016 were existing structures that had previously been owner-occupied homes.

This trend of converting single-family homes to rentals was unevenly distributed across the country, with the greatest increases occurring in the states with higher than average foreclosure rates, according to JCHS analysis of data from the Mortgage Bankers Association and the ACS (Figure 1). For example, between 2006 and 2016, Nevada's stock of single-family rental units grew by 63 percent—faster than any other state in the country. And the foreclosure start rate in Nevada peaked at 3.8 percent in 2009, the highest rate of any state 20062016 and more than double the nation's peak rate of 1.4 percent.

Arizona and Florida also experienced particularly high foreclosure rates and unusually large increases in their stocks of single-family rental units. Arizona's foreclosure start rate peaked at 2.6 percent in 2009, and its single-family rental stock grew by 61 percent between 2006 and 2016. Florida's foreclosure start rate hit a high of 2.8 percent in 2009, and its single-family rentals grew by 50 percent int he decade leading up to 2016. While these data do not tell us exactly how many of these homes completed the foreclosure process and were subsequently converted to rental units, they do suggest that, as many have reported, large numbers of foreclosed homes were bought by investors who converted them to rental units.

Figure 1.

Note: Single-family rentals include detached and attached single-family homes. Stock estimates include renter-occupied units and units that are vacant for-rent. The MBA National Delinquency Survey reports the rate of mortgage loans that are in foreclosure as a percentage of the number of loans serviced during the quarter. The survey sample includes about 85% of the US market for first-lien 1-4-unit mortgages.

Source: JCHS tabulations of US Census Bureau, 2006 and 2016 American Community Surveys, and Mortgage Bankers Association National Delinquency Survey, compiled by Moody's

However, since 2014, the foreclosure inventory has largely cleared and few new foreclosures have been filed. Not surprisingly, there was also little growth in the stock of single-family rental units 20142016. Illustratively, the number of single-family rentals grew by an average of 483,000 a year between 2006 and 2014, but between 2014 and 2016, the stock grew by only 22,000 units. It remains to be seen if this recent shift is a short-terms pause or if it represents the culmination of the past decade's trend of significant growth in single-family rentals.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Leveraging Resiliency to Promote Equity

by David Luberoff
Deputy Director
Faced with the increased threat of natural disasters, some community-based organizations are trying to link their efforts to better plan for catastrophic events with their existing efforts to address issues like affordable housing and economic development, according to "Bounce Forward, Not Back: Leveraging Resiliency to Promote Equity," a new working paper jointly published by the Joint Center for Housing Studies and NeighborWorks® America. Written by Caroline Lauer, a master in urban planning student at Harvard's Graduate School of Design who was a 2017 Edward M. Gramlich Fellow in Community and Economic Development, the paper draws lessons from the growing literature on resiliency and from two case studies of notable initiatives carried out by organizations in NeighborWorks' national network of independent, nonprofit organizations focused on affordable housing and community development.

A sample RAPIDO home.

The first case study describes work done by the Community Development Corporation Brownsville, which has worked with several other community groups to develop RAPIDO, a holistic approach to disaster recovery that, "aims to quickly and affordably rehouse individuals and families, building social capital within the community, and stimulating the local economy." The key to this effort, Lauer explains, is providing families with, "a simple 480-square-foot [structure] that contains essential facilities," and training a group of "Navigators" who can lead residents through the disaster recovery process. The units, which cost about as much as the temporary manufactured units typically provided to people who have lost their home to natural disaster, "can be built easily at local lumberyards, transported by basic trailers, and assembled on-site in three days by four people." Moreover, unlike the temporary housing, the units are permanent and can later be expanded.

The second case study focuses on NeighborWorks® Umpqua's Southwestern Oregon Food System Collaborative (SWOFSC) Seafood Project, a multi-faceted effort to address the struggles of the region's small-scale fisheries. This effort does so by investing in and fostering local processing facilities and other infrastructure to support local fishermen. At the same time, it also uses marketing and other strategies to increase the local and regional demand for less traditional types of seafood that, because of warming oceans, comprise increasingly large shares of what local fishermen are bringing into port. Moreover, the project leveraged these economic development initiatives to help the region prepare for both slow-moving disasters, such as the effect of climate change on the fish population, and for acute disasters, such as a storms, tsunami, or earthquakes that might reduce or even cut off the region's access to the mainland for an extended period of time.

Although the initiatives are quite different, and while it is too soon to fully gauge their effectiveness, Lauer contends that together they offer three important and timely lessons given the hurricanes that hit Texas and Puerto Rico and the wildfires that devastated parts of California and other western states last year (after she had carried out her research). First, their differing trajectories show that while efforts to link community and economic development initiatives with projects that are focused on resiliency and disaster response can have different starting points and program structures, they can still achieve similar goals. Second, both show that regardless of how they start and are structured, such efforts should focus on creating social and physical connections and structures that can be used to address a variety of pre- and post-disaster conditions, including structural inequality. Finally, she notes, such efforts strengthen a community's ability to respond not only to anticipated problems but to unforeseen challenges and potential disasters.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Supporting Homeowners in a High-Cost, High-Opportunity City

by Christie Peale
Center for NYC
New York City is an increasingly expensive place to live, and housing prices are dramatically outpacing incomes. In fact, over the past 25 years, home prices have increased 200 percent while incomes have remained stagnant. Moreover, today, half of the city's renters and 37 percent of its homeowners are considered housing cost burdened.

In his recently released symposium paper on "Expanding Access to Homeownership as a Means of fostering Residential Integration and Inclusion," Christopher Herbert presents a compelling case for making homeownership more affordable and accessible to achieve higher levels of residential integration and inclusion. At the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, a nonprofit that protects and promotes affordable homeownership in New York, we have seen firsthand the essential role homeownership plays as a bulwark against displacement within the context of gentrification and increasing unaffordability. In addition to enthusiastically endorsing Herbert's policy recommendations to promote new homeownership opportunities, we also encourage policymakers to develop approaches that support existing homeowners.

Gentrification, Displacement, and Housing Mobility

Current discussions of housing mobility generally focus on the importance of supporting families who choose to move from racially-segregated, high-poverty neighborhoods to neighborhoods with greater racial integration and economic opportunities. This is, of course, a worthy goal. Yet, the goals of choice, inclusivity, and opportunity also require us to support families who are at risk of being forced to leave neighborhoods due to rising costs. By supporting families who are vulnerable to displacement, we can promote inclusion and ensure that families of all backgrounds and incomes have access to economic opportunity and improved neighborhood conditions.

The Center for NYC Neighborhoods spent 2017 studying what happens to families in one such neighborhood: East New York, in Brooklyn. Home to thousands of black and Hispanic working-class homeowners, East New York has historically been one of New York City's most affordable neighborhoods. Like many communities of color around the country, it continues to be battered by the legacy of the Great Recession and high rates of foreclosure.

But, in recent years, home prices have spiked and the neighborhood has experienced an influx of investment and increasingly affluent residents. Labeled Brooklyn's "last frontier" by real estate investors, the neighborhood's longtime homeowners and tenants face increasing uncertainty.

For our study, we tracked East New York residents who moved out of their homes between 2012 and 2016, focusing on homeowners who were facing foreclosure. We found that homeowners with mortgage distress who stayed within the city tended to become renters, contributing to a saturated rental market in the few remaining affordable neighborhoods. We also found that homeowners who left the city tended to move to places with more affordable housing, but at the cost of access to jobs, higher transportation costs, and reduced economic mobility.

Interventions to Support Existing Homeowners

Our findings demonstrate that the role foreclosure plays in helping to feed the cycle of neighborhood change and displacement, and underline the importance of policies that support and stabilize low- and moderate-income homeowners. We recommend the following:

  • Streamline and expand home repair resources: Unaffordable home repairs are one of the biggest challenges for lower-income homeowners, and existing resources are often unable to meet the need.
  • Continue to fund homeowner stabilization assistance: Foreclosure prevention services face major cuts in New York, as well as nationally, yet tens of thousands of homeowners continue to struggle to avoid foreclosure. We recommend continuing to support these vital services and developing innovative new programs to promote homeowner stabilization, such as financial empowerment counseling and matched savings accounts.
  • Reform policies towards tax- and water-bill-delinquent homeowners: Many lower-income homeowners struggle to afford property tax and water bills. When faced with the prospect of an in rem or tax lien foreclosure, they may feel they have no other choice than to sell their home, which can further stoke the loss of affordable housing. We recommend developing income-based repayment plans and alternative debt servicing models.
  • Support homeowner-landlords in order to support tenants: Rental units in owner-occupied homes provide a major source of affordable housing. However, the future of these units is at risk. We recommend developing incentives for homeowners to provide rental units that are affordable for low-income individuals or families leaving homeless shelters, as well as legalizing safe basement apartments and other accessory dwelling units. These reforms would have the joint benefits of stabilizing existing homeowners' finances and creating additional affordable housing opportunities for renters.
  • Strengthen local incomes and economic opportunity: We recommend improving access to good jobs through neighborhood-targeted workforce development, job access strategies, and living-wage policies. Tax policy maters, too. For example, many of the homeowners we serve do not earn enough to benefit from the Mortgage Interest Deduction. As Herbert recommends, converting the deduction to a credit would provide direct assistance that is better targeted to lower-income homeowners.

Our ability to protect the working- and middle-class homeowners in neighborhoods like East New York will help decide whether New York City will remain a place of opportunity for all people, or only for real estate investors and the wealthy. Moreover, these efforts could serve as a model for people concerned about similar problems in other cities. Taking these steps requires us to recognize that there is nothing natural about displacement and that solutions exist to support vulnerable homeowners and their tenants.

This post is a response to the Panel 5 papers that were presented at our A Shared Future symposium in 2017. These papers are available on the JCHS website