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Housing Perspectives

Research, trends, and perspective from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies

What Would it Take to Make Neighborhoods More Equitable and Integrated?

How do household decisions about where to live perpetuate residential segregation, and what would it take for such choices to result in more inclusive neighborhoods? Three papers released today by the Joint Center for Housing Studies explore these questions from somewhat different perspectives. The newly released papers, which were presented at A Shared Future: Fostering Communities of Inclusion in an Era of Inequality, a symposium hosted by the Joint Center, include an overview paper by the panel’s moderator and two papers by panelists examining key issues in more detail. The papers are:

Justin Steil &
Reed Jordan,

Household Neighborhood Decisionmaking and Segregation, an overview paper co-authored by Justin Steil, the panel’s moderator, and Reed Jordan, investigates what we know about households’ decisionmaking processes and explores the ways that technology and other interventions might help create more integrated places. They note that notwithstanding the significance of schools and other local amenities, the racial composition of a neighborhood is a significant determinant in the residential decisionmaking process. Moreover, they add, while homeseekers increasingly rely on the internet, it is not yet clear how that reliance impacts the makeup of neighborhoods. However, they note, it seems clear that different sources of information have implications for segregation and may serve as points of leverage for pro-integration interventions.





Ralph McLaughlin &
Cheryl Young,

Data Democratization and Spatial Heterogeneity in the Housing Marketby Ralph McLaughlin and Cheryl Young, argues that improved access to residential real estate data has the potential to affect residential settlement patterns in two countervailing ways. On the one hand, it could expand individuals’ housing search choice to include properties in more diverse neighborhoods. Alternatively, it could increase the demand to live in amenity-rich locations, which might price out existing and future residents (unless the supply of housing in those locations grew at a similar rate). However, they argue, the extent to which households might be priced out of a neighborhood is not primarily influenced by data availability but rather by the ease with which housing supply can be increased to meet demand in those areas. They therefore recommend three policy approaches: reducing exclusionary and restrictive zoning policies in expensive, amenity-laden markets; giving housing choice voucher (HCV) recipients the option to conceal their voucher status from landlords during the application process; and requiring that some available Low Income Housing Tax Credit funds be used in “high-value” Census tracts.





Tarry Hum,
Queens College

Minority Banks, Homeownership, and Prospects for New York City’s Multi-Racial Immigrant Neighborhoodsby Tarry Hum, focuses on the role of Asian minority banks in in lending to Asian borrowers for residential property purchases in Queens and Brooklyn. Established to counter financial exclusion resulting from discrimination and linguistic and cultural barriers, these banks historically have been a key source of credit, especially for Asian immigrants who may not qualify for conventional loans. However, using data sets from 2010 and 2015, Hum shows that there was a significant rise in lending by these banks to investors rather than owner-occupants. She concludes by exploring how these changes may be driving up prices, displacing low- and moderate income renters, and spurring illegal conversions – changes that together may be destabilizing many of the neighborhoods where the loans are being made.

The three papers build on previously released papers from the symposium that discuss the nature of residential segregation in the US, its consequences, rationales for public policies to address those consequences, and priorities for action. Over the next several months, the Joint Center will be releasing additional papers from the symposium that will focus on promising strategies in a variety of areas that would help foster more inclusive residential communities. The papers also will be collected into an edited volume that will be published in 2018.

Additional papers from the A Shared Future symposium are available on the JCHS website