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Recent Studies Dig Into the Affordability Effects of Housing Developments

Several recent studies add fuel to the fire of whether market-rate housing helps affordability or drives low-income people from their neighborhoods.
February 18, 2020, 5am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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The question of whether new market rate housing hurts or helps housing affordability—central to so many urban planning debates in the contemporary United States—can be answered with several new sources of data, according to an article by Emily Badger.

The tension between these views sits at the center of battles over individual buildings and broader fights over how to alleviate the housing crisis. And until recently, there has been almost no data at the neighborhood scale to resolve it. It’s even plausible that both stories could be true at the same time — that new housing might help lower rents across a metro area even as it signals the popularity of a particular neighborhood and nudges up rents nearby.

Several new studies finally offer some evidence that is encouraging, if incomplete. Researchers at N.Y.U., the Upjohn Institute and the University of Minnesota have all looked at what happens immediately surrounding new large-scale apartments that are market-rate (no rent restrictions). Many studies already show that regions that build more are more affordable (and regions that restrict new housing are less so). These latest studies ask if that pattern holds when we zoom in to individual blocks.

Badger details each of the three studies briefly listed there, and speaks to the researchers responsible for the findings in each case for more insight. Collectively, however, these studies provide evidence to support both arguments—that new, market-rate developments can both help keep housing affordability and displace low-income residents.

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Published on Friday, February 14, 2020 in The New York Times
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