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The Housing Crisis, Generalized: Spatial Patterns of Housing Affordability in New York City

Name: 

Kasey Zapatka

Department:

Sociology

Project Title:

The Housing Crisis, Generalized: Spatial Patterns of Housing Affordability in New York City

Website:

kaseyzapatka.com

A fourth-year doctoral student in sociology at The Graduate Center (CUNY), Kasey researches urban inequality. He specifically focuses on residential segregation, housing affordability, neighborhood change, and gentrification. Kasey is writing a dissertation on how neighborhood inequality and residential segregation shape spatial patterns of neighborhood affordability for the middle class.

Kasey teaches statistics at Hunter College and The Graduate Center and works as a research assistant for Paul Attewell, researching the income benefits for those with varying degrees of educational attainment. He has also developed a website that helps NYC renters know their rights.

Project

We are in the midst of a housing affordability crisis as many households find it more and more difficult to afford their rents or mortgages. My research helps us better understanding housing affordability in New York City, one of the county’s most expensive cities

Over the summer of 2019, The Connect New York Summer Fellowship supported me as I built and began preliminary analysis on a spatial dataset that examines these spatial patterns in New York City from 2000 to 2017. Developing this dataset and my mapping skills this summer helped to lay a solid foundation for my work on my dissertation proposal.

My preliminary analysis shows that wealthier neighborhoods in New York City saw smaller increases in the share of residents that were rent burdened (paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing), while poorer neighborhoods saw higher increases. This could be for several reasons: less well-off residents could be moving into poorer neighborhoods, residents of wealthier neighborhoods could be getting wealthier, or welthier neighborhoods could have saw influxes of wealthier residents. My dissertation work will focus on the sources of these increases across neighborhoods.

Since the 1970s, housing costs have risen dramatically while incomes have stagnated. As a result, the country finds itself in the midst of a housing crisis as many are having a difficult time affording their rents or mortgages. While there has been much research about these housing pressures on the poor and working classes, my work ultimately investigates housing affordability trends for the middle class. As one of the county’s most expensive cities, this research is important in better understanding what is happening in New York City.

Over the summer of 2019, the Connect New York Summer Fellowship supported me as I built a longitudinal, national dataset consisting of every census tract (small neighborhoods that have about 4,000 people) for the US between 2000 to 2017. After constructing this dataset, I began analyzing the spatial patterns of housing affordability across the US. Much of the summer was spent constructing different measures of affordability and developing the spatial analysis methods. While I am still in the process of constructing my final measures, I presented my initial findings on New York City at the annual American Sociological Association’s annual meeting in early August.

My data are census tracts nested (neighborhoods) within PUMAs (neighborhood areas). Since census tracts are small geographic areas (about 4,000 people) and not generally recognizable, I report average increases in the share of rent burdened households for PUMAs, which are much larger geographic areas that approximate community districts in New York City (about 100,000 people). Although PUMAs are not an ideal level of analysis, they are generally more recognizable areas.

My preliminary analysis (see Figures 1, 2 and 3) shows that wealthier neighborhood areas in New York City saw smaller increases in the share of residents that were rent burdened (paying more than 30 percent of their income on their rent), while poorer neighborhood areas saw higher increases. For example, neighborhood areas with higher average household incomes like the Upper West Side, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, and Battery Park City had relatively lower increases in the share of rent burdened households between 2000 and 2017. In fact, Chelsea and Midtown saw overall average decreases. On the contrary, the neighborhood areas that saw the largest increases in the share of rent burdened households were on average in poorer neighborhoods: Jamaica Queens, Bedford-Fordham, Sunnyside, and Pelham Parkway.

My analyses are preliminary, and I have several next steps in mind. First, I need to finish building a more sophisticated measure of housing affordability. This will entail adding more information on household expenditures for each neighborhood to arrive at a more accurate measure of neighborhood affordability. Second, I will add data on New York City rent regulation, building permits, and neighborhood change. Ultimately, my dissertation will focus on the sources of the increases in rent burdens across neighborhoods so as to better understand the variability of housing affordability across the income spectrum.

About the author: Param Ajmera