An Unintended Consequence of a Housing Database?

A recent Times article describes a new interactive database put together by NYU that lets you track all subsidized housing in the city.

As the article makes clear, this database performs a variety of worthwhile functions — allowing renters or buyers to locate affordable housing; letting affordable-housing advocates keep track of when subsidized buildings are scheduled to potentially lose their subsidized status; etc.

There’s one potential function the article didn’t mention, however. Am I a cynic (or a jerk, or maybe just a realist) for thinking that this database will also be used by renters and homebuyers eager to avoid neighborhoods that have a lot of subsidized housing?


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  1. Basil White says:

    I used “distance from nearest check-cashing center” as a variable in my meta-analysis for buying my first house.

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  2. Lambert says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  3. Swintah says:

    I would use it to avoid subsidized housing near my apartment, in conjunction with other factors. I also use Google maps as a proxy to locate high concentrations of pawnshops, check cashing stores and payday loan businesses, and bars. I avoid those areas. Happily, Walmarts* and dollar stores are zoned well away from residential, but if they weren’t, I would factor that in.

    Another good trick is to use to find the more expensive neighborhoods, and live near, but not in them. I currently live withing walking distance of a private club and golf course, so it has worked well for me.

    *Known hive of scum and villiany.

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    • J says:

      That’s really the (non?) story here – there are lots of ways to locate and avoid bad neighborhoods. This one is probably less useful that the other parameters you listed.

      “Known hive of scum and villiany”

      If you’re ever in the Dallas area, check out the Wal-Mart at Park and the Tollway in Plano. The parking lot could be mistaken for a BMW/Mercedes dealership. I’ve seen at least two professional athletes there – maybe more, but only two I was absolutely certain of (several pro athletes and more than a few high rollers from the business world live in an adjacent neighborhood). No, it isn’t representative, but it’s amusing to see because it’s so far off the stereotype.

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    • James says:

      “I currently live withing walking distance of a private club and golf course…”

      Oh, so you’re right next to one of those known hives of scum and villainy?

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  4. Chad says:

    Subsidized housing is typically not too difficult to spot visually in my experience. I can’t imagine the database being that much more useful.

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  5. Brian says:

    You are no cynic. My wife and I just looked at a house that we like. We ended up offering on a different house though, primarily because the house across the street was a rental property operated by the department of housing. We want to live in a neighborhood with a sense of community. Rental properties tend to turn over more often, and it is hard to get to know your neighbors when they move out at the end of their lease every year.

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  6. John B says:

    You are neither a cynic nor a jerk.

    Why shouldn’t someone making one of the most important decisions of his/her life (where they will live) use this information as to potential effects on their houses or apartments.

    If you are a homebuyer putting down your life savings on a property, you should be able to decide whether government controlled or subsidized housing may affect the value of your property (and your enjoyment) in the future.

    Based on the information given on this site–it may actually encourage people to buy or rent in those neighborhoods.

    However, the implication that anyone who uses such information to make an informed choice is acting wrongfully is ridiculous.

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  7. Inkraven says:

    1) Owners tend to make for better neighbors than renters. Renters have little incentive to really keep their place up, and has already been mentioned, are more transient.

    2) Subsidized housing implies occupants with more limited resources. Rich people will pay a premium not to live near not-so-rich people.

    All this database does is make is easier to figure out where one would want to live.

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    • Enter your name... says:

      “Owners tend to make for better neighbors than renters.”

      Having been both, I’m not sure that’s true: I put the same effort into keeping up the condo that I own as I put into keeping up the very similar places that I’ve rented.

      Turnover differs on average, but most renters don’t move every year. I’ve moved an average of once every six years throughout my adult life, regardless of whether I was renting or buying.

      Also, length of tenancy cuts both ways: If the owner next door is a jerk, you’re likely to be stuck with him longer than you would with a tenant. That’s not an advantage in my books.

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      • Jason says:

        I wonder if there has been any change in the “Owners better than Renters” paradigm now that so many houses are underwater. As an underwater homeowner, I don’t have much to spend on repairs or improvements. When I rented, I just called my landlord and asked for the repairs (which s/he was contractually obligated to provide). Not that I don’t maintain my home, but it certainly takes a greater effort and expenditure now that I am an owner.

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    • Mark says:

      “Owners tend to make for better neighbors than renters.”

      Not in my experience they don’t.

      I’ve never had renting neighbours who did anything worse than standard neighbour stuff (a barking dog, music late and loud enough that I asked them to turn it down and had the politely oblige, that sort of thing)

      Owners though – there have been a number of them with a sense of entitlement that made them unbearable.

      The ones who get furious if a dinner guest parks in the street in front of their house (not blocking a driveway or anything, just forcing them to park their own car a few yards further from the house than usual that day), as though they had some sort of sovereign right to the public street – owners.

      The ones who, after the above “offence”, when the “offenders” brought flowers and apologies (nicer than I would have been), swore at them and refused the flowers – owners.

      The ones who called the cops with a noise complaint when (a) the noise bylaw didn’t even apply until hours later, (b) the party was so quiet that the cops were confused and seemed slightly embarassed when they show up, (c) the host had left a note in their mailbox to the effect that if the party was too noisy, they need only ask and they’d quiet things down – owners.

      The ones who were so offended at the sight of a vegetable garden that they put up a big fence that shaded it out – owners.

      The ones listening to violently vulgar rap music so loud you could hear it all up and down the block, who swore at you if you asked them to turn it down – owners.

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  8. C says:

    This doesn’t make any sense. The Sierra – on 15th street between 6th and 7th — is one of the most expensive apartment buildings in Manhattan. Studios run $3875 a month. Why would that be listed here?

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