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Underused Lots in New York City

Vicki Been, Ingrid Gould Ellen, Josiah Madar, and Simon McDonnell

September 2009, English

Despite a robust real estate market for most of this decade, researchers and policymakers have observed that many areas of New York City have remained built out well below their zoning capacity. This study aims to contribute to our understanding of urban redevelopment by compiling and analyzing a large database of underdeveloped lots in the City. We identify about 200,000 such lots as of 2003 that were built out at less than 50% of their zoning capacity, representing about a quarter of all residentially zoned lots. Of these, about 8% were redeveloped during the subsequent four years. Our preliminary analysis reveals that underdeveloped lots are primarily made up of low density 1-4 family houses and are disproportionately located in poor and minority neighborhoods. Further analysis of our data should provide policymakers with new insight about market failures and regulatory and other barriers that impede desirable development in mature cities.


Development, Housing, Inequality, Land Use, Local Government, Public Policy, Urbanism, Zoning