The entrepreneurial state : New York's Urban Development Corporation, an experiment to take charge of affordable housing production, 1968-1975
Author(s)Freemark, Yonah (Yonah Slifkin)
New York's Urban Development Corporation
Experiment to take charge of affordable housing production, 1968-1975
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning.
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A federal-local partnership supports the creation of most new affordable housing in the United States. Washington's subsidies, which fund housing construction, vouchers, and tax credits, are paired with local development groups, which select sites, design projects, and manage operations. Yet for decades, despite their elevated status in the American federal system, state governments have all but abdicated responsibility for the direct production of affordable housing. Partly as a consequence, cities remain without adequate resources to address the dwelling needs of their poorest residents, and many suburbs have chosen to isolate themselves from the problem entirely. Between 1968 and 1975, however, New York State broke the mold by investing considerable resources in the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), a state-run builder that completed over 30,000 apartments for low- and moderate-income households. While contemporary government developers, following the "urban renewal" script, often built monofunctional, architecturally bland, public-finance-only apartment blocks confined to the limits of the inner city, the UDC operated at a statewide scale and constructed mixed-use and distinctively designed structures with the aid of private investment. As such, the agency provides historical evidence of a public sector entity responding to criticisms of previous government housing by innovating in terms of planning, design, and finance. This thesis offers insight into the conditions that influenced the UDC's development approach. Its example constitutes a "usable past" that can inform contemporary struggles to create affordable housing by documenting a potential role for the state in the production process. The agency built more housing, with designs more sensitive to their surroundings, than urban municipal authorities. In the suburbs, the UDC's unique political powers allowed it to address housing needs at the metropolitan scale. In three new communities, the agency articulated a vision of all-purpose developments with populations integrated by class. In all environments, the UDC reformed the government's approach to affordable housing construction-and it did so thanks to the powers it had been granted as a state agency. The agency's extraordinary productivity-combined with its unique approach-is indicative of the value of evaluating the UDC's methods if the goal is to expand the production of affordable housing. The political powers provided to the agency, particularly those that allowed it to override local governments, develop significant efficiencies of scale, and focus on the housing demands of the neediest portion of the population, offer a template for state governments today. Faced with continued challenges to access to quality, reasonably priced housing in many of the nation's metropolitan areas, the UDC demonstrates how a state housing development agency with adequate powers could operate and what benefits it would provide.
Thesis (M.C.P.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 2013.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (p. -341).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.