The goal of the Insights series of research briefs is to help ensure that policymakers and practitioners can quickly and easily access the findings and policy implications of housing policy research. Between 2008 and 2010, the series highlighted research supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the briefs published during those years can be found below.  In 2011, the Insights series was expanded to cover a broader range of issues.  New briefs, as well as those described below, can be accessed through the publications directory.

Briefs on Housing Tenure 

  1.  Rental Housing Affordability – A Review of Current Research

This brief looks at recent trends among renters and in the rental market, drawing from research conducted with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation by the Center for Housing Policy, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, and the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Findings from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s report on “worst-case needs” households are also discussed.

Taken together, the reports point to a growing demand for affordable rental homes, a shrinking and at-risk affordable rental stock, and an increase in the number of renters that have difficulty affording their monthly housing costs.

2. Foundation for Success? A Review of New Research on the Effects of Homeownership on Children

This brief summarizes three recent reports that test the hypothesis that homeownership directly leads to better educational, health, and behavioral outcomes for children.

Applying rigorous methodologies to isolate the potential effects of homeownership, all three reports conclude that homeownership, per se, does not lead to better outcomes for children. Instead, it appears to be the characteristics of the families that become homeowners and perhaps the stability associated with owning a home that explain the association between homeownership and better outcomes for children.

Briefs on Affordable Housing Policy

1. “Don’t Put it Here!” Do Subsidized Housing Developments Cause Nearby Property Values to Decline?

This brief synthesizes the findings of several reviews of research examining whether affordable housing causes a decline in nearby property values, with a special focus on the work of Ingrid Ellen and her colleagues who examined the impacts on nearby property values of affordable housing built or rehabilitated in New York City.

In general, researchers find that affordable housing does not adversely impact the value of neighboring properties, and may actually improve values in some cases. Key factors that are associated with stable or increased property values include an attractive design that blends with the surrounding neighborhood and strong property management. Other factors are more dependent on the neighborhood: high concentrations of new or rehabilitated affordable homes can help to improve distressed areas, but in stronger neighborhoods the data suggest that concentrations of affordable housing should be avoided.

View abstracts of MacArthur-funded reports referenced in this brief:

2. The Well-Being of Low-Income Children: Does Affordable Housing Matter?

This brief profiles the research efforts of Sandra J. Newman, director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, to understand how affordable housing affects the lives of its occupants.

Newman's research indicates that children in unaffordable housing markets may not fare any worse than children living in affordable housing markets; perhaps because they benefit from living in communities that have better schools and neighborhood amenities. Newman stresses, however, that more research is needed to better understand these findings.

View abstracts of MacArthur-funded reports referenced in this brief:

Briefs on Rental Housing Preservation

1. Taking Stock: The Role of "Preservation Inventories" in Preserving Affordable Rental Housing

This brief examines how data analysis is helping states and localities – including Cook County, Illinois; Florida; New York City; New Jersey; and Washington, DC – to preserve the stock of affordable rental housing.

"Preservation inventories" collect available data on the existing affordable rental housing stock, making it easier for communities to identify properties at risk of loss as a result of physical deterioration or the expiration of affordability limits. Armed with this information, practitioners can act quickly to facilitate transfer of ownership, when needed to preserve affordability, and advocate for increased resources for preservation.

Upcoming installments in this series will include findings on the housing challenges facing America’s renters; insights on the key factors that put the affordable housing stock at risk; and analysis of land-use regulations and their effects on the housing market.

Readers are invited to provide feedback on these materials by sending an e-mail to For more information on the MacArthur Foundation’s $25 million commitment to housing research, please Click Here.


The Center gratefully acknowledges the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for these materials. The findings and conclusions they present, however, are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Foundation.