Authors: Ignacio Aravena, Anastasia Lopatina, Alexia Nazarian, Doug Rose, Yinan Yao
Over the past two decades, the New York City government has responded to a growing housing demand and need for affordable housing by upzoning certain neighborhoods to allow higher-density residential development. While upzoning creates new housing units, there is concern that it accelerates displacement through the influx of White residents. Whether upzoning materially changes a neighborhood’s demographic composition is crucial to understanding the policy’s outcomes and unintended consequences. We examine demographic changes before and after city-initiated upzonings occurring between 2000 and 2007 with a focus on the White population. Our research uses a fixed effects regression model to compare upzoned census tracts with census tracts that were not upzoned but had a similar demographic makeup and historic trends in the period preceding the upzoning. We find that large upzonings are associated with a five to nine percentage point increase in the share of White people, while smaller upzonings had no significant impact. Although we do not claim that displacement has taken place per se, we find that the new housing units created by an upzoning become predominantly occupied by White and Asian residents.