Learn about our projects:

HERG researchers published widely on their findings from studies of home mortgage foreclosure in the US, offering important contributions to understanding the roots of the 2008 foreclosure crisis and pointing to the need for new policy initiatives. Note: the 2009 article below was named best article of the year in the Journal of Urban Affairs.

  • Fields, Desiree, Libman, Kimberly and Saegert, Susan (2010) 'Turning everywhere, getting nowhere: experiences of seeking help for mortgage delinquency and their implications for foreclosure prevention', Housing Policy Debate, 20: 4, 647 — 686
  • Saegert, S., Fields, D. and Libman, K. (2009), Deflating The Dream: Radical Risk and the Neoliberalization of Homewownership. Journal of Urban Affairs, 31: 297–317

In Spring 2007, HERG conducted a study of housing affordability in Manhattan's Community Board 9 (the Harlem neighborhood). This project, sponsored by the Parodneck Foundation, was part of a broad effort on the part of the New York City Council to assess the risk of foreclosure among vulnerable low- and middle-income homeowners in the city.

The study's final report:

Mortgage Foreclosure Emergency Prevention Program (MFEPP): Manhattan Community District 9: Risk Assessment and Recommendations

In 2004, the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, a national nonprofit created by Congress, engaged HERG to conduct a national survey of clients receiving homeownership education and counseling from the network of local NeighborWorks® Organizations (NWOs). Surveys were returned by 759 households served by 15 not-for-profit counseling agencies across the US, yielding a detailed perspective on the experiences of these low- and moderate-income home buyers.

In its second year (2005), the HERG project established an Advisory Board to explore the issues uncovered by the survey, including trends in post-purchase difficulties encountered by NWO home buyers. Although the survey found that the counseling agencies were successful in helping hard-to-reach populations embark on homeownership, it also suggested that a considerable number of NWO clients, even those at risk or in need, did not seek help when encountering difficulties after purchase. Moreover, failure to contact the counseling agency under these circumstances was associated with many disadvantages, such as higher refinancing costs and higher likelihood of loan delinquency.

Year 3 (2006) of the HERG project involved a series of focus groups to explore post-purchase problems (including mortgage delinquency and threat of foreclosure) from the point of view of low-income homeowners, as well as from the perspective of nonprofit counseling agency staff who work with these homeowners. Focus groups were conducted in Texas, Ohio, Georgia, New York and Missouri, sites selected because of a high incidence of foreclosure and/or particularly interesting responses from nonprofits to the problem. After presenting a picture of low-income homeowners' help-seeking behavior as derived from the focus groups, the final report for Year 3 concludes with an extensive set of best practices and recommendations for the nonprofit counseling agencies, the mortgage lenders, and policy-makers.

The Project's Year 2 Report:
Successes of Homeowner Education and Emerging Challenges: Evidence from a National Survey of NeighborWorks Organizations' Clients

The Project's Year 3 Executive Summary:
Understanding Responses to the Threat of Foreclosure Among Low-Income Homeowners

The Project's Year 3 Final Report:
Understanding Responses to the Threat of Foreclosure Among Low-Income Homeowners

See also "American Nightmare", by Desiree Fields, Francine Justa, Kimberly Libman, and Susan Saegert. This article is based on the project's focus group research and appears in Shelterforce, Summer 2007, an issue devoted to the foreclosure crisis.

Sponsors of the homeownership education research project: Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation (also known as NeighborWorks® America) and Freddie Mac; additional sponsors: Amalgamated Bank, Bank of New York, BPD Bank, Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, F. B. Heron Foundation, M & T Charitable Foundation, Ridgewood Savings Bank, St. Paul Travelers Foundation, State Farm Insurance, Sterling National Bank.

(Spring-Summer 2007)

This exhibition, curated by Environmental Psychology doctoral student Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani, offered a photographic and narrative essay on how residents of New York City housing developments succeed in making "home" from their housing. As the curator asks in her introduction to the exhibition: "If social housing reflects the social covenant of our society, what is it to which every citizen is entitled? What does it take for a life to flourish, and can a building help or hinder this process? What becomes of designed spaces once they are inhabited?" The exhibition was highlighted by a panel discussion on "Social Housing and the Social Contract," whose participants included HERG Director Susan Saegert.

Exhibition underwriters: Related Apartment Preservation, 42nd Street Development Corporation, Barbara Stanton.

The exhibition website: http://www.udchousing.org/udc_test/index.htm

This 2002-2004 HERG evaluation examined a nonprofit's technology assistance initiative for tenant-controlled co-ops in New York City. Surveys and focus groups involving technical assistance providers and co-op residents yielded recommendations on how to further develop appropriate software and web-based information and tools to enhance the management capabilities of HDFCs.

The Clinton Seed Fund, a revolving loan fund supporting affordable housing, commissioned HERG to study the physical and financial condition of limited-equity co-ops in Manhattan's Clinton neighborhood. In the 1980s and 1990s this area of New York, located between the Theater District and the Hudson River, came under intense gentrification pressure. One of the countervailing forces against gentrification was provided by limited-equity co-ops, formed when the city government seized buildings for tax arrears and then sold them to residents as co-ops. (These new ownership arrangements were known as Housing Development Finance Corporations--HDFCs.)

Products of this HERG study include a report to the sponsor detailing the physical and financial status of the Clinton HDFCs, as well as their management effectiveness and stability and their overall viability as housing for low- and moderate-income residents:

Clinton Seed Fund Report on the HDFCs (2002)

A draft paper: Limited Equity Co-ops as Bulwarks against Gentrification

Maps containing a variety geographic, statistical and census data from the CSF project are available upon request.

In the late 1990s, HERG participated in several projects of the New York City group, The Task Force on City Owned Property (TFCOP). The Task Force brought together a coalition of community organizations, tenants' associations, technical assistance groups, legal services, and others concerned with low-income housing in New York. HERG activities included the administration and analysis of surveys of tenants in currently and formerly city-owned buildings, as well as case histories of in rem buildings (buildings seized by the city government for tax arrears).

Several papers and reports were written based on the data collected through these surveys and case histories. One of these, Susan Saegert and Gary Winkel's paper, "Social Capital and the Revitalization of New York City's Distressed Inner Housing", appeared in 1998 in a special issue of the Fannie Mae publication Housing Policy Debate on social capital, raising a host of new concerns about city-owned and distressed housing.

During this period, HERG also participated in the Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) Support Group, which brought together residents, HDFC networks, financial institutions, advocates, and technical assistance providers with the goal of strengthening the viability of this form of co-op ownership in New York City.

Another measure of the extent of HERG participation in the dialog on city-owned and distressed housing in New York are the two briefing papers prepared by HERG associate Heléne Clark for TFCOP-sponsored roundtables:

Clark, H. (1997) Briefing paper on city-owned and distressed housing, Parts 1 & 2. Part 1: New York City Housing Policy: Consensus and Debates. Part 2: Programmatic Issues.

Clark, H. (1998) Second Roundtable on City-Owned and Distressed Housing: Outcomes and Vision for the Future.

HERG served as the lead evaluator on a collaborative venture between American and Russian community development/technical assistance organizations to develop a support institute and training center for citizens' initiatives in Moscow. The goal was to strengthen these initiatives and thus promote a strong and representative civil society and enhance grass roots democracy in Russia. Funded by the Agency for International Development through the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, the partnership was led by the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board.

This project, sponsored by the National Instite of Justice, investigated how residentially based tenant organizations in high crime/low income neighborhoods might affect criminal activity within buildings characterized by different levels of tenant social organization. The project drew on databases on homicide and assault developed by Dr. Jeff Fagan at Columbia University's School of Public Health, as well as a set of 2,985 interviews conducted by HERG with low-income Brooklyn residents living in various types of buildings (tenant ownership, ownership by a private landlord, community group ownership, and ownership/management by New York City agencies). GIS was employed to superimpose the data regarding homicides and assaults over the addresses of the buildings used in the interview study.

In 2000, a report based on this research was released at the Cooperative Housing Summit in Washington, DC. Entitled A Prospective Study of Social Capital and Crime in Low Income Housing (G. Winkel, S. Saegert, C. Swartz), the report indicated that cooperative forms of ownership were associated with lower crime rates in the neighborhoods under study, suggesting that resident ownership and management of housing may be an effective way to enhance quality of life in low-income neighborhoods.