Yonah Freemark

Research and Publications

I study how local governments shape planning outcomes in the context of political conflict and multi-level governance systems. I engage this subject from the perspectives of transportation projects, land-use policy, and affordable housing development in the United States and Europe. I integrate these fields through my dissertation project, successfully defended in July 2020.

My published peer-reviewed articles and chapters are listed below, and detailed further down on this page. My full CV is here.

Peer-reviewed journal articles

Yonah Freemark, Anne Hudson, and Jinhua Zhao (2020). “Policies for autonomy: How American cities envision regulating automated vehicles.Urban Science 4(4): 55. DOI: 10.3390/urbansci4040055 PDF Abstract Journal site

Yonah Freemark, Justin Steil, and Kathleen Thelen (2020). “Varieties of urbanism: A comparative view of metropolitan fragmentation and inequality.” Politics & Society 48(2): 235-274. DOI: 10.1177/0032329220908966
PDF Abstract Journal site

Yonah Freemark (2020). “Upzoning Chicago: Impacts of a Zoning Reform on Property Values and Housing Construction.” Urban Affairs Review 56(3), 758-789. DOI: 10.1177/1078087418824672
PDF Abstract Journal site Appendix

Yonah Freemark, Anne Hudson, and Jinhua Zhao (2019). “Are Cities Prepared for Autonomous Vehicles? Planning for Technological Change by U.S. Local Governments.” Journal of the American Planning Association 85(2), 133-151. DOI: 10.1080/01944363.2019.1603760
PDF Abstract Journal site Appendix

Yonah Freemark (2019). “Doubling housing production in the Paris region: A multi-policy, multi-jurisdictional paradigm.” International Journal of Housing Policy. Online pre-print. DOI: 10.1080/19491247.2019.1682233
PDF Abstract Journal site

Yonah Freemark (2019). “Metropolis on the water: Varieties of development logics along the Seine.” Projections 14. DOI: 10.1162/00c13b77.ea8fcc5a
PDF Abstract Journal site

Yonah Freemark (2018). “Challenges in the Creation of Mixed-Use Affordable Housing: Measuring and Explaining Its Limited Prevalence.Housing Policy Debate 28(6), 1004-1021. DOI: 10.1080/10511482.2018.1506813
PDF Abstract Journal site Appendix

Lawrence Vale and Yonah Freemark (2012). “From Public Housing to Public-Private Housing: 75 Years of American Social Experimentation.” Journal of the American Planning Association 78(4), 379-402. DOI: 10.1080/01944363.2012.737985
PDF Abstract Journal site

Yonah Freemark (2011). “Roosevelt Island: Exception to a City in Crisis.” Journal of Urban History 37(3), 355-383. DOI: 10.1177/0096144211400378
PDF Abstract Journal site

Peer-reviewed book chapters

Yonah Freemark, Neema Nassir, and Jinhua Zhao (2021). “Multimodal Relationships: Shared and autonomous vehicles and high-capacity public transit.” In Shared Mobility and Automated Vehicles, edited by Ata Khan and Susan Shaheen. London: IET Books. In press.

Lawrence Vale and Yonah Freemark (2019). “The Privatization of American Public Housing: Leaving the Poorest of the Poor Behind.” In The Routledge Handbook of Housing Policy and Planning, edited by Katrin B. Anacker, Mai Thi Nguyen, and David P. Varady. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. 189-206. DOI: 10.4324/9781315642338-15
PDF Abstract Book site

Yonah Freemark (2015). “Myth #5: Public Housing Ended in Failure during the 1970s.” In Public Housing Myths: Perception, Reality, and Social Policy, edited by Nicholas Dagen Bloom, Fritz Umbach, and Lawrence J. Vale. 121-138. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. DOI: 10.7591/9780801456268-006
PDF Abstract Book site

Yonah Freemark and Susanne Schindler (2015). “Twin Parks.” In Affordable Housing in New York: The People, Places, and Policies that Transformed a City, edited by Nicholas Dagen Bloom and Matthew Gordon Lasner. 226-230. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 
PDF Abstract Book site

Under review and working papers

Yonah Freemark and Justin Steil. “Zoned out, Priced out? Affordable housing and regional fragmentation.” Revise and resubmit received from Housing Studies in June 2020.

Abigail Bliss, Yonah Freemark, and Lawrence Vale. “The death and life of affordable housing in Haussmann’s Paris.” Revise and resubmit received from Planning Perspectives in October 2020.

Yonah Freemark. “Formal/informal layering in metropolitan governance: How municipalities assert themselves in the context of regional transportation projects.

Yonah Freemark. “The origins of monofunctionality: Postwar American public housing’s isolating project.

Yonah Freemark. “Should public transit be managed in the realm of transportation policy or urban planning? Debates in the 1960s over the appropriate oversight of the urban transportation program.

Masters theses

Yonah Freemark (2013). The entrepreneurial state : New York’s Urban Development Corporation, an experiment to take charge of affordable housing production, 1968-1975. Master’s thesis for MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning.
PDF Thesis site

Yonah Freemark (2013). Assessing Journey Time Impacts of Disruptions on London’s Piccadilly Line. Master’s thesis for MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
PDF Thesis site

“Varieties of Urbanism: A Comparative View of Inequality and the Dual Dimensions of Metropolitan Fragmentation,” in Politics & Society

A large literature on urban politics documents the connection between metropolitan fragmentation and inequality. This article situates the United States comparatively to explore the structural features of local governance that underpin this connection. Examining five metropolitan areas in North America and Europe, the article identifies two distinct dimensions of fragmentation: (a) fragmentation through jurisdictional proliferation (dividing regions into increasing numbers of governments) and (b) fragmentation through resource hoarding (via exclusion, municipal parochialism, and fiscal competition). This research reveals how distinctive the United States is in the ways it combines institutional arrangements that facilitate metropolitan fragmentation (through jurisdictional proliferation) and those that reward such fragmentation (through resource-hoarding opportunities). Non-US cases furnish examples of policies that reduce jurisdictional proliferation or remove resource-hoarding opportunities. Mitigating the inequality-inducing effects of fragmentation is possible, but policies must be designed with an identification of the specific aspects of local governance structures that fuel inequality in the first place.

PDF Journal site DOI: 10.1177/0032329220908966

“Upzoning Chicago: Impacts of a Zoning Reform on Property Values and Housing Construction,” in Urban Affairs Review

“What are the local-level impacts of zoning change? I study recent Chicago upzonings that increased allowed densities and reduced parking requirements in a manner exogenous of development plans and neighborhood characteristics. To evaluate outcomes, I use difference-in-differences tests on property transaction prices and housing-unit construction permits. I detect significant, robust increases in values for transactions on parcels that received a boost in allowed building size. I also identify value increases for residential condominiums, indicating that upzoning increased prices of existing housing units. I find no impacts of the reforms, however, on the number of newly permitted dwellings over five years. As such, I demonstrate that the short-term, local-level impacts of upzoning are higher property prices but no additional new housing construction.”

PDF Journal site Appendix DOI: 10.1177/1078087418824672

Check out coverage of the paper in CityLabSlate, NBC News, Bloomberg Opinion, Governing, The Real DealTalking Headways: A Streetsblog PodcastChicago AgentPlanetizenDJCOregonCrain’s New York, The Sacramento BeeThe UrbanistSlate France, CALMatters, Forbes, Multihousing Pro, The Frisc, The Planning Report, Buildings on Air, The Press-Enterprise, Minn Post, Curbed, and Charlotte WFAE 90.7.

“Doubling housing production in the Paris region: a multi-policy, multi-jurisdictional response,” in International Journal of Housing Policy

How can metropolitan regions ramp up housing production to meet the demands of a growing population, after years of inadequate construction and mounting challenges for affordability? I consider recent policy reforms in the Paris region that have successfully doubled that area’s housing-unit completion rate. I show that a focus on social housing, harnessing of publicly owned land, new financial and regulatory incentives, and the enforcement of municipal policy by higher level governments have effectively encouraged development. These policies complemented one another and were implemented by multiple levels of government as part of a shared metropolitan strategy. Paris’ example offers a model for other regions looking to identify appropriate policies to spur construction.

PDF Journal site DOI: 10.1080/19491247.2019.1682233.

Check out my op-ed on this research in the San Francisco Chronicle. Check out coverage of the paper in Archinect.

“Metropolis on the water: Varieties of development logics along the Seine,” in Projections

Scholars writing about the influence of the “neoliberal turn” suggest that, in response to global competition and a declining welfare state, cities have committed to using urban development projects for the purpose of investment attraction through spatially isolated interventions, particularly on key sites such as riverfronts. But is that really the case, or do project programming and design offer opportunities to combat inequality and increase links to the surrounding city? I explore this question through a study of postwar waterside development in Paris, examining planning documents and statements by government representatives. While officials have promoted their city’s global status, I show that they have also increasingly emphasized the provision of affordable housing; meanwhile, they have encouraged new approaches to urban design that prioritize local needs over those of tourists and create new links between existing neighborhoods. This suggests that Paris’ projects reflect a diversity of development logics—that is, goals with respect to certain planning policies—including some conducive to promoting social equity and community cohesion. This finding challenges expectations about project creation as commonly understood through the lens of the neoliberal turn. It suggests that contemporary urbanism is not converging to a uniform, regressive outcome. I identify institutional and political changes—respectively, the devolution of power to the local government in 1977 and the election of left-wing councils beginning in 2001—as the primary explanations for Paris’ history.

PDF Journal site DOI: 10.1162/00c13b77.ea8fcc5a

“Are Cities Prepared for Autonomous Vehicles? Planning for Technological Change by U.S. Local Governments,” with Anne Hudson and Jinhua Zhao, in Journal of the American Planning Association

Problem, research strategy, and findings: Local government policies could affect how autonomous vehicle (AV) technology is deployed. In this study we examine how municipalities are planning for AVs, identify local characteristics that are associated with preparation, and describe what effects bureaucrats expect from the vehicles. We review existing plans of the 25 largest U.S. cities and survey transportation and planning officials from 120 cities, representative of all municipalities with populations larger than 100,000. First, we find that few local governments have begun planning for AVs. Second, cities with larger populations and higher population growth are more likely to be prepared. Third, although local officials are optimistic about the technology and its potential to increase safety while reducing congestion, costs, and pollution, more than a third of respondents worried about AVs increasing vehicle miles traveled and sprawl while reducing transit ridership and local revenues. Those concerns are associated with greater willingness to implement AV regulations, but there is variation among responses depending on political ideology, per capita government expenditures, and population density.

Takeaway for practice: Municipal governments’ future approaches to AV preparation will likely depend on the characteristics of city residents and local resources. Planners can maximize policy advancement if they work with officials in other cities to develop best practices and articulate strategies that overlap with existing priorities, such as reducing pollution and single-occupancy commuting.

PDF Journal site Appendix DOI: 10.1080/01944363.2019.1603760.

Check out coverage of the paper in CityLab, NyTeknik, Telepolis, and KJZZ Phoenix Public Radio.

“Challenges in the Creation of Mixed-Use Affordable Housing: Measuring and Explaining Its Limited Prevalence,” in Housing Policy Debate

“Mixed-use affordable housing buildings collocate residences and commercial uses. The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program provides one mechanism to fund such structures. But the literature offers little insight into the frequency of mixed-use LIHTC buildings, partly because of a lack of data identifying them, and it does not pinpoint conditions that facilitate their development. I explore these issues through a Chicago, Illinois, case study. First, I analyze imagery to create the first database of mixed-use LIHTC buildings. I show that only 5% of LIHTC structures incorporate commercial uses, and that these are concentrated in wealthier, whiter, and already retail-heavy neighborhoods. Second, I use stakeholder interviews to explain the low rate and selective location of mixed-use projects; I find that the stiffest barriers are conflicting governmental policies, difficulties securing financing in the context of a perception of weak retail demand and investor desires for reliable returns, and design constraints.”

PDF Journal site Appendix DOI: 10.1080/10511482.2018.1506813

“The Privatization of American Public Housing: Leaving the Poorest of the Poor Behind,” with Lawrence Vale, in The Routledge Handbook of Housing Policy and Planning

Since 1937 American public housing has often been viewed as the rise and fall of a single program. However, this view masks a long-term moral and ideological struggle over the place of the poorest residents in American cities that has transmuted low-income housing provision from the public sector into public-private partnerships. This chapter empirically analyzes evolving federal housing programs and policies, starting with conventional public housing but also including other programs that have provided deep housing subsidies. When charted over time, this evolution reveals how the meaning and execution of public housing have shifted and diversified, in tandem with new roles for the private sector. The private sector has played important roles in the provision of public housing since its inception, even as private real estate interests opposed the program entirely. Starting in the late 1950s, with conventional public housing increasingly stigmatized, new forms have emerged. Housing policymakers have gradually shifted responsibility for low-income housing to private developers (through project-based subsidies), to private landlords (through voucher-based subsidies that traveled with tenants), and to private investors and nonprofit developers (through the deployment of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits). Then, during the 1990s and 2000s, a series of more than 250 public-private partnerships transformed public housing into a wide range of mixed-income communities under the HOPE VI program. Nearly all of these partnerships reduced the number of units serving extremely low-income residents. The 50-year trend toward privatization may have reached its logical culmination after 2013 with the burgeoning promulgation of the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program. This program further blurred the public-private boundary by permitting conventional public housing apartments to be converted to long-term project-based contracts that no longer require public ownership or management. Taken together, these moves toward a hybridized public-private housing system have reduced the percentage of Americans receiving deep housing subsidies.

PDF Book site DOI: 10.4324/9781315642338-15

“Myth #5: Public Housing Ended in Failure during the 1970s,” in Public Housing Myths

“One of the abiding myths of public housing history is that public housing came to an end in direct response to its problems. According to this myth, public housing was so inflexible that it could never be made to work; realizing this, politicians rightly ended the program in the 1970s. Yonah Freemark’s chapter… disputes this myth and uncovers a more complex picture… While opposition to “conventional” public housing founded on the program’s perceived failures did exist in the early 1970s, these criticisms did not play the determining role in the administration’s policy decisions.”

PDF Book site DOI: 10.7591/9780801456268-006

“Twin Parks,” with Susanne Schindler, in Affordable Housing in New York

This chapter explores the history of Twin Parks, a complex of 2,250 affordable housing units completed in the Bronx in the mid-1970s. The project was constructed by New York State’s Urban Development Corporation and included a series of innovative urban and architectural designs, including contributions from Richard Meier and James Polshek.

The article argues that the projects offered their residents unique living spaces in a mixed-income environment. Now owned by private entities operating with public subsidies, Twin Parks has suffered from poor maintenance, but it remains a desirable place to live for many.

PDF Book site

“From Public Housing to Public-Private Housing,” with Lawrence Vale, in Journal of the American Planning Association

American public housing since 1937 is often viewed as a single failed experiment of architecture, management, and policy. This view masks a much more highly differentiated experience for residents and housing authorities, rooted in a long-term moral and ideological struggle over the place of the poorest residents in American cities. This article reframes public housing history as a succession of informal social experiments: initial public efforts to clear out slum-dwellers and instead accommodate barely poor working-class tenants or the worthy elderly; a 30-year interlude, where public housing authorities consolidated the poorest into welfare housing while gradually shifting responsibility for low-income housing to private landlords, private developers, and private investors; and a series of partnerships since 1990 that reserve more of this public-private housing for a less-poor constituency. Empirically, this article provides an unprecedented graphic glimpse into the ways that the overall mode-share of public housing has shifted and diversified. Ultimately, this article reveals that the reduced role of the public sector has curtailed the growth of deeply subsidized housing provision to the lowest-income Americans.

PDF Journal site DOI: 10.1080/01944363.2012.737985

“Roosevelt Island: Exception to a City in Crisis,” in Journal of Urban History

Today, New York City’s Roosevelt Island stands as living proof that the public sector can produce a mixed-income and mixed-race neighborhood from scratch. Its successes contrast with typical perceptions of government housing failure and indicate that with determined leadership, stable funding, and a good location, the public sector can create healthy, heterogeneous neighborhoods. This article examines the process of designing and constructing Roosevelt Island to illustrate how and why local actors took advantage of favorable conditions and made important political choices to achieve their commitments, even as political and financial support for such developments deteriorated. In light of the often dismal reputation of government housing policy in the United States, Roosevelt Island’s success—unique in its mixed-income legacy—offers lessons about effective city governance in the face of dwindling national support.

PDF Journal site DOI: 10.1177/0096144211400378