Fewer Vacants, Fewer Crimes? Impacts of Neighborhood Revitalization Policies on Crime

44 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2015

See all articles by Jonathan Spader

Jonathan Spader

Harvard University - Joint Center for Housing Studies

Jenny Schuetz

Brookings Institution

Alvaro Cortes

Abt Associates, Inc.

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 18, 2015


The relationship between neighborhood physical environment and social disorder, particularly crime, is of critical interest to urban economists and sociologists, as well as local governments. Over the past 50 years, various policy interventions to improve physical conditions in distressed neighborhoods have also been heralded for their potential to reduce crime. Urban renewal programs in the mid-20th century and public housing redevelopment in the 1990s both subscribed to the idea that signs of physical disorder invite social disorder. More recently, the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) provided funding for local policymakers to rehabilitate or demolish foreclosed and vacant properties, in order to mitigate negative spillovers -- including crime -- on surrounding neighborhoods. In this paper, we investigate the impact of NSP investments on localized crime patterns in Cleveland, Chicago and Denver. Results suggest that demolition activity in Cleveland decreased burglary and theft, but do not find measurable impacts of property rehabilitation investments -- although the precision of these estimates are limited by the number of rehabilitation activities.

Keywords: Crime, foreclosures, broken windows, neighborhood revitalization

JEL Classification: R1, R3, H4, H7

Suggested Citation

Spader, Jonathan and Schuetz, Jenny and Cortes, Alvaro, Fewer Vacants, Fewer Crimes? Impacts of Neighborhood Revitalization Policies on Crime (August 18, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2646753 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2646753

Jonathan Spader (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Joint Center for Housing Studies ( email )

1033 Massachusetts Ave, 5th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Jenny Schuetz

Brookings Institution ( email )

1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Alvaro Cortes

Abt Associates, Inc. ( email )

55 Wheeler Street
Cambridge, MA 02138-1168
United States

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