Theses Master's

Subsidizing Gentrification?: Neighborhood Change and the Expansion of the 421a Geographic Exclusion Area

Strand, Erik

In 2008, the Geographic Exclusion Area (GEA) of New York City's 421a tax exemption program was expanded from central Manhattan to include large swaths of all five boroughs. With a billion-dollar annual price tag, 421a is one of the largest municipal tax breaks to developers in the nation; however, at the time of the expansion, only within the GEA were developers required to provide affordable housing to receive these benefits. Catalyzed by mounting public opposition to 421a, the GEA expansion marked city and state leaders' commitment to the program as an affordable housing policy capable of combating gentrification and growing inequality in New York City. Despite this show of confidence, the program's effects on these trends has not been comprehensively analyzed.

In this paper, I deploy a mixed-methods analysis of 421a to understand its effectiveness as an affordable housing policy, using the 2008 GEA expansion as a spatial and temporal case study. Through this research, I conclude that 421a directly accelerates the emergence of income inequality and unaffordable housing in New York, thereby creating the very neighborhoods of inequity and exclusivity that it was designed to prevent. In this way, 421a can be categorized as one of, rather than distinct from, the many problematic programs in the neoliberal suite of affordable housing policy that drives American planning today.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Hong, Boyeong
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 27, 2022