Community Development Research Briefs

Research Briefs feature data and commentary on emerging community development trends.


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Constrained Choices: Gentrification, Housing Affordability, and Residential Instability in the San Francisco Bay Area

Posted April 15, 2021

Many residents of the San Francisco Bay Area have struggled to afford housing, particularly in places that enable economic opportunity. In this report, we find that housing unaffordability in the Bay Area prior to the COVID-19 crisis resulted in residential instability for many residents, as they faced moves, complex tradeoffs, and constrained choices in housing. These patterns held for all except those with high-socioeconomic status, regardless of whether their neighborhoods were gentrifying.

Paycheck Protection Program Lending in the Twelfth Federal Reserve District

Posted March 3, 2021

As part of the CARES Act, Congress created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to provide conditionally forgivable loans to small businesses. Though PPP loans provided an important resource to keep many small businesses afloat, the program was easier for some businesses to access than others. This Research Brief offers an analysis of PPP lending in the western United States. It evaluates the number of PPP loans issued as a share of small businesses and how this share varied by zip code income.


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COVID-19 Impacts on Housing Stability in the Twelfth Federal Reserve District

Posted October 8, 2020

In the face of layoffs and furloughs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many renters and homeowners across the country have struggled to make their mortgage or rent payments. This brief provides a snapshot of the issues facing low- and moderate-income renters, homeowners, and small, “mom and pop” landlords in the Twelfth Federal Reserve District based on interviews our team conducted in July 2020.

Child Care, COVID-19, and our Economic Future

Posted September 29, 2020

Child care is important for cultivating the future workforce, and it also ensures that working parents of today can participate in the economy, helping to achieve the Federal Reserve’s mandate for full employment. While child care in the U.S. is a piece of critical infrastructure, it is often invisible and undervalued. Straddling the lines between parenting, education, and small business, child care does not get the full attention and resources of any particular domain, and its contribution to the economy has been overlooked. This report draws attention to the importance of child care to the economy, highlights shortfalls and challenges in this sector prior to COVID-19, and explores new issues that threaten the viability of the sector in the context of the pandemic.

Holding Space: Underlying Real Estate Conditions for Nonprofits in the Los Angeles Region

Posted August 14, 2020

Over the past decade, rising real estate costs have led to displacement of low-income residents and small businesses from Los Angeles’ changing neighborhoods. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco conducted a survey of nonprofits in the Los Angeles metropolitan area to explore how they are faring in the face of displacement pressures. This report presents those findings alongside comments from follow-up interviews.

Impacts of COVID-19 on Nonprofits in the Western United States

Posted May 27, 2020

Nonprofit organizations play an important role in the response to COVID-19, but the crisis is straining their ability to serve communities. This report summarizes data from a Federal Reserve survey to assess the impact of the pandemic on nonprofit respondents and the communities they serve in the Western United States.

The Mental Health Implications of COVID-19 on Low-Income Communities and Communities of Color

Posted May 21, 2020

Shelter-in-place and social distancing measures have been critical for “flattening the curve” and managing the spread of COVID-19, but the sudden shock to our economic and social lives is raising concerns about mental and behavioral health issues. Low-income communities and communities of color were already more likely to experience risk factors for poor mental health, such as low socioeconomic status and substandard living conditions. This research brief explores these risk factors in the context of COVID-19, and why mental health promotion should be part of a comprehensive approach to equitable economic recovery.

What are Banks Doing to Address the Impacts of COVID-19 on LMI Communities? Early Approaches to Addressing the Crisis

Posted April 7, 2020

Banks play a key role in helping to alleviate the economic impacts of COVID-19 and have been encouraged to leverage Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) activities in their response. This research brief presents findings from interviews with community development officers across CRA-motivated financial institutions in the Twelfth Federal Reserve District and summarizes their early response actions. Interviewers asked about changes to lending, services, and investments; whether the recent CRA guidance had spurred any changes to the ways banks were operating; how banks were prioritizing growing need; and ways banks were being responsive to evolving community conditions.


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Climate Adaptation Investment and the Community Reinvestment Act

Posted June 16, 2019

This report introduces the field of climate adaptation finance and explains its connection to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) within the context of the disaster provisions guiding pre- and post-disaster investments. In a demonstration of need, the report provides evidence of the spatial concentration of disaster declarations in areas with CRA-eligible populations. It highlights existing innovative and hypothetical investments within a broader context for stimulating greater pre-disaster planning and investment.

On the Sidelines of the Hot Economy

Posted May 31, 2019

While the current economy is often characterized as “hot,” marked by low unemployment, stable prices, and sustained economic growth, many residents are not enjoying the prosperity reflected in the aggregate measures of economic well-being. This report focuses on those who have not reaped the benefits of recent sustained growth in the economy. The report highlights groups who have faced barriers to economic participation and documents interrelated rising costs—particularly for housing, transportation, and childcare—that contribute to keeping people on the sidelines of the economy.

At What Cost? Student Loan Debt in the Bay Area

Posted April 23, 2019

For most Americans, an investment in higher education is a key driver of economic security and mobility. However, rapidly rising costs of attendance, combined with stagnant wages and inadequate support systems for vulnerable borrowers have resulted in outcomes that are at odds with our collective vision of higher education as a crucial foundation for achieving the American Dream. This report highlights the local contours of this issue in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area region, particularly for low-income communities and communities of color, using Federal Reserve Bank of New York Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax Data.

Funds for Kickstarting Affordable Housing Preservation and Production: Lessons for New Investors

Posted March 14, 2019

A shortage of affordable homes for workers and families at all income levels across the country calls for innovative solutions. Over the past decade, a variety of public-private loan funds have developed to kick-start construction and preservation of affordable housing. This report breaks down how these funds fit into the process of developing and preserving affordable housing and shares lessons for those who are considering starting or investing in a fund.


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Housing Stability and Family Health: An Issue Brief

Posted September 12, 2018

Soaring housing costs are the topic of many recent discussions in the San Francisco Bay Area, but receiving less attention are the implications of high cost housing on the health and well-being of families who are expecting or who have young children. This research brief presents a snapshot of housing instability for families with children in the Bay Area. It synthesizes a growing body of literature to reveal how housing instability during pregnancy and early childhood has particularly negative long-term consequences, while also highlighting promising ways to support housing stability. Efforts to ensure safe, stable housing for Bay Area families can enable children to live longer, healthier lives.


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The Rise of Single‐Family Rentals in Arizona, California, and Nevada

Posted September 30, 2014

The worst of the housing crisis may be behind us, but the recent housing market recovery opens up a number of new community development questions. Of particular concern is the potential impact of investor purchases of single-family residences, especially in hard-hit neighborhoods that experienced severe price depreciation and offered an abundant supply of distressed property.


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Household Net Worth and Asset Ownership among the Economically Vulnerable

Posted April 18, 2013

Households whose balance sheets were dominated by housing, particularly those in depressed markets and those exposed to high-cost predatory mortgages, were deeply exposed to the downside risk that became reality during the Great Recession. These households tended to be lower-income, minority, and have lower educational attainment, meaning they were already struggling with low net worth prior to the recession.


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The Suburbanization of Poverty

Posted January 1, 2012

Using data from U.S. Census Bureau, this research brief analyzes the changing geography of poverty in the Bay Area. It focuses on the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area and explores the demographic changes that took place between 2000 and 2009.


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Student Debt and Default in the 12th District

Posted December 1, 2011

Postsecondary educational expenses and student loan balances have been trending steadily upward, but persistent unemployment and weak economic conditions have created an alarming new trend of rising student loan defaults. This Brief examines broad trends in student borrowing in the Federal Reserve’s 12th District, with an emphasis on students from low- and moderate-income households. The rise of student borrowing has important community development implications as it directly impacts the present and future financial well-being of LMI individuals.

School Quality and Affordable Housing in the Bay Area

Posted June 1, 2011

Everyone knows the old real estate adage that the three most important factors in determining the value of a given property are location, location, and location. This is to say that place matters; a neighborhood confers a bundle of amenities to its residents that are specific to that geography. This bundle can include proximity to parks, small-scale retail offerings, high quality schools, and a variety of transportation options, as well as low crime rates and clean air. These amenities are arranged in a variety of configurations across space, and most households determine which aspects are most important to them, and then choose their neighborhood accordingly.

EITC in the 12th District

Posted May 1, 2011

Within the Federal Reserve’s 12th District, over 4 million families and individuals received the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for tax year 2007, totaling over $8 billion in credits. In this Research Brief, we examine trends in EITC usage across the 12th District, and look at how the EITC and tax time provide a unique opportunity to link lower-income households to financial services and other asset building.