The Housing Environments Research Group (HERG) is a research group that seeks to understand the relationship between people’s lives and their housing and neighborhoods. HERG is a part of the larger research center, Center for Human Environments, which is located at the CUNY Graduate Center, and is comprised of doctoral students and directed by Dr. Susan Saegert.
In studying housing and community, HERG adopts an ecological perspective, focusing on the physical and social interrelationships among individuals, households, groups, communities, and the broader society. Building on participatory methods pioneered at the Center for Human Environments, HERG undertakes many of its projects in partnership with residents and community organizations, involving them in the design, implementation, analysis, and interpretation of the research.
HERG works with clients in various phases of the development of housing environments, from needs assessment to architectural design, from the establishment of management structures and social programs to post-occupancy evaluation. Sometimes HERG contributes its expertise at the stage of new housing design and construction; other times our focus is on the solution of problems in existing housing and neighborhoods. Of particular interest to HERG are the ways in which housing and neighborhood environments can support resident control and human development throughout the life cycle.
HERG takes a three pronged approach to research that focuses on EVALUATION, GIS AND URBAN ISSUES, AND POLICY ANALYSIS:
HERG has worked with community organizations, technical assistance groups and coalitions to document and evaluate their programs. HERG’s aim in evaluation is to involve the actors in defining goals and benchmarks, and to help them incorporate evaluation into their regular operations. HERG also performs independent evaluations of government housing programs and policies. In both kinds of evaluations, documentation and measurement are designed to capture not only outcomes but the processes that lead to those outcomes. Our evaluations are accompanied by work with program providers and residents to develop new approaches to problems.
HERG has evaluated programs including:
Homeownership education services provided to low-income buyers by a national network of nonprofit agencies
A program to promote the use of digital-age technology as a tool to manage tenant-owned co-ops
New York City programs to dispose of housing acquired through tax foreclosure
A partnership of US and Russian housing and community development organizations
Geographic Information Systems and Urban Issues
HERG researchers were “early adopters” of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to facilitate an ecologically sound understanding of housing and community phenomena.
HERG projects using GIS have included:
Studying crime in low income housing
Helping community residents target neighborhood improvement efforts
Understanding the overlapping spatial distribution of housing programs and the consequences of this geography
In addition to program evaluation, HERG engages in housing policy analysis. HERG’s conception of policy analysis takes into account the ecology and social organization of the housing and neighborhoods involved, as well as the broader context.
Topics of HERG’s policy analyses have included:
Women and Housing
New York City’s Housing Programs
Housing Policy and Welfare Reform
Design and Planning
See below for more on HERG’s Project History.