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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
Policy Analysis
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.


Permanent link to this article: https://opencuny.org/herg/about-herg-2/

Foreclosure Crisis, Low income Home ownership and Heath, and a Rift in the American Dream

HERG researchers published findings from studies of home mortgage foreclosure in the US, offering important contributions to understanding the roots of the foreclosure crisis and pointing to the need for new policy initiatives. Note: the 2009 article below was named best article of the year in the Journal of Urban Affairs. Libman, K., Fields, D. & …

Housing Affordability in Manhattan Community Board 9

In Spring 2007, HERG conducted a study of housing affordability in Manhattan’s Community Board 9 (the Harlem neighborhood). This project, sponsored by the Parodneck Foundation, was part of a broad effort on the part of the New York City Council to assess the risk of foreclosure among vulnerable low- and middle-income homeowners in the city. The …

Enhancing the Impact of Nonprofit Homeownership Education Services

In 2004, the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, a national nonprofit created by Congress, engaged HERG to conduct a national survey of clients receiving homeownership education and counseling from the network of local NeighborWorks® Organizations (NWOs). Surveys were returned by 759 households served by 15 not-for-profit counseling agencies across the US, yielding a detailed perspective on the …

Making Housing Home Exhibition at New York’s Center for Architecture (Spring-Summer 2007)

This exhibition, curated by Environmental Psychology doctoral student Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani, offered a photographic and narrative essay on how residents of New York City housing developments succeed in making “home” from their housing. As the curator asks in her introduction to the exhibition: “If social housing reflects the social covenant of our society, what is it …

Connecting Low-Income Communities to Develop “Digital Age” Skills: Evaluation of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB) Connecting Communities Project

This 2002-2004 HERG evaluation examined a nonprofit’s technology assistance initiative for tenant-controlled co-ops in New York City. Surveys and focus groups involving technical assistance providers and co-op residents yielded recommendations on how to further develop appropriate software and web-based information and tools to enhance the management capabilities of HDFCs.

Report on Limited Equity Co-ops in Manhattan’s Clinton Neighborhood (2002)

The Clinton Seed Fund, a revolving loan fund supporting affordable housing, commissioned HERG to study the physical and financial condition of limited-equity co-ops in Manhattan’s Clinton neighborhood. In the 1980s and 1990s this area of New York, located between the Theater District and the Hudson River, came under intense gentrification pressure. One of the countervailing …

Task Force on City Owned Property

In the late 1990s, HERG participated in several projects of the New York City group, The Task Force on City Owned Property (TFCOP). The Task Force brought together a coalition of community organizations, tenants’ associations, technical assistance groups, legal services, and others concerned with low-income housing in New York. HERG activities included the administration and …

Community Development Partnership Project Evaluation

HERG served as the lead evaluator on a collaborative venture between American and Russian community development/technical assistance organizations to develop a support institute and training center for citizens’ initiatives in Moscow. The goal was to strengthen these initiatives and thus promote a strong and representative civil society and enhance grass roots democracy in Russia. Funded …

Tenant Organization as a Moderator of Neighborhood Crime

This project, sponsored by the National Instite of Justice, investigated how residentially based tenant organizations in high crime/low income neighborhoods might affect criminal activity within buildings characterized by different levels of tenant social organization. The project drew on databases on homicide and assault developed by Dr. Jeff Fagan at Columbia University’s School of Public Health, …

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 Supported by the CUNY Doctoral Students Council.