Working Papers

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"Is Mandatory Disclosure Really Mandatory? An Evaluation of the Home Energy Score Program" 

Abstract: To address asymmetric information in the housing market around energy efficiency, cities across the United States have begun to adopt voluntary and mandatory disclosure policies. I study a mandatory disclosure policy in Portland, Oregon. This policy requires sellers to (1) obtain an energy assessment and (2) publish the assessment in real estate listings. Similar to other settings with mandatory disclosure, this policy suffers from non-compliance: 64% of sellers obtain an assessment and 72% of these sellers publish the assessment (46% in total). To understand the causes of non-compliance, I develop a theoretical model, evaluating this two-stage disclosure decision. Using administrative assessment data and proprietary housing data, I test hypotheses from the model. Consistent with the theory of asymmetric information, I find that sellers act strategically, as they are more likely to publish the assessment if their home is efficient. This behavior was exacerbated with the COVID-19 pandemic when the city reduced enforcement activity, suspending fines for non-compliance. Surprisingly, there is not full compliance among the most efficient homes. This suggests that there is a coordination problem between sellers and realtors. I find that there is substantial heterogeneity across realtors, as experienced realtors are more likely to comply with the policy. Together, these results demonstrate the limitations of the use of mandatory disclosure polices as a way to mitigate asymmetric information. In future work, I estimate a structural model of compliance. I then simulate how changes in the fine for non-compliance impact patterns of compliance. 

Other Dissertation Chapters

"The Evolution of Energy Efficiency: Impacts (or lack thereof) of Redlining and the Fair Housing Act" - Under Review

While minority households face higher energy costs relative to white households, the mechanisms for this gap are not clear. One possible explanation is differences in the housing stock. In this paper, I examine to what extent the current housing stock is a reflection of past housing policies, especially those that are based on discriminatory behavior like redlining. If the redlining maps were binding, introducing credit constraints, homeowners may not have been able to invest in efficient technologies like insulation, resulting in lower levels of energy efficiency. Using a difference-in-differences design, I examine the evolution of energy efficiency in Portland, Oregon for homes constructed between 1900 and 2020, focusing on the introduction of the redlining maps. Similarly, I consider the Fair Housing Act of 1968. I find that these housing policies did not impact the gap in energy efficiency between redlined and non-redlined areas. Likewise, using a spatial regression discontinuity design, I find no gap in energy efficiency at the boundaries of these maps. Meanwhile, at the city level, I observe widespread improvements in energy efficiency after the introduction of state building codes in the 1970s, with the majority of improvements coming from insulation.

"What Energy Information Matters to Home Buyers? Lessons from the Home Energy Score Program"

Abstract: Created by the U.S. Department of Energy, the home energy score is a discrete metric (1-10) of energy efficiency. This score allows buyers to evaluate the energy efficiency level of a home prior to purchase, reducing the degree of asymmetric information. I examine whether buyers are willing to pay a premium for energy efficiency, as measured by this score. I estimate a premium of about 0.5% (or $2,900) for a per unit increase in the score, which is roughly equivalent to the present discounted value of the corresponding energy savings over 30 years. Since the assessment provides additional energy metrics (e.g., energy consumption, costs, and carbon emissions), I am able to examine how buyers respond to these different metrics. I show that there is a salience effect, as buyers are willing to pay a premium for the score when presented with more detailed information in the form of these alternative energy metrics.

 Other Papers

"Do Foreclosure Assistance Programs Increase Home Retention? Evidence from the Hardest Hit Fund Program" (with Noah Durst)

Abstract: To promote financial stability following the Great Recession, the U.S. Department of Treasury established the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). A subset of TARP funds was allocated to housing programs, such as the Hardest Hit Fund program, to prevent foreclosures. We study the Hardest Hit Fund program in Michigan, where financial assistance was administered in the form of mortgage reinstatement and subsidized monthly mortgage payments. Using administrative program data, we compare housing outcomes (e.g., deeds, foreclosures, and mortgage modifications) among applicants who were accepted into the program with applicants who withdrew their application or were denied participation. We show that the program improved lending access, as accepted applicants were about 74 percentage points (or 282%) more likely to receive a mortgage modification relative to denied/withdrawn applicants. The improvements in lending access carried over to home retention, as accepted applicants were about 20 percentage points (or 37%) more likely to remain in their home five years after receiving financial assistance. Separating home retention by transaction type, we find that deeds explain about 70 percent of the effect on retention, with the remainder coming from foreclosures. As many studies focus on foreclosures, we illustrate the importance of foreclosure assistance on deed transactions. Lastly, we show that offering subsidized monthly mortgage payments on top of mortgage reinstatement provides no additional benefit. 

Works In Progress

"Do Emissions Tests Improve Vehicle Efficiency? Evidence from Oregon"

"Land Use Regulation and Neighborhood Morphology: Evidence from Building Footprints" (with Noah Durst, and Danna Gutierrez Lanza, and Esther Sullivan)

"Manufactured Homes and Environmental (Dis)amenities" (with Noah Durst, Wisdom Henry, Zachary Lamb, and Fatemeh Saeidi-Rizi)

"The Market for Third-Party Energy Assessors"

"Relighting  Detroit: Impacts on Crime and Traffic Accidents (with Soren Anderson, Prabhat Barnwal, Dylan Brewer, Alex Tybl, and Anna Wood)

"Single-Use Plastics and Pigou: Estimating the Willingness to Pay for Plastic Bags"