• PIs: Dennis Frenchman (CRE, DUSP)
          Andrea Chegut (Center for Real Estate, MIT) 


    This project looks at the role of real estate products in supporting the growth and success of entrepreneurship. Our project’s contribution is identifying the real estate products that support entrepreneurial firm growth, 21st Century drivers of firm clustering and agglomeration and linking the perofrmance of startups - innovation driven enterprises - to their experiences in physical space. Entrepreneurial spaces like co-working space, accelerators, maker spaces and innovation districts are distinctly organized real estate spaces to support innovation through the economies of agglomeration. 

    Economies of aggolmeration has found that firms benefit from locating near each other - stemming from decreased costs from economies of scale and access to clusters of human capital through network effects -much of the research focuses on relative proximity, and not the experience of firms in real estate space. The contribution of this research is the types of real estate that these firms experience as well as their contribution to creating agglomeration, positive firm performance and economic growth. To execute this research, we will need to aggregate significant amounts of data about fairly unknown real estate products like co-working, accelerator, maker spaces and innovation districts and link these spaces back to the firms experiences in them. In this way, this project will contribute five unique new datasets with over 100 manually collected fields on innovative real estate space that supports entrepreneurship. In this way, we can learn the components that have gone into creating clusters for entreprenurial growth that are being supported by new spaces like accelerators, co-working, maker spaces and innovation districts. Ultimately, this data collection process will lead to extensive GIS modeling linking firms to their physical spaces in time. Moreover, we aim to identify the outcomes of firms that experience entrepreneurial spaces relative to those that do not by curating an extensive database of space treatments. Consequently, this project will deliver the following on the linkages between real estate and the outcomes of entrepreneurship:

    1. Real estate products, spaces and technology that support innovation and entrepreneurship for economic growth - so called ‘entrepreneurship space’.
    2. Components of 21st Century agglomeration that identify clusters of innovation and entrepreneurship.
    3. Identify correlations - firm performance outcomes - between ‘entrepreneurship space’ and the treated peformance of innovation driven enterprises.

    Moreover, this research is international, with an additional focus on China, the fastest growing entreprenurship market in the world - home to 20 percent of the world’s unicorns ($1bln privately valued firms), the largest number of accelerators in the world and a rapidly growing innovation ecosystem to support innovation driven enterprises. However, there is limited public data in this realm, thus we aim to contribute a signficant data collection effort to understand the link between real estate product that support the growth and success of entrepreneurship in China:

    4. Curate a dataset of ‘entrepreneurship’ spaces for China.
    5. Link innovation driven enterprises to ‘entrepreneurship’ spaces in China.

    Over the course of two years, and with the aid of full STL seed funding our objective is to understand the impact of real estate on entrepreneurship. The growth in innovation driven enterprises - so called ‘startups’ has lead to a diversification in the demand for real estate spaces that support entreprenurial activity over the last decade. This project aims to identify the real estate products, spaces and technology that support innovation and entrepreneurship for economic growth - so called ‘entrepreneurship space’. This transformation in space can help researchers link real estate products to the components of 21st Century agglomeration, to industry clusters of innovation and entrepreneurship. In turn, we want to understand differences in outcomes potentially generated by more entrepneurial serving space by measuring the correlations - firm performance outcomes - between ‘entrepreneurship space’ experiences and the peformance of innovation driven enterprises. In addition, we aim to build out a unique dataset of ‘entrepreneurship’ spaces for China and link innovation driven enterprises to their respective ‘entrepreneurship’ spaces in China.

  • PI: Jinhua Zhao (Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT) 


    “Social responsibility” has become a maxim of urban development in Chinese cities, yet there is no consistent set of actions that “social responsibility” must entail. The drive for “social responsibility” has not coalesced into coherent norms governing personal, corporate, and governmental actions. To better understand the behavioral constituents of social responsibility, we propose to measure and analyze behavioral perspectives on “urban-scale” social responsibility. This project surveys how urban residents in China perceive and enact socially responsible behavior across two urban policy domains: real estate and transportation. We will inventory the most essential features of social responsibility in these systems and assess how social categories and self-associations with the city affect residents’ beliefs about social responsibility and corresponding actions. 

  • PIs: Brent Ryan (Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT) , 
           Lawrence Vale (Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT) 


    Chinese cities face shortages of affordable housing and environmental degradation. Sustainable real estate development needs to consider these challenges together. Affordable housing shortages are made more acute by the elimination of “urban villages” that previously provided well-placed low-income housing. New redevelopment has produced an increasingly fragmented urban morphology composed of gated superblocks, exacerbating traffic inefficiencies, social segregation, loss of cultural heritage, and pollution. Our proposed project, working with Chinese colleagues in Shenzhen, is prompted by two recent central government policies prohibiting new gated communities and eliminating older gated communities, and requiring all remaining urban villages be eliminated and redeveloped by 2020. We wish to identify innovative strategies for urban village redevelopment practice and explore policy implications for sustainable and socially responsible development strategies in China. Our research questions seek to identify, first, how developers and urban villagers feel that the new policies could potentially impact the redevelopment of urban villages, and second, how new urban development practice and policy might enhance socially and environmentally sustainable redevelopment of urban villages and new communities in Shenzhen and in China. 

    Interestingly, while Western critics bemoan gated communities’ social and economic segregation, China’s objections are centered on infrastructure efficiency and environmental costs. The simultaneous central government proposal to eliminate urban villages and gated communities raises the question of what development format, if not superblocks, will supplant these villages. Eliminating urban villages without providing other affordable housing may also exacerbate social inequality and instability, environmental degradation, and cultural erasure. By examining developer and resident perceptions of the Chinese central government’s dual policies regarding gated communities and urban villages, our study hopes to identify means by which urban villages might be redeveloped in ways that retain some of their role in providing well-located affordable housing in Chinese cities while also avoiding the barriers and inefficiencies caused by gated community superblocks. Additionally, by shedding light on how village leaders and developers are coping with the new regulations and policies, we hope to help identify the objectives for entrepreneurial real estate developers seeking to improve Chinese urbanization in a sustainable manner.

  • PIs: Donald Lessard (Sloan School of Management, MIT) 
           Gabriella Carolini  (Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT) 


    Infrastructure is critical to sustainable urbanization in cities of the developing world. It provides services complementary to and essential for real estate and industrial investments that contribute to macroeconomic development, as well as generating health and productivity benefits for individuals. Although technical solutions for infrastructure abound, we have a limited understanding of the causal mechanisms that link the processes of governing infrastructure and the institutions in which infrastructure projects are embedded to project outcomes. In metropolitan areas, where the administrative, political, and fiscal responsibilities for infrastructure services become blurred, the institutional elements of infrastructure projects and project governance become increasingly important. Our primary research question contributes to this knowledge frontier by asking: In jurisdictionally fragmented metropolitan areas in the Global South, how do the organizations responsible for project implementation and the institutions in which projects are embedded contribute to project outcomes? 

    Within this broad question, we focus on two sub-questions: 1) How do the active participants in infrastructure governance help shape project outcomes? and 2) How do the regulative, normative, and cultural-cognitive institutional elements of metropolitan infrastructure affect project continuity? We propose to investigate these questions through the lens of the transportation sector, given the influence of transportation infrastructure and services on land use and values, as well as their contribution to poverty reduction through increased accessibility to jobs and services. Unlike other classes of infrastructure, transportation systems are typically provided by the public sector, exhibit distributed network effects that span multiple political and administrative jurisdictions, and often require extensive organizational coordination. These attributes increase the complexity of project governance and broaden the scope of the institutions that effect project outcomes. 

    Our project takes advantage of unique opportunity to investigate project governance and the institutional elements affecting project outcomes by being embedded in the current administration of Mayor Enrique Peñalosa in Bogotá, Colombia. The return of Mayor Peñalosa to office 18 years after he initiated extensive improvements to public and non-motorized transportation systems provides an unusual comparative perspective from which to differentiate between the institutional elements of transportation projects and specific individuals involved in the governance of these systems. We propose three phases of research: 1) Cataloguing of proposed and implemented infrastructure improvements from 1998-Present; 2) Inductive, participant observation based hypothesis generation through direct work with the Peñalosa administration; 3) Multi-method hypothesis testing through continued observation, interviews, and quantitative analysis of transportation project data. 

    This project contributes an interdisciplinary perspective that will connect the nested perspectives of international development policy, projects (engineering/construction management) and project governance (including organizational and institutional development). Unlike previous studies, we propose an embedded inductive research design to understand the enabling institutional environment of projects and the organizations that shape project planning and implementation. Finally, by focusing our analysis on projects with metropolitan reach, we offer a new contribution to the analysis of projects that span multiple, overlapping political and administrative jurisdictions in urban areas.

  • PI: Yu-Hung Hong  (Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT) 
          Lanchun Bian (School of Architecture, Tsinghua University) 


    In the face of a slower economic growth since 2012, the Chinese real estate market has undergone structural changes. Most major companies are shifting away from developing land and construction buildings to creating innovative management and marketing schemes to lower property vacancy rate or to renovate underutilized buildings in strategic locations. To create a new corporate image, many companies have labeled themselves as socially responsible real estate developers. Yet the problem of this branding approach is that there is no generally agreed upon definition of socially responsible real estate development (SRRED). Nor are there any good examples to show developers how to undertake this kind of investment. To do both, we need an impartial and effective evaluation method to identify socially responsible real estate in China.

    Although there exist some real estate assessment systems, their criteria are too narrowly defined and/or lack the supports from academics, communities, public authorities, and professional groups. These drawbacks undermine the credibility of these real estate performance evaluations.

    We propose to create a SSRED evaluation method that considers comprehensively the following values affected directly and indirectly by real estate development:

    • Economic benefits for the national and regional economies and the real estate sector.
    • Environmental sustainability.
    • Social equality and development.
    • Social and economic benefits for the city.
    • Profitability and product quality.
    • Scalability.

    Most importantly, we will focus on building consensus among key stakeholders such as architects, community groups, public authorities, real estate developers and professionals, and urban planners on the evaluation criteria that reflect the above-mentioned values. A set of tentative indicators will be complied based on the experiences of international and Chinese evaluation systems. Then an expert group meeting will be held to discuss and refine the proposed matrix, which will be tested by applying it to performance evaluation of 24 projects in six cities. With the help from experts from a multi-disciplinary background, we will use the assessment outcomes to determine the applicability of the proposed SSRED evaluation method to different real estate projects across China. Ample consultations with experts, public officials, and communities will be conducted to ensure that decisions are made in an open and inclusive manner.

  • PI: Manduhai Buyandelger (Department of Anthropology, MIT) 


    Since the collapse of socialism in 1990 and Mongolia’s subsequent shift to neoliberal capitalism, the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, has experienced drastic overgrowth accompanied by congestion, environmental degradation, a lack of adequate housing, illegal land use, and many other problems related to rapid urbanization, migration, and economic instability.

    In this project I propose to explore the contexts, politics, and challenges of real estate entrepreneurship in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Who are the main culprits in the emergence of the real estate crisis? What characteristics would qualify various agents as ‘responsible’ for real estate development, from construction companies to city planners and bankers? And what legal, financial, environmental, and cultural changes could facilitate the development of a more responsible real estate entrepreneurship?

    With the grant from the STL Real Estate Entrepreneurship Lab, I will map the ‘landscape’ of real estate entrepreneurship in the context of the country’s larger socioeconomic changes. My goal is not limited to diagnosing the missing links and challenges for responsible development. I seek an understanding of the workings and disjunctures among various entities that will influence this new field in the near future.

    The Mongolian case study will aid in understanding the many challenges related to the development of real estate entrepreneurship in newer, less stable, emerging economies worldwide. This study will present culturally and institutionally specific ways in which the notion of “responsible real estate entrepreneurship” is understood and implemented in places where moral and ethical norms, as well as legal codes, are being transformed due to the shift from state socialism to neoliberal capitalism. It will investigate the emergence of real estate entrepreneurship as a socio-cultural valuegenerator, specifically in the context of rising concerns about the environment, increasing inequality, diversity, public health management, and new technologies. Among the insights and solutions I hope this project will enable are new approaches to increasing affordable housing, creative ways to expand and supplement infrastructure, and possible reforms of legal and banking structures.

    The project consists of three phases: preliminary, fieldwork, and writing. It will deliver reports, articles, a book manuscript, and a new cross-listed course. It will foster a cross-disciplinary dialogue, develop new methodologies and theories, and expand graduate students’ interests in cross-disciplinary research. It will forward the STL Lab’s mission in advancing socially responsible real estate entrepreneurship and will help to train the newer generation of scholars, entrepreneurs, and decision-makers.

  • PI: Ben Olken (Department of Economics, MIT)


    A significant challenge to the provision of local urban services–water, sanitation, waste removal, etc.–in urbanizing countries is the inability to raise adequate resources. Local governments typically finance public services through property tax, which can provide a stable and sustainable source of revenue by linking taxes paid to services provided at the local level. Understanding how to optimally link property tax to urban service provision is a critical question in sustainable real estate development.

    In many countries, the social compact, whereby citizens agree to pay property tax to fund government services that are then credibly and transparently delivered, is broken. A low willingness to pay taxes leads to low revenue collection and prevents adequate service provision, which in turn reduces willingness to pay and even leads to citizen disengagement from the state.

    In this project, we will implement a randomized controlled trial to investigate whether strengthening the link between local property tax collection and urban services can increase citizens’ willingness to pay for services and improve service delivery. We intend to test this in major urban centers in Punjab, Pakistan via several interventions –including eliciting citizen preferences for specific services when property taxes are collected and earmarking revenue for specific services – that credibly strengthen the link between property tax collection and urban service provision. In addition to alleviating public finance challenges, outcomes will also address citizen demand, collective action, and broader political economy constraints. We will use administrative data to measure the impact on property tax revenue, and survey data to measure service quality (both actual and perceived), willingness to pay taxes, general perceptions of the state and secondary outcomes such as real estate prices. The goal is to reduce evasion of local property taxes, increase the quality of local urban services, make local urban services more responsive to local needs – and ultimately help repair the social compact between the citizenry and the state.

    This project will contribute to STL’s mission of implementing sustainable and responsible real estate development by providing insights on urban service provision and property tax in a rapidly urbanizing country. While we plan to examine these issues in the context of Pakistan, similar concerns are relevant in many countries. In particular, evidence on the optimal design of property tax systems to resolve the public finance challenges faced in enabling better provision of urban services is critical for countries such as China, which are considering the introduction of property tax in the near future. The findings from our evaluation will provide novel and rigorous evidence on this issue and will have important policy implications for sustainable real estate development in urbanizing countries.

  • PI: Balakrishnan Rajagopal (Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT)


    This proposal relates to ‘land and property rights’ and ‘sustainable urbanization’ in the RFP. Each year, millions of urban, peri-urban and rural residents lose access to land through ‘takings’. Governments have always asserted their power to expropriate or ‘take’ land owned or occupied by their citizens, provided that they don’t render them worse off. Typically, this is sought to be done through a “fair” process of land acquisition, as well as a “fair” compensation for the losses resulting from the ‘taking’. Other actors such as land lords or developers are also often enabled through laws and policies to displace residents, which constitute a form of land and housing dispossession although not ‘taking’ in strict legal sense. At the heart of these land dispossessions is the question of what constitutes fair compensation or assistance. Most land takings lead to disputes, with a serious impact on public order, and resistance from those whose lands and houses are taken. In this project, we propose to analyze the legal and policy frameworks that govern property in land in a select number of countries, from both global North and South, and specifically examine the compensation and assistance frameworks that are used. The main purpose of this project is to understand the legal and policy frameworks used by different actors – private developers, governments, and land users, owners/occupiers – to estimate what constitutes fair compensation and assistance in a context of hyper urbanization and commodification of land. To do this, we will analyze 5 selected countries (US, India, Brazil, Colombia, South Africa), which have been dentified by our research group, the Displacement Research and Action Network (DRAN). The purpose is to examine how far the laws, policies and practices of these countries measure up against global standards and tools that are available, such as the Eviction Impact Assessment Tool1, and the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-Induced Displacement, for estimating losses from land takings and displacement. A comparison of the different countries may yield useful lessons for other countries such as China, by showing how different models of land governance may lead to different outcomes.

  • PI: Lawrence Susskind  (Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT) 


    Many real estate developers, in various parts of the world, underestimate the likely social and environmental impacts of the large-scale mixed-use projects they seek to build (especially in coastal areas). Their failure to forecast these impacts correctly often leads to missed value-creating opportunities. By studying one of the world’s largest mixed-use coastal development projects, undertaken by a Chinese real estate developer operating outside of China, we seek to document the difficulties involved in applying environmental (EIA) and social impact assessment (SIA) methods along with ways of overcoming them. More specifically, we will analyze the costs to Country Gardens Holdings Ltd. of failing to undertake adequate social and environmental impact assessments when they began their 30-year, 3,400-acre construction project on four man-made islands off the coast of Johor, Malaysia, directly opposite Singapore. We will use our findings to show how developers, operating outside their own countries, can use EIA and SIA to define the goals of socially-responsible real estate development. While there are many books, reports and articles about EIA and SIA methods, few if any document the actual cost and benefits of not using these methods effectively. The project will be undertaken by the MIT Science Impact Collaborative in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning.


  • PI: Jinhua Zhao (Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT)


    Among the most powerful forces shaping China’s urban transition is a new High-Speed Rail (HSR) network, an ongoing investment project that dramatically improves inter-urban accessibility. HSR will spur the creation of multinucleated urban mega regions.

    Although project-level studies of HSR have been conducted to justify investment costs, no integrated spatial and economic studies of HSR have analyzed the network’s local, regional, and country-level impacts on population distribution, economic activities, and land use and price. This has left key questions about the HSR-influenced urban development process unanswered. What are the nature, magnitude, and spatial distribution of HSR’s wider economic impacts? Are these benefits generative, redistributive, or both? What is the direction of redistribution: convergent, distributing resources more equally to all cities, or divergent, distributing resources more towards existing growth poles? To what degree does HSR stimulate urban land development, and how does this affect the real estate market? This project addresses these knowledge gaps with a three-part investigation of HSR’s new patterns of accessibility, its wider economic benefits, and its effects on land and real estate development. Case studies of HSR corridors will be used to compare these effects in cities that vary by size, economic structure, and HSR connectivity. 

  • PI: Marta C. Gonzalez (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, MIT) 


    The increasingly unaffordable housing prices, sprawled urban growth patterns to chase lower-priced land for urban development, and their ripple effects including motorization, traffic congestion, air pollution and energy consumption increase have become major urban challenges in megacities in China. We propose to use Beijing, the capital city of China, as a case study, to address and disentangle these issues. Economical and Comfortable Housing (ECH) projects as well as price-controlled commodity housing have been the two major types of affordable housing in Beijing over the past fifteen years. In order to control housing price affordability, starting from 2014, the local government committed to have at least 40% of the newly supplied residential land for affordable housing projects, while the rest for commodity housing (of which 50% is dedicated to price-controlled housing projects)1. Given the great commitment of building more affordable housing projects in the future, we argue that the impacts of their location (e.g., on traffic demand and its negative consequences) will be significant, as the impacts of the ECH projects in the past.

  • PI: Arindam Dutta (Department of Architecture, MIT)


    The proposed research below is based upon breaking the dogma that highest and best land value is also the most productive. The overarching reliance of elites and governments in developing countries on “Western urban land economics” that privilege highest-bidders on a rent-gradient from urban center to urban periphery has paradoxically created economically uneven urban landscapes in Asia and the developing world. SOE-driven megaproject developments in urban cores and Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in ex-urban locations stem from investment criteria that privilege large investments, whose inflexibility towards incremental changes of use and adaptability may pose inherent barriers for the key sectors where long-term economic resilience in the developing world may be located: new (small) entrepreneurial entrants and SMEs. One measure of productivity ignored by “land economics-type” monetary measurement is the incubation function and positive externalities that cities as such have historically provided, positives that have been one of the core arguments for cities themselves as “engines of economies.” In order to better understand these potential barriers, it is important to model correlations between “place-based” externalities (labor surpluses, co-location, interfirm linkages) created in areas where there is a high concentration of SMEs and the measurable benefits conferred by location and better infrastructure. I would argue that conventional real estate paradigms tend to narrow the range of viable enterprise and SMEs, whose collective “noise” is crucial to economic resilience for the majority of economic actors. Studying these correlations would necessarily involves the study of “informal” or “extra- legal” transactions, both in respect to real estate as well as the other forms of economic activity housed within it; in countries such as India or China, for instance, greater formal transparency and legal enforcement is not necessarily a stimulus for the biggest and smallest economic actors (or, for that matter, the state). My project therefore aims to look at the potential for sub-state collaboration amongst a large diversity of economic actors, and the feasibility that such might pose for urban improvements that benefit SMEs and new economic entrants. The prospect is to think about new, para-legal, forms of economic composition within real estate arrangements as well as infrastructural upgradations that are responsive to smaller, incremental “bottom-up” demands that are supportive of place-based externalities, and are therefore inherently better posed to aid higher productivity. In order to do this, I propose to study old, presumptively “problematic,” inner-city business districts in three Indian cities in comparison to the new megaproject business districts that have been deemed their “solution,” as presenting the occasion to examine backward-forward linkages in entrepreneurial and real estate behavior over the last twenty years or so. Using a mix of digital mapping, anthropological, and litigation records of business and property disputes, I hope to arrive at real propositions for para-legal collaborations towards better infrastructural amenities, as well as design/development propositions that answer best to the incremental demands posed by high concentration of SMEs and new, small, economic entrants.

  • PIs:
    Brent D. Ryan (Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT)
    Fadi Masoud (Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT) 

    The process of coastal land reclamation is heavily associated with real estate development and the protection of agricultural land in China .  In 2010 alone, China reclaimed 135 km2 of land resulting in earnings of more than 7.82 billion yuan (US$1.27 Billion). While the value of coastal real-estate has long been established, an increasingly evident and underplayed link between the costs associated with artifically reclaiming land, housing affordability, ecological consequences, increased vulnerability, and the resulting inflexible forms of urbanization is beginning to emerge. 

    This research project looks at the process of land reclamation as an untapped lens for evaluating and developing adaptive forms of coastal urbanization. The first phase of the project includes the development of a case-study “atlas” of real-estate developments built on reclaimed land in China.  The visual atlas combines a series of parameters that include environmental, typological, technological, social, and economic factors to form a research-based quantitative analysis of development on reclaimed land. Concurrently, the project is prototyping new responsive and dynamic terrain models for future real-estate developments on artificially constructed coastal lands. We aim to leverage the vulnerability and failures facing existing coastal developments as an occasion to design and propose novel, resilient, adaptive, and profitable real-estate developments on new forms of dynamic and flexible reclaimed land in China and beyond.

  • PI: Lawrence J. Vale (Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT)


    Chinese cities face both critical shortages of affordable housing and significant vulnerability to the growing effects of climate change. To be sustainable, real estate development needs to consider these factors together. This one-year pilot project, working with Chinese colleagues in the Pearl River Delta, seeks to develop a preliminary framework for understanding that intersection in the context of urban village redevelopment. This initial scope of work, which starts with a focus on Shenzhen, entails 1) assessing the state of knowledge about the level of risk and vulnerability of urban villages to climate change-exacerbated natural hazards, 2) ascertaining the gaps in available data, and 3) identifying promising examples of urban village redevelopment strategies that deserve more detailed follow-on study.

    We pose several interrelated questions: What has previous research revealed about the level of vulnerability of urban villages? Are there existing examples of urban village redevelopment that have made notable strides in achieving enhanced environmental protection in vulnerable areas? If so, to what extent have such places been able to remain a source of affordable housing? Do these redeveloped urban villages support access to economic livelihood, enhancement of personal security (including security of tenure) and capacity for well-governed communities?

  • PIs: David Geltner (Center for Real Estate, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT)
           Richard de Neufville (Institute for Data, Systems and Society, School of Engineering, MIT)


    This project extends current research exploring the dynamics of real estate development. It brings new perspective to the issue by using engineering systems and management tools such as systems dynamics simulation (SD).

    It focuses on China. Recognizing that its real estate development involves substantial unique forms of governmental intervention, SD provides a more flexible tool to analyze the stock flow of housing than classical microeconomic models. Being intuitive, it also offers pedagogical opportunities.

    The project combines academic research and course development. The research models interactions between the supply and use of real estate for urban housing. It explores potential dynamics that lead to unsustainable conditions. It seeks to identify specific factors that promote vicious cycles (bubbles), and thus to explore countermeasures that might promote more sustainable development.

    The educational effort implements computer-based ‘games’ to illustrate the range of possible effects (as motivational cautionary tales), and display real estate dynamics graphically. We would use them to explore these dynamics with practicing professionals. We anticipate disseminating results through academic presentations and educational activities in person and through MITx opportunities the STL Lab will develop.

    The project team features long-standing US and Chinese collaborators spanning real estate economics, urbanization, and civil engineering.

  • PI: P. Christopher Zegras (Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT)


    How might public transportation investments be leveraged to create more sustainable urban development patterns in China? This project aims to answer this question, taking a supply side perspective, analyzing theoretically, physically, institutionally and financially how transit-oriented development (TOD) might be expanded across the Chinese urban landscape.

    The project aims to accelerate the development of a viable TOD landscape in China through a research collaboration between MIT’s DUSP and the China Sustainable Transportation Center (CSTC), with four inter-related tasks:

            (1) theoretically grounding TOD in terms of the public and private costs and benefits and their incidence;

            (2) developing a broad-brush inventory of China’s TOD landscape and providing detailed depictions of a select number of potential TOD sites;

            (3) identifying public and private sector challenges and barriers to TOD, based on document and regulation review and semi-structured interviews with officials, real estate developers, and others; and

            (4) demonstrating the economic and social justification for TOD using specific case examples, analyzing their financial potential and distilling implications for developing TOD in China.

    The project combines transportation engineering, transportation planning, urban planning, urban design, and real estate and will produce products of theoretical, pedagogical and practical value for improving integrated urban development in China.

  • PI: Robert M. Townsend (Department of Economics, MIT)


    We propose to study the real estate sector in China, as integrated with the financial sector. As a first step, we plan to utilize Chinese real estate, finance and economic data to build a data archive and visualization tool.  Then with the help of this tool, we will run analyses to explore factors that fundamentally drove the housing prices in China in the last decade.

    We will obtain access to various data sets, incorporate them into an archive, develop a roadmap of linkages among the datasets, and then build a visualization tool—a GIS website for Chinese indicators. This comprehensive geo-referenced data archive will greatly ease the incorporation and integration of data from different sectors and different regions and be capable of displaying spatial-temporal patterns conveniently.

    The data analysis specifically tries to answer the question of whether the recent rapidly increasing housing prices in China resulted from the residence demands of households, or their inability to achieve high returns to savings in the financial market. Employing multiple analytical approaches including discrete choice models, and with comprehensive indicators from real estate, finance and demographics, we will quantify the contribution of supply-side and demand-side factors to the Chinese housing prices changes.

  • PI: Adele Naude Santos (Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT)


    China’s extraordinary economic boom has gone hand-in-hand with an unprecedented scale of urbanization that has strained infrastructure, ecology, housing conditions, health, and other important components of Chinese cities. As of March 2014, China’s leadership has outlined a new form of urbanization that calls for a balance between the development of small cities, small towns, and new rural communities, with a focus on urban-rural coordination. This requires a new model for intensive, yet economical and environmentally sensitive, development in the urban-rural fringes. MIT researchers are collaborating closely with faculty from Nanjing’s Southeast University to design and develop pilot projects in the urban-rural fringe of Jiangsu Province that seek to support common prosperity and stability alongside sustainability and livability. The research process will move from historic and geographical contextualization to case studies, concept development, and ultimately implementation. Project outcomes include a combination of research and design documentation: case studies documenting a range of approaches to urban-rural fringe development across the globe, a series of alternative models for urban-rural fringe development documented in a highly- visual report, and a conceptual master plan that applies the new development principles to a specific site in Jiangsu Province. 

  • PIs: Albert Saiz (Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Center for Real Estate, MIT)
           Thies Lindenthal (Department of Land Economy, Cambridge University)
           Siqi Zheng (Department of Construction Management, Tsinghua University)


    The dynamics of housing supply in urban China are not yet entirely well understood, including the timing of land development, the quantitative and price responses to increased land allocations from local governments, and the vertical strategies of developers and local governments. Our research team will examine both horizontal (land) and vertical (FAR) aspects of housing supply in urban China. First, we will collect successive 5-year plans at the national, provincial, and city levels to document and codify all the land allocations to provincial governments, noting how the provincial governments “pass” land allocations to municipal governments. We will then combine this land allocation data with data on housing prices and construction costs. Later in the project, we will track China's rapid urbanization using remotely sensed data released by an ongoing European space mission, deriving a measure of urbanization intensity by not only registering the extent of surface area dedicated to urban uses but also the volume of developed space and estimates of the development intensity for a large and representative sample of Chinese cities. Bringing together these data sources will allow us to better understand how the supply of land and built space respond to market demand pressures and government policies.

  • PI: Valerie Karplus (Sloan School of Management, MIT)


    This project is focused on understanding the drivers of energy-intensive industrial development in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei mega-region of China over the past 15 years. We study the characteristics of entering and exiting firms within three energy-intensive sectors--electric power, iron and steel, cement, and chemicals--in Beijing, Tianjin, and several urban centers in Hebei Province. We exploit heterogeneity in the nature and stringency of environmental policy to study the role of environmental controls alongside other location-specific attributes, such as per-capita income, in firm entry and exit decisions. Insights from this body of work will shed light on the timing, nature, and drivers of industrial transitions we might expect in cities across China and around the world.

  • PIs: Lily L. Tsai (Department of Political Science, MIT)
           Xiaobo Lü (University of Texas, Austin)


    Property tax is one of the most critical factors in real estate development and sustainable urbanization around the world, yet we have little understanding on the political and economic consequences of property tax in developing countries, especially in China. In recent years the Chinese government has made various indications that it plans to introduce property taxes in the near future. In anticipation, both policymakers and scholars have engaged in heated debates as collecting property tax is uncharted territory in contemporary China since 1949. Our project sheds light on these debates by using innovative survey and lab experiments in the field to understand the attitudes and behavior of ordinary citizens in response to the potential implementation of property tax, thus providing much needed micro-foundations to illuminate the implications of various tax collection schemes. More importantly, we take an interdisciplinary approach by incorporating existing theories in political science, economics, and psychology to understand the behavioral consequences of property tax among Chinese citizens. We aim to contribute to our understanding of the relationship between fiscal capacity and state- society relations, which is key to sustainable real estate development. We believe this project will generate a wide-range of scholarly and policy implications to other developing countries facing rapid urbanization.

  • PI: Sarah Williams (Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT)


    Many cities have been represented through a filter of governmental data. While some local governments have made conscious efforts to make this data more publicly available, data access remains a challenge in many parts of the world. In countries such as China this data is often hard to obtain, or is aggregated into larger spatial representations which obscure the detail of the city and the people who live within it. The internet has in many ways revolutionized how urban data is both gathered and generated. Public opinion pages, online real estate sites, and similar Web 2.0 based websites generate a tremendous amount of data at a much finer level of detail than traditional sources. Similarly, Social Media sites have created the ability to describe the modern city through voice of its people and create an alternative publicly generated data set.

    This proposal seeks to establish if we can mine social media applications in China to identify land use and activity patterns that help to further understand the economic landscape of the city. We seek to answer the question in two parts: 1) We will mine existing social media sites in China by scraping user data through their API’s and perform spatial analysis on the sites to determine land use and flow. 2) We will develop a geo­locative cell phone­based crowd sourcing civic engagement application that asks users to provide user input on what they value in the city. The results of both projects will generate a data set about the value, land use, and dynamics of the city where previous data did not exist giving real estate investors the added information they need to understand the Chinese City.