Nikolay Ratajczak, a senior in the University of Baltimore's Merrick School of Business undergraduate program in real estate and economic development, received a second place finish for his work in a national competition for undergraduate statistics projects. Ratajczak's project, entitled "Vacant Opportunities," analyzed data provided by the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute (BNIA-JFI), a UB-affiliated organization that produces the highly influential Vital Signs reporting series, which presents a comprehensive statistical portrait of Baltimore and its neighborhoods. Ratajczak's report received accolades from the Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Statistics Education, in its 2013 Undergraduate Statistics Class Project Competition.
"Vacant Opportunities" examined the median sales prices for homes in various areas of Baltimore, and considered whether the housing vacancy rate in some city neighborhoods is having an adverse effect on sales prices there. It focused on three neighborhoods—Greater Charles Village, Greenmount East, and Upton/Druid Heights—that did not experience growth, even though they are located adjacent to Midtown, a neighborhood where economic and population growth did occur during the same period.
"There are over 15,000 vacant and abandoned residential properties in Baltimore City," Ratajczak wrote in his introduction to the study. "These properties are a major problem, economic drain, and impediment to urban population growth, yet they also represent an opportunity. The idea is to revitalize and repopulate Baltimore … by rehabilitating and developing vacant properties to help families rediscover this hidden gem."
By comparing adjacent neighborhoods and their respective rates of vacancy and occupancy, plus the median sales prices, Ratajczak concluded that urban revitalization can hinge on making vacant properties attractive to renters, investors, developers and so on.
"As a result of my experience, I learned about real life applications of statistical analysis, particularly in my chosen, future career of real estate financial analysis and development," Ratajczak said. "In fact, my research is serving as a complement to my work in other classes and to building a foundation for an actual, proposed real estate development project."
Ratajczak's work is an outcome of an ongoing effort to encourage UB and area faculty to employ BNIA-JFI's Vital Signs data in the classroom as a resource and as the basis for more community-based educational opportunities for students. The University of Baltimore Foundation Fund for Excellence supported this effort. Ratajczak's class, led by Gisela Bardossy, assistant professor in the Department of Information Systems and Decision Science, was encouraged by Bardossy to participate in the competition and was instrumental in helping him conceptualize and organize his statistical analysis. Seema Iyer, associate director of the Jacob France Institute, also assisted Ratajczak.
Ratajczak used standard statistical models and tools in preparing the work. In May, he submitted the report to a panel of judges from the consortium. His award includes a $250 cash prize.
Learn more about Vital Signs and other BNIA-JFI initiatives.