For more than 25 years we have provided exceptional services to help clients achieve their goals.  We offer rigorous analyses of complex problems in order to optimize the use of limited resources, and to understand tradeoffs arising from the choice of alternative paths.  

We Specialize in Comprehensively Estimating Costs, Benefits, Values and Impacts of Projects, Properties and Policies.

We are known for estimating the economic and financial impacts of environmental hazards and real estate projects and provide numerous related services. 

We bring a wide range of state-of-the-art tools to bear upon the issues so that we can help you prioritize solutions and determine strategies that best suit your needs.  

We collaborate with clients, and other experts and stakeholders to move projects and policies forward.

To find out more about our services, previous work, approaches, people and more click the links to the left email us at info@costbenefitgroup.com or call us at 646-705-0664.

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Ken Acks Presents "A Web-Based Land Use Benefit Cost Optimization Tool" at 2018 Annual Conference of the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis in Washington DC

Kenneth Acks, presented "A Web-Based Land Use Benefit Cost Optimization Tool" at the Tenth Annual Conference and Meeting of the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis on March 17, 2018.  The talk discussed a superior way to optimize the use and density of scarce land, presenting software under development that can help communities, governments, real estate developers, and others improve decision making.  Current zoning regulations and other  restrictions can result in high housing costs, lower mobility, inequality, delays, sprawl and unjust dispersion of pollution and other undesirable side effects of human activity.

The Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis (SBCA) is an international group of practitioners, academics and others who are working to improve the theory and application of the tools of benefit-cost analysis. The conference featured experts from around the world, including researchers from Harvard, Cornell and Duke Universities; the Universities of Chicago, Pennsylvania, and California Berkeley; representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO); Resources for the Future; and speakers from Germany, the Netherlands, France, the UK, Spain, Italy, India, Australia, Chile, Iran, Sudan, Uruguay, Cote d'Ivoire and Canada

The abstract follows:

Currently, zoning and political power dictate land uses and density. This often results in suboptimal outcomes. Negative effects possibly include high housing costs arising from reduced supply and burdensome expenses, lower mobility, inequality, delays, inferior resilience to natural disasters, sprawl, pollution, and unjust dispersion of negative externalities. 

Zoning regulations can play a major role in where and how we live and work, and in the strength of economies. They can determine the size of our homes, what they look like, and where they can be located. Current land use regulations often are too static and difficult to change - many industrial and agricultural parcels are better suited to be improved with more dense residential structures, but can only be developed to their “highest and best use” with great difficulty. Most parcels within a particular zone may be well suited to the restriction placed upon uses in a zone, but some parcels may not be and thus remain vacant or used suboptimally. Zoning maps often force the same restrictions upon a large number of contiguous parcels with differing comparative advantages. Liberals, notably Jason Furman (2015), Orzag and Furman (2015) and Joseph Stiglitz (2015) and conservatives, including the Cato Institute, David Brooks (2017) and Edward Glaeser (2002, 2006 ...) alike have criticized these regulations. 

This paper will discuss the magnitudes of the welfare costs generated by flaws in current land use regulations, and then present a web-based model designed to begin providing superior alternatives by utilizing the tools of benefit-cost analysis. Advances in BCA and a plethora of new geo-locational data sources facilitated model development. 

The model compares the benefits and costs of eight alternative uses in four medium density urban/suburban locations. Four 60,000 square foot (SF) sites with 30,000 SF building footprints are analyzed for development with (1) 24 2-story 2,500 SF single family homes, (2) 20 3-story 4,500 SF 2-family homes, (3) a 10-story 250 unit apartment building containing 300,000 SF, (4) a 1-story neighborhood retail shopping center containing 30,000 SF, (5) 10-story 300,000 SF office building (6) a 10-story 300,000 SF mixed-use retail/office/apartment building, (7) a 1-story industrial building containing 30,000 SF and (8) a 50,000 SF park with several recreational options. 

Benefits are represented by estimated rents, revenues, consumer surpluses and shadow benefits generated. Costs include construction and other development costs and negative externalities. Benefits and costs are affected by neighboring uses and the proposed project. Environmental impacts of land use can include habitat loss, reduction in biodiversity, flooding reduced water quality from proliferation of impervious surfaces, air pollution from heating, cooling, increased driving, and congestion. The environmental impacts can result in health impacts including reduced life expectancy, respiratory infections, ...  In addition, health effects arising from increased driving attendant to sprawl include respiratory diseases and cancers, traffic fatalities, and obesity which increases disease risks. The algorithm maximizes the total value derived from a parcel, which is primarily represented by private value and accrues to the owners and users (possibly renters), but also is a function of how it influences surrounding parcels and people (social value). We find existing processes often don't maximize value.

Mr. Acks has also been selected as a discussant in the “Disastrous CBA” Session from 9:00 AM - 10:30 earlier that day featuring how cost-benefit analyses can be used to mitigate disasters.

The conference, was held at George Washington University; Washington, D.C. 20052 from March 14th through March 16th  2018.  More information about the conference is available at https://benefitcostanalysis.org/2018-annual-conference.  The slides are at:

This was the seventh time Mr. Acks was invited to make a presentation or chair a session at this prestigious conference. In the past Mr. Acks presented “Economic Rents and Cost-Benefit Analysis-Issues Metrics and Application to Health and Energy Policy”, "The Costs and Benefits of Recycling in New York City"; “A Dynamic Analysis of the Costs and Benefits of a Smart Growth/Sprawl Reduction Program in 1988, 2008 and 2013" https://benefitcostanalysis.org/events/2014-conference/agenda, “The Costs and Benefits of 1,000 Green Roofs in New York City” http://benefitcostanalysis.org/events/2011-conference-agenda and “The Costs and Benefits of a Green Mixed-Use Brownfield Redevelopment Project in NY”http://evans.uw.edu/sites/default/files/public/FINAL_Panel-Summary.pdf at conferences of the Society for Benefit Cost Analysis from 2008 through 2014.


Kenneth Acks to Present "Economic Rents and Cost-Benefit Analysis - Issues Metrics and Application to Health and Energy Policy" at 2017 Annual Conference of the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis in Washington DC

Kenneth Acks, CEO of the Cost-Benefit Group, LLC www.costbenefitgroup.com will present a paper on "Economic Rents and Cost-Benefit Analysis - Issues Metrics and Application to Health and Energy Policy" at the Ninth Annual Conference and Meeting of the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis.

The conference, entitled "Improving the Theory and Practice of Benefit-Cost Analysis" will be held at the The Marvin Center at the George Washington University; 800 21st St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20052 from Wednesday March 15th through Friday March 17th, 2016.

The Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis (SBCA) is an international group of practitioners, academics and others who are working to improve the theory and application of the tools of benefit-cost analysis. The conference features experts from around the world, and last year  included Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D) of North Dakota and Senator James Lankford (R) of Oklahom and researchers from Harvard, Stanford, Princeton and Columbia Universities; the Universities of Chicago, and California Berkeley; the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the International Trade Commission (ITC); Resources for the Future; and from Austria, Canada, Croatia, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Registration and general conference information is available at https://benefitcostanalysis.org/2017-annual-conference

The abstract follows:
Liberals and conservatives agree that the use of government power by special interests often produces suboptimal outcomes, market distortions, unfairness and inequality.  Much of the influence results in the generation of economic rents.  Economic rent is any payment to a factor of production in excess of the cost needed to bring that factor into production. In classical economics, economic rent is any payment made or benefit received for non-produced inputs such as location (land) and for assets formed by creating official privilege over natural opportunities (e.g., patents). In neoclassical economics rent also includes income gained by beneficiaries of other contrived exclusivity, such as corruption.  Liberals often attribute rents to natural market dynamics whereas conservatives point to government policies. 
Rents have been of interest to economists from Adam Smith, who noted that “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”  Anne Kruger coined the term in 1974.  Mancur Olsen (in The Logic of Collective Action), Gordon Tullock and other politico-economists revived and modernized the discussion.  Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz recently emphasized the importance of rents.  In “A Firm-Level Perspective on the Role of Rents in the Rise in Inequality” (2015) Jason Furman Chair of the CEA and Peter Orzag  use firm-level data to argue that there has been a trend of increased dispersion of returns to capital across firms, with an increasingly large fraction of firms getting returns over 10-30% annually ...
This paper will discuss how the generation of rents can affect Benefit-Cost Analysis in general, and with respect to the energy, health care and finance industries. The "Theory of the Second Best" will also be applied and discussed.
This will be the sixth time Mr. Acks has invited to make a presentation or chair a session at this prestigious conference. In the past Mr. Acks presented "The Costs and Benefits of Recycling in New York City"; “A Dynamic Analysis of the Costs and Benefits of a Smart Growth/Sprawl Reduction Program in 1988, 2008 and 2013" https://benefitcostanalysis.org/events/2014-conference/agenda, “The Costs and Benefits of 1,000 Green Roofs in New York City” http://benefitcostanalysis.org/events/2011-conference-agenda and “The Costs and Benefits of a Green Mixed-Use Brownfield Redevelopment Project in NY” http://tinyurl.com/z4dk4ag at conferences of the Society for Benefit Cost Analysis from 2008 through 2014. He also chaired two sessions for the Society, and has given presentations on “The Social Cost of Carbon” before the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Environment Committee http://www.manhattancc.org/events/eventdetail.aspx?EventID=653; “The Economic Impact of Environmental Liabilities on Real Estate Values” before The Auditing Roundtable; "A Framework for Analyzing the Costs and Benefits of Green Roofs: Second Stage Results” at a conference of the United States Society for Ecological Economics (USSEE)2007 http://www.ussee.org/PDFs/Program_Book_June_21_2007.pdf and “Environmental Values” at a Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs colloquium; and given guest lectures at Columbia University, Pratt Institute and Brooklyn College. The talks have drawn upon Mr. Acks' 35 years of expertise as a consultant in Environmental Economics and Real Estate Valuation during during which time he has produced studies of more than 950 projects worth over $4.5 billion in 140 counties and 28 states. Mr. Acks also edits Environmental Valuation and Cost-Benefit News www.envirovaluation.org.


Summaries of Some 2016 Projects

January 4, 2017

The Cost-Benefit Group obtained and completed a variety of complex and challenging assignments in 2016. We cannot disclose some of our work at this time and have eliminated details of other projects due to confidentiality agreements. We may be able to provide additional details upon request. The work for these projects included valuations, feasibility studies, forecasts and/or analyses of real estate markets, local economies, neighborhoods, zoning, taxes, and real estate sales and rental activity.

Projects include:
  • Impacts of maufactured gas site in Westchester, NY
  • Asphalt Plant - Suffolk County, NY
  • Homes near industrial site in Alabama
  • Vacant Land - New Hyde Park and West Hemsptead, NY
  • Impacts of hazardous waste site in Niagara County, New York
  • Office buildings in Albertson, Cedarhurst, East Setauket, Hempstead, Hicksville, Huntington, North Babylon and Ronkonkoma, NY
  • Retail buildings in Cedarhurst, Elmont, Riverhead, Roslyn, Southold, and Westbury, NY
  • Mixed use retail/apartment buildings in Huntington, Inwood and Valley Stream, NY
  • Sports Complex - Indoor Soccer/basketball - Smithtown, NY
  • Apartment Complex - Valley Stream, NY
  • Industrial Building - New Hyde Park, NY
  • Rental analysis for mixed use project with affortable housing in Rockaway Park, NY

Ken Acks Delivers Guest Lecture at Pratt Institute

September 20, 2016

On September 19, 2016 Ken Acks  delivered his third guest lecture on Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) at the Pratt Institute Graduate School of Architecture. 

Pratt is ranked among the top design schools by BusinessWeek, with many programs ranked among the top ten and five in the country. Pratt was recently ranked number one for fine arts and studio programs by USA Today.  Comprising five schools, the Institute is primarily known for its highly ranked programs in architecture, interior design, and industrial design.  U.S. News & World Report lists Pratt as one of the top 20 colleges in the Regional Universities North category. Princeton Review recognizes Pratt as being one of the best colleges in the northeast, making it among the top 25% of all four-year colleges and universities in the United States.

The lecture and discussion provided a brief overview of cost benefit analysis -- what it is, how it is conducted and key issues.  The talk focused on examples, in particular Mr. Acks discussed a cost-benefit analysis of green roofs he conducted along with researchers at Columbia University and other institutions.  He also briefly discussed his work on Costs and Benefits of Waste Disposal in New York City.

Mr. Acks also talked about career options and what led to his interest in CBA.  Mr. Acks was impressed by the students who included many experienced professionals.