Tag: Housing

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Aligning Economic Incentives to Create REAL Smart Growth

Past and Future Road Signs

By Rick Rybeck, Director, Just Economics

If smart growth is so smart, how come there’s so much dumb growth? 

Economic incentives for sprawl are partly to blame. If we understand the economic incentives for sprawl, the remedies become clear. Properly applied, these remedies can create jobs, enhance housing affordability and reduce tax burdens.


Homeless for the Holidays

Most Americans will enjoy Thanksgiving dinner in the comfort of their own home. But for more than 1.17 million children, that won't be possible because they have no home, according to the U.S. Department of Education (DE).

That count is from the 2011-2012 school year, and reflects a 10 percent increase from the 2010‐2011 school year total of 1,065,794. The states with the largest numbers of homeless students were California, New York. Texas, and Florida.

"The DE figures are a shocking reminder of the intense shortage of decent affordable housing in our country, and the consequences it has for our children," said Andre Shashaty, president of Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a national nonprofit education and advocacy group. Shashaty is also the author of the forthcoming book, Death of a Dream: The end of 50 years of progress for cities and the rise of the new American slum.

The actual total number of homeless children is probably closer to 1.7 million, Shashaty said. This is an estimate that is based on adding to DE figures kids who are homeless but not of school age or who are not enrolled in public schools.

Authored by Andre Shashaty.


Youngstown: A Shrinking City with Big Ideas

Photo from Model D Media

The city of Youngstown, Ohio has learned to embrace its shrinking population by downsizing its infrastructure.  The Youngstown 2010 Plan, originally created in 2005 as a joint vision between the City of Youngstown and Youngstown State University, calls for sweeping changes in the city’s land use.  Since the plan was implemented, the crime rate has fallen and businesses are once again starting to invest in Youngstown.  There is still much improvement to be made in Youngstown, but this plan could serve as a model for other larger Rust Belt cities.


Take a Second Look at Detroit

Photo from Buzz Feed

The City of Detroit has been in the news lately, mostly in ways that make it seem like the city is beleaguered with one problem after another.  A new emergency manager has been appointed who recently published a report of the City’s finances that makes the prospect of looming bankruptcy seem even greater. Then there are the ongoing issues of rising crime, declining population rolls, and failing city services. Yet, in spite of what you hear and read trumpeted daily, there are many individuals and organizations working quietly and tirelessly in local neighborhoods to improve life for residents and/or children. They realize the challenges to their beloved city, yet they continue to strive to make it better. This type of passion and commitment is what keeps hundreds of thousands of people living in Detroit. This is why people, young and old, continue to move into the city, hopeful that better days still are ahead. Along with support from political leaders, the business community and philanthropic community, these local champions are the ones that keep the city viable. In their honor, we invite you to take a second look at Detroit.


Promoting Community Development through Visual Arts: Skid Row Los Angeles

Photo from Los Angeles Poverty Department

The visual arts have a profound effect on the cultural vitality of impoverished communities.  In particular, artistic and cultural activity creates an emotional outlet for Skid Row community members, translating into a greater sense of empowerment for the community at large.  For ten years the Los Angeles Poverty Department has incorporated visual arts through arts-based engagement within the Skid Row community.  Recently, the Los Angeles Poverty Department partnered with the REEL Recovery Film Festival to launch Biggest Recovery Community Anywhere, a 3-day festival including performance, film, discussion, and fellowship.


Balancing the New Old American City

The focus of city revitalization efforts and policy prescription as of late has increasingly been focused on young professionals— in order to cultivate creative talent and innovation. Cities and municipalities have funneled money into amenities generally associated to the needs of this population, hoping to attract and retain these young people. Though this is generally deemed a vital step in creating a vibrant, economically feasible city, the effect of the transient nature of this group on the stability of the neighborhoods has historically been considered negative. The most common argument points out that homeowners have an incentive to invest in their community—primarily due to permanence and the overall neighborhood’s effect on property values.


Celebrating a Year’s Work in Akron’s University Park

University Park Alliance recently celebrated their one year anniversary of integrating University of Akron with the downtown community surrounding it. The celebration hosted Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup polling organization and author of The Coming Jobs War, who discussed his prediction that cities, universities, and local leaders will need to work together to achieve the next economic breakthrough. An Akron Beacon Journal article details early studies conducted in Akron show a direct yearly total impact of $2.5 billion within the area by the major institutions in the redevelopment area. Henry Cisneros, former Secretary of HUD and current member of CEOs for Cities Board of Directors, “cited Akron and UPA's efforts as an example of building on a university and city's strenghts.”


Why City Living Actually Costs Less

New geo-coded data from the Center for Neighborhood Technology on housing and transportation costs further affirms that living in dense, livable communities is economical.  According to an article on Atlantic Cities, from 2000-2009, housing and transportation costs increased at nearly twice the rate of incomes for the average American. Yet, for those in housing efficient locations, transportation costs only increased by half. Additionally, the data shows that when including transportation in the analysis of affordable housing, the percentage of neighborhoods considered “affordable” drops from 76 percent to 28 percent. When considering this data, which has far reaching policy implications, more expensive housing in city centers may actually be the more affordable option.


Housing Booms in Urban Cores

CEOs for Cities' Young and Restless, a body of research on the migration trends of the young, college-educated population, shows 24-35 year olds flocking to cities. The number of young adults living in close-in neighborhoods increased by 26 percent since 2000. Thus, it is no surprise that cities are seeing a resurgence of new residential construction that far outpaces that of the suburbs. New apartment communities are booming in high-density neighborhoods near the city core of many major US cities.


According to an article in The Seattle Times, the city of Seattle is home to 85 percent of the current apartment construction and 90 percent of apartment construction in the pipeline for the entire region. This building boom, the largest upswing since 1991, demonstrates that "developers, for the most part, are bypassing the suburbs."


Seattle is not alone. In DC, according…


What Does Community Really Mean?

James Chung of Reach Advisors had a big message for the Pacific Coast Builders Conference today:  There is a serious mismatch between trade up housing inventory and demand.  One reason is changing demographics.  The peak age for trade up is 46, and Boomers have now passed that age.  The next big wave of consumers won't get there until 2020.  But when they do, they will want something very different.  Gen X places less value on traditional housing characteristics.  They put far more emphasis on community.  

How do builders build community?  For the traditional subdivison developer, the answer is programming and design.  But in cities, programming and design of community are delivered by a much broader set of players -- the city, neighbors, strangers, service personnel, small business people, other developers, architects of the public realm.  It's one of the wonderful, but unpredictable things about cities.

If Gen X really values community, this is one desire cities ought to be able to deliver with superiority.

For one charming example of community, take a look at "Here You Go!"  This is a simple expression of community that one would remember for a lifetime.