Posted by J. Rosie Tighe on May 21, 2013
Their new book, "Confronting Suburban Poverty in America," highlights our country’s historically fragmented approach to urban poverty, and how that has limited the effectiveness of public policies and funding mechanisms. While the establishment of HUD as a cabinet-level office did much to unite the then-disparate programs that served to combat poverty, there remains considerable division throughout federal and state government.
This fragmentation is particularly telling when analyzing programs and funding mechanisms designed to combat poverty outside of urban areas.
The book also spurred a website dedicated to the same theme. The project is of superb depth, and one can find an enormous amount of data and policy recommendations on the site and through Brookings, which published the book.
Increasingly, poverty in America is found in suburban communities, small towns, and rural areas. However, we continue to use policies and methods that were created and honed for use in cities. As Luis Ubiñas, president of the Ford Foundation, pointed out in the Brookings webcast marking the release of the book, non-urban poverty has many of the same challenges as urban poverty, but without much of the infrastructure present in cities.
There are many examples of how urban-centered policies are inadequate. Here are a few:
Posted by Jodi Weinberger on May 20, 2013
Last week on Rooflines we heard from Alan Mallach and Mindy Thompson Fullilove on different aspects of stable neighborhoods.
Mallach, in his post, looks at some of the principles of what it really means to pursue neighborhood stabilization, while Fullilove ponders how neighborhoods can break out of stable patterns of segregation and violence.
I thought of their words as I listened to an NPR interview with Ron Finley, the "guerilla gardener" who is using gardens to transform his community in South Central Los Angeles.
Fed up with the lack of access to healthy food, Finley sought a solution with his shovel.
"To change a community, you have to change the composition of the soil," Finley says in his TED talk. "We are the soil."
NPR called its segment with Finley "How Can You Give a Community Better Health?" but its clear these gardens go beyond promoting health in the traditional sense. They provide an answer to more than just the dilemma of creating equitable food access when it comes to community development.
Posted by Mindy Thompson Fullilove on May 17, 2013
The word resilience has different meanings in different fields. In the field of material science, it refers to the ability of a material to regain its shape after it has been stressed. A rubber band, for example, will regain its shape after it has been stretched, but a paper clip does not do so nearly as well. Therefore the paper clip is less resilient.
I learned from the eminent ecologist Deborah Wallace that, in ecosystems parlance, the term resilient refers to the ability of systems to stabilize after disruption. Systems that are able to restabilize are considered resilient, but this does not mean that they regained their former organization, only that they have settled into a new pattern. That new pattern might be quite dysfunctional from the perspective of peaceful co-existence.
Today, at "The 2013 ResilienC Symposium" in Philadelphia, I heard a remarkable story about resilience in this ecological sense.
Posted by David Holtzman on May 15, 2013
Successful cities adapt. They do not achieve success by remaining static. Adapting might be thought of in terms of building a new economic base or welcoming changes in the city's demographic makeup. But some cities need to go deeper. They suffer from festering wounds caused by decades, if not centuries, of injustice.
In his book "Richmond's Unhealed History," Rev. Benjamin Campbell describes how racial and class-based oppression have interfered with forward progress and adaptation to a new era in the Virginia city.
Richmond today is an island of social ills surrounded by relatively affluent suburbs. The latter have historically shown little desire to work with the city to address its problems.
The author notes that in a large section of the city, the median household income is below the poverty line; the unemployment rate ranges from 22 percent to 60 percent; and the annual incarceration rate approaches 10 percent. To adapt to these present circumstances, Campbell says, the city and its suburbs must come to terms with their devastating history.
Posted by Jodi Weinberger on May 14, 2013
I was a reporter covering Bergen County, New Jersey, in May 2012 when municipalities in the state were told by the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) that they would either have to "commit for expenditure" affordable housing trust funds or risk having them seized by the state.
In a frenzy, I and the other reporters began calling around to the local governing bodies to find out how much money was at stake and what they planned to do in light of a deadline enforcement on using the funds.
But the town leaders had just as many questions as us.
With the uncertainty over the future of COAH, and flimsy language on the state's mandates, towns were in a state of limbo as the Christie administration threatened to take up to $164 million from municipal affordable housing trust funds to pad the state's general coffers.
It was these actions that joined the League of Municipalities with the Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC), groups Adam Gordon described as "former foes" here on Rooflines, to fight the administration on its plans.
Both groups got a win on Monday.
Posted by Alan Mallach on May 14, 2013
Last month I wrote about why Project Rebuild is basically a bad idea, and why the Obama administration is making a mistake by trying to refloat it once again, rather than taking a fresh look at the question. This month and next month I’m going to suggest what a real federal neighborhood stabilization program might look like. In this post I’m going to start with some basic principles, and next month try to translate them into what such a program might look like.
First, what is it, exactly, that we’re trying to accomplish?
In some respects, the term ‘a stable neighborhood’ is a misnomer. No American neighborhood is literally stable, in the sense that nothing changes, and people are born and die in the same house. Urban neighborhoods constantly change, and constantly confront problems and challenges; as Jane Jacobs wrote, however, “a successful city neighborhood is a place that keeps sufficiently abreast of its problems so it is not destroyed by them.”
A healthy neighborhood is a socially resilient place.
Posted by Rooflines on May 13, 2013
As Senate Democrats and Republicans gear up to battle over President Obama's nomination of Rep. Mel Watts (D-N.C.) to replace Ed DeMarco as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, advocates, too, are debating whether the congressman from North Carolina should be in charge of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Shelterforce asked Chris Estes, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference, to weigh in on Watt, as Estes served as executive director of the North Carolina Housing Coalition for nine years.
Here are his responses to our questions:
Posted by Jodi Weinberger on May 10, 2013
"'Do nothing' is not an option."
So says Jerry Flach, construction project director at Paterson Habitat for Humanity, of the need to take action on New Jersey's vacant and abandoned properties as means for revitalization and stabilization in the state's most vulnerable neighborhoods.
Her powerful statement came during a roundtable discussion at the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey's 2013 membership meeting on Wednesday.
The panel of speakers included Darice Toon, director of the Division of Community Development in the City of Jersey City; Julia Taylor, managing director of Isles Inc.; Jeff Crum, director of real estate at Community Asset Preservation Corp.; John Abramo, executive director and COO at Greater Newark Housing Partnership; and Flach.
In the Summer 2006 issue of Shelterforce, Alan Mallach had a similar message for CDCs—"Vacant properties must be a priority"—in an article where he outlined strategies for managing abandoned property based on the successes of Orange, N.J.-based Housing and Neighborhood Development Services, Inc. and other CDCs.
"[Abandoned properties] impair the health of neighborhood residents, encourage criminal activity and raise the risk of fires. They reduce property values and make already struggling neighborhoods less appealing to prospective homebuyers who can choose where they live. Of all the physical factors blighting the lives of inner-city residents, abandoned properties may be the single most destructive, because they affect so many other conditions, making these other challenging problems that much worse."
Each panelist at the roundtable talked briefly on the challenges they face in community revitalization, with a focus on abandoned property and the tools they've used to overcome some common challenges. Here are some of the themes that emerged:
Posted by Rooflines on May 9, 2013
We've had a good discussion here on Rooflines about NYCHA's plan to build things on the open space in its public housing campuses: the open space implications, difficulty imagining public housing development without demolition and displacement, and the history behind residents' distrust.
This week the conversation continues: on Atlantic Cities, Ron Strickland describes how his masters in urban design students envision whole new neighborhoods within NYCHA's complexes, bringing opportunity next door to those who need it most, while Tom Angotti of Hunter College weighs in on City Limits to argue that NYCHA's plan would pave the way for gentrification and disempowerment and privatization, and that there are other ways to address the authority's operating deficit.
Which argument do you find most compelling?
(Photo credit JBlue, CC BY-NC-SA.)
Posted by Jodi Weinberger on May 8, 2013
Jeremy Liu's post on combining "proactive" and "protective" services to both give people a greater sense of agency and help control costs for municipal budgets was an opening to discuss the ways community development can be a part of lowering costs for localities.
But something else came to mind as I was reading through his piece. It's just over a year ago that 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida.
A trial is set to commence in June for Zimmerman, who's charged with second-degree murder. Zimmerman says he was acting in self defense and that Martin was following him; Martin's supporters say he was targeted for being black.