Monday, August 29, 2016

The Four Steps To Make Cities More Inclusive

Step One: Admit you have a problem
Flickr/Puparrazi Photography
Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a new week on the blog.  Just a quick reminder, Blogger will going on a much needed vacation the end of next week.  Instead of the usual posts, Blogger will post photo blogs and Blogger Candidate Forum will take a two week hiatus.  Blogger will be back at toward the end of September with the regular posts and the Candidate Forum will be back with live blogging from the first presidential debate.  On to today's post, how to build more inclusive cities.

What is an inclusive city?  Tanvi Misra, in her CityLab article "How to Build Inclusive Cities," defines inclusive cities as places where anyone, "...regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, age, or ability-can live and thrive."  Unfortunately, there is not a magic solution or template to follow.  However, there are solution worth imitating that cities and citizens around the world are using and recently discussed at Brookings Institute.

Mother pushing a stroller
The session was started by Ángel Gurría, the secretary general of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, which initiated its Inclusive Growth in Cities Campaign (; date accused Aug. 29, 2016), in conjunction with Ford Foundation.  Ms. Misra reports, "This initiative brings together city leaders from around the world with explicit purpose of tackling urban inequality."  Secretary Gurría was followed by a panel discussion featuring private, public, technology, and business leaders who shared their unique and novel successful strategies.  Based on the presentation, the following are four basic steps toward creating more inclusive cities.

"Everyone Counts"
Step One: Acknowledge the problem

Admitting you have a problem is not reserved for 12-step groups.  You cannot send a city to alcohol-addiction treatment but it is an absolute necessity.  Cities are centers of global innovation, power, and economy.  This puts them in the perfect position to lead the way toward a more equal society, especially in the face of political gridlock at the national level, observed Amy Liu, the vice president of the Institute's Metropolitan Policy Program.  Like admitting to an addiction, the first step to creating more inclusive cities is acknowledging there is a problem.

The Brookings Institute's Metro Monitor 2016: Tracking Growth, Prosperity, and Inclusion In 100 Largest U.S. Metropolitan Areas
(; date accused Aug. 29, 2016) is one measure of how far cities have advanced in context to economic inclusion.  Tanvi Misra writes, "According to its finds, nearly all large U.S. metro have seen a boost in jobs and economic outputs in the years since the recession."  However, with respect to economic inclusion-defined as "...the well-being of the middle and low-income residents-" only eight metropolitan saw system-wide improvements between 2009 and 2014.  The report cited Charleston, Chicago, Dayton, Denver, provo, Salt Lake City, San Jose, and Tulsa as the sole American metropolitan areas that demonstrated growth in median wages and employment rates, as well as a decline in poverty.  Be that as it may, these cities still experienced racial disparities.  Further, "...80 out of 100 largest U.S. metros, median wages actually declined in this period.

"Composite Inclusion rankings among the largest 100 U.S. Metropolitan Areas
Brookings Institute

During the presentation, Ms. Liu told the audience,

Economic growth is easy, but inclusion is harder...We need to be much more intentional about how we extend the benefits of growth and engage more people in our prosperity.  (Ibid)

The map on the left is from this, American metropolitans ranked according to the progress they made in economic inclusion between 2009 and 2014.  You can find an interactive tool on the Brookings Institute website.

Economic inequality is just one component in making cities more inclusive.  Antoinette Samuel, the deputy director of the National League of Cities told the conference,

'Inclusiveness' means affordability and non-discrimination in housing so that neighborhoods are diverse and representative of a city's population; it means acceptance of new immigrants and respecting and celebrating their culture and religious traditions.  And...protecting the rights of the LGBT community and promoting religious tolerance. (Ibid)

Light rail in Martin Place
Step Two: Push for transit-oriented development

When it comes to policy remedies, priorities vary from city to city across the United States. Suffice to say "...every single one needs to do a better job with providing affordable housing, transit access, and sage and up-to-date infrastructure."  Secretary Gurría said,

But it's too often divorced from a broader strategy for urban development and transport and access to services.  So we need housing policies that aim to build cities, rathe than build houses.  (Ibid)

Dow Constantine, executive of Kings County in Washington state (including Seattle), emphasized the urgency to invest in transit option that connect low-income communities at fringes of major cities in the urban center, and the necessity making an allowance for affordable housing close already existing transit line.  He also cited his municipalities plan to reduce bus fare for low income riders as a successful way to bring down barriers to transit access.

Bus oriented transit
Cleveland, Ohio
Cecile Bedor, executive vice president at Greater MSP, a Minneapolis-Saint Paul-based economic development non-profit, stressed that it was import that ensuring that no community was overlooked was a continuous process.  She told the assembly,

Ultimately, [Transit Oriented Development] around light rail and ensuring that there's housing for all and choices for all really only happens with intentional policy by elected officials...The market's going to do what the market does...[W]e really meed to make sure the pressure is on our elected officials to ensure that it is inclusive growth.  (Ibid)

Step Three: Invest in people, and "be nimble"

Investing in the future of cities means investing in its citizen beginning at an early age.  Mr. Constantine pointed to King's county Best Start for Kids (; date accessed Aug. 29, 2016), a multi-pronged approach to early childhood education.  The program provides a range of services, from prenatal support to educational resources for high school students.

Best Starts for Kids logo
With respect to the adult population, attention is given to include women, new immigrants, and communities of color into the workforce.  Paid family leave and equal-pay policies as two more ways women can enter and remain employed.  Madame Secretary and Mr. Trump are you paying attention?  Vocational training and entrepreneur programs for communities color (including in foreign language for immigrants) can also prepare traditionally disadvantaged groups for employment.

OECD conference
Rodney Sampson, the chairman at Opportunity Hum and head of diversity and inclusion at Tech Square Labs in Atlanta, told the group,

Minorities, and women immigrants suffer from intentional or unintentional invisibility that is often met with tokenism...We need to hack and disrupt that mindset.  (; date accused Aug. 29, 2016)

Mr. Sampson's organization work with Atlanta public schools to train "disconnects youth" in coding languages, computer skills, and financial literacy.  His organization also provides them with housing, a living stipend, and puts them in touch with potential employers.

All that aside, what workers genuinely need is predicated on their location.  To wit, JP Morgan Chase has been working with the Brookings Institute to publish information that allows global cities to understand what industries are experiencing growth and what jobs are being created by them.  Be that as it may, the working landscape is also rapidly transforming and cities need to keep pace with the changes.  Ms. Bedor shared during the discussion,

The systems that we build a decade ago don't work today because of the changes in technology, globalization, and automation...We also need to be really nimble and know that we're training [for] today may not be what they need tomorrow.  So it's not a speck in time-this is an iterative process.

Step Four: Make sure everyone is at the table

This is a given.  It is very easy for a wide range of experts to gather at conferences, present papers, hold panel discussions on making cities more inclusive but without including the actual stakeholders, all that talking is pointless.  One might even say a little patronizing?  To truly make cities more inclusive, you have to actually collaborate with different sectors, agencies, interests, and work across multiple platforms.  After all, if you want to make cities more inclusive, you cannot leave anyone behind.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Blogger Candidate Forum: What Fair Housing May Look Like housing/495749/?utm_source=nl_link2_081516

Senator Tim Kaine at a campaign rally in Philadelphia
Hello Everyone:

It is time for the weekly installment of Blogger Candidate Forum.  This week we are continuing are discussion on the issue of fair housing.  Last week we considered the question why fair housing is not a bold faced issue.  Today we are going to take a look how Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) has made fair housing an issue.  Kriston Capps writes in his CityLab article, "Tim Kaine's Vision for the Future of Fair Housing,"

As voters have come to learn, Kaine built his career as a lawyer in Richmond by pursuing fair-housing cases.  As the former mayor of Richmond and former governor of Virginia, Kaine has experience examining the issues of fair and affordable housing from a variety of policy perches.

Already on the campaign trail, the Gentleman from Virginia has drawn a sharp distinction between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump (R-NY) on this important subject.  While Americans have indicated that housing is as an important priority as immigration or healthcare, the subject has not had a lot of traction on the campaign trail so.  However, the Gentleman from Virginia's unique qualifications on housing will ensure that fair housing will be front and center.

"40 Years of Fair Housing in Virginia"

In an editorial published on CNN August 12, 2016, the Gentleman from Virginia writes,

A house is more than just a place to sleep.  It's part of the foundation on which a family built a life...Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air the you breathe, and the opportunities you have.  And when you are blocked from living where you want, it to the core of who are.  ( Date access Aug 24, 2016)

Senator Kaine's editorial lays out the ways a possible Clinton administration would strive to make housing more fair and affordable.  The following is an outline of possible policy initiative and what Americans can look forward to should Madame Secretary win the election.

"Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program"
Low Income Housing Tax Credits

Mr. Capps reports, "The U.S, spends about $6 billion annually on LIHTCs, an indirect form of housing assistance."  This is a first line item on the Gentleman from Virginia's housing which we can infer that a potential Clinton believes that LIHTCs are the right tool for the job.  Mr. Capps continues, "The use of LIHTC has steadily since the 1990s."  Ironically, tax credit subsidized has sometimes resulted in more segregated neighborhoods.

Rental assistance

Senator Kaine's editorial does not elaborate on how a potential Clinton Administration was revive federal housing assistance.  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (, "growth in rental assistance has slowed dramatically.  If present trends continue, federal housing-assistance spend would reach its lowest point in 40 years."  Of course this is predicated on the Democrats winning control of the Senate (a distinct possibility), given that it would take divine intervention in Congress to get another budget passed.  Restoring housing choice-vouchers to pre-sequester levels would be the next step.

Quoting Senator Kaine, Mr. Capps writes "...that the Democrats will help families choose from a wide range of neighborhoods to live in"-an acknowledgment of fair housing and a campaign pledge that would mean implementing the Affordably Furthering Fair Housing standards established by the Department Housing and Urban Development under the current administration.

Poughkeepsie Housing Authority
Public housing authorities

Senator Kaine is more vague in his explanation of how a potential Clinton administration would build more public housing.  Senator Kaine, Blogger has a suggestion, consider adaptive re-use projects.  There are under used buildings, around the country, that are ripe for rehabilitation and are eagerly await you.  He writes,

We'll provide more resources to public-housing authorities, and pair these investments with broader economic development efforts. (

The cost for new public housing is estimated at $46 billion.  This break downs into a capital backlog for America's 1.1 million public housing units, almost all of which were built before 1985(this figure is soaring.  In 2010 it climbed to $26 billion; the costs grow on average of $3.4 billion annually).

Kriston Capps writes, "Undoing the damage done by austerity will be the first order of business for a Clinton administration looking to boost spending on housing."  However, scaling back the Budget Control is not enough.  Mr. Capps adds, "Federal housing spending, in terms of direct  rental assistance and public-housing maintenance, has been declining for decades."

First time home buyers
First-time home-buyers

Madame Secretary has pledged to provide $10,000 in down payment assistance for families wanting to buy their first home, an idea that would build on the popularity of the first-time homebuyer tax credit ( of 2008-2010.  Of all the housing initiative detailed by the Gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Capps predicts, "this one's bound to be the most popular, since Americans of all income levels would eligible to receive it (unless I misread him, the program is not means tested)."

The chief benefit of this initiative is that this one-time down payment assistance could help launch millions of new households.  Here is an interesting statistic, "Today, more than 50 percent of renters could afford mortgages, but still can't afford to buy a home."  Why is this the case? One of the reasons for this situation is that said renters lack the savings, particularly cities with climbing housing costs.

Expanding this program to all first-time home-buyers, regardless of incomes, translates into an enormous subsidy for middle- and upper-class in the same manner as the mortgage-interest tax deduction-a $195 billion subsidy for wealthier Americans,  Mr. Capps suggests, "A progressive administration should look at ways to dial back regressive subsidies, not expand them."

Fair Housing infographic
Fair-Housing Laws

This is real dividing line between the Clinton-Kaine and Trump-Pence campaigns.  The Blue Team standard bearers spent their early careers fighting discrimination, Mr. Trump made his billions on discrimination.  Quoting Senator Tim Kaine's editorial.

Around this same time, if a woman like Lorraine attempted to rent an apartment from Trump's company, federal investigators were told that employees would have added a piece of paper to her rental application with the letter "C" on it.  As the Department of Justice would later discover, "C" stood for "Colored."

The U.S. government brought a housing discrimination suit challenging this racist and discriminatory practice, which took place across 39 Trump properties.

The Fair Housing Act is an example, cited by Senator Tim Kaine, "...of what government can and should do in people's lives."  While some of a possible Clinton administration's plans for fulfilling their campaign promises have yet to be revealed, they do acknowledge that when it comes to race, we are far from enlightened as we think we are.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Post-Olympic Glow?

Vila Autódromo Favela
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Hello Everyone:

Amid all the confetti and fireworks of the 2016 Summer Olympics, one story that was overlooked was the massive displacement of Favela residents to make way for new development projects in Rio de Janeiro.  Before you all groan, "please the Olympics are old news, Yours Truly promises no more Olympic-related articles after today.  Natalie Delgadillo shares in her CityLab article, "Olympic Development in Rio Leave a Tarnished Legacy," looks at a Brazilian research project (; accessed Aug 23, 2016) outlining development projects in Rio since the city won the right to host the Games in 2009.  The study paints an unflattering portrait of Olympic-motived development and its impact on the host city.

The winning ballot
When Rio de Janeiro won the right to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, Governor Sergio Cabral was brimming with promises.  Governor Cabral told Tom Phillips of The Guardian,

[Residents stand to] gain more metro lines, more trains, more sewage treatment, more in terms of the environment, social services, in terms of  sport and culture. (http://www,; accessed Aug 23, 2016)

Did any of these promises come true?  For the most part, no they did see the light of day.  Actually, these promises were fulfilled for some of the people, not all.  The Olympic-induced development-i.e. new Metro lines and the "smart city investments-has been seriously pilloried by Rio residents and the international "...for perpetuating the city's already vast inequality."  The website,, from architecture professor Ana Luiza Nobre tracks every development project from 2009 t0 2016, gives a detailed look at building and how focused (or non-existent) the benefits have been.

Rio de Janeiro high rise with Favelas in the foreground
RioNow is the completion of years of research undertaken by Prof. Nobre and a group of student at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.  Perusing the site, visitors can find an interactive list of projects launched in conjunction with mega-events, a topographic map locating the majority project, and academic papers about Olympic-motived development.  The website visitor can compare projects side-by-side with different economic indices-unemployment, fluctuation of the dollar, and Brazilian stock market behavior.

The information on the website is objective without offering any specific opinions.  That does not mean that Prof. Nobre has her thoughts.  She told Ms. Delgadillo,

There is nothing worthwhile that's going to stand in 10 year's time...All the projects are so bad, and all the work has been done so badly.  It's really striking, the low quality.

Quite a contrast to yesterday's post on the future of Olympic venues.

Museum of Tomorrow
Santiago Calatrava
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The list of examples is deep.  A mere four months before the start of the games, a bicycle path built specifically for the games collapsed into the sea, killing two people.  Prof. Nobre observes,

Working conditions on construction sites were so bad...that 12 laborers dies on the job over the past seven years.

The Olympic Village buildings have been continuously plagued with construction and maintenance issues-flooded floors, moldy wall, and holes in the ceiling.

The myriad of infrastructure and safety problems aside, according to Prof. Nobre, there was "...the lack of respect for Rio's traditional aesthetic and architecture."  She cites the heralded Museum of Tomorrow, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava as a prime example.  She said,

It's a bad project.  [It's] badly constructed, and it has nothing to do with the landscape.  It's this very aggressive, iconic type of building that we are trying get rid of.

Prof. Nobre was also bothered the city's decision to hire Mr. Calatrava to build the oblong-shaped museum, given the repeated controversy of the quality of his previous work.

Map of the 2016 Olympic venues
Natalie Delgadillo reports, "But perhaps the most striking observation Nobre has made about the construction in Rio is just how inequality it's been distributed."  Prof. Nobre told Ms. Delgadillo "...that various Olympic projects, to her mind, have simply function to create a specific image of Rio for the rest of the world, much to the benefit of richer citizens."  Case in point, in 2014 the city laid out a plan to install the iconic favela cable cars in Rocinha, the largest favela with almost 70,000 residents.  However, the residents rejected the plan, requesting instead more basic necessities be fulfilled first.

Rocinha Favela
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Prof. Nobles said,

They said, 'No we don't want cable cars, we want a sewage system,...'But this [type of infrastructure] isn't as visible as a cable car, which has become very iconic.

The favela received neither of the improvements.

Then there was the issue of displacement.  According to Prof. Nobre, "..22,000 families in total have been displaced by Olympic work, totaling nearly 100,000 people [other sources give lower number, around 60,000]."  Regardless, you have to be shocked by the number of people left without homes.  The most infamous was is Villa Autódromon, a small favela, home to 600 families who were violently removed from their homes to make way for the eventual entry to Olympic Park.  Ms. Delgadillo reports, "After brutal confrontations with police, only 25 families managed to stay, in new buildings constructed by the government.  Prof. Nobre continued,

[The favela] was right near the entrance.  They didn't need to displace people, but it looked bad have these people there [in such public view...

Two women in Villa Autódromo
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The majority of the displace went to live on the west side of Rio de Janeiro, in a complex of large government building called Minha Case, Minha Vida (My Home, My Life).  Prof Nobre adds,

This place is very far, about 50 or 60 kilometers from downtown, and it has very little infrastructure.

RioNow's topographic map presents the focus of Olympic-related project is in one part of the city, and a completely empty west side, where the government housing is sited.  She said,

They made an investment in one half of the city, and the people who got displaced were moved to the other half.

For Professor Ana Luisa Nobre, the legacy of inequality in the wake of the Olympic Games is "microcosm of Brazil's problems as a country."  Inequality runs amok-Brazil is considered one of the 25 most unequal countries in the world-no one has a clue about what life  will be like for Brazil in 10 years.  Her assessment,

The situation in Rio is a good example for people who want to understand Brazil.  [It is] like this all over the country.

Monday, August 22, 2016

What Happens After The Excitement Of The Games?

Maracanã Stadium
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Hello Everyone:

The Games of the 31st Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are officially in the history books,  Somehow, the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Organizing Committee managed to pull off an Olympics, despite dire predications, Jell-O© green dive pool water, and a fraudulent police report.  Now comes the hard part, what do you with all the leftover facilities?  This is a huge issue that every city, that hosts an Olympic (Winter or Summer) Game, faces immediately after the games.  In the case of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the McDonalds Swim built on the University of Southern California became the training facilities for the university swimming, diving, and water polo teams.  Already built stadiums, like the Rose Bowl, continued to be used by the University of California Los Angeles Football team.  However, what will become of the stadiums, arenas, training facilities, and athletes's housing now that all the excitement from the Rio Games has died down?

Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This is the question that Linda Poon ponders in her CityLab article, "Rio's Plan to Transform Its Arenas After the Olympics."  What will happen to all those sparkling new facilities now that all the medals have been won and records broken is one of the big morning-after questions faced by the host cities.  For example  the Bird's Nest Stadium, built for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, requires "...$11 million in maintenance fees each year, despite sitting virtually empty."  Going back further to the 2004 Athens Games, all the venues have become aging symbols of money that could have been put to better use.  However, Rio de Janeiro is determined to forge a brighter and more sustainable future with plans to " make some of its venues transformable through what the city's mayor, Eduardo Paes, calls 'nomadic architecture.'"

Future Arena
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
One example of Rio de Janeiro's plans to create a more sustainable legacy is the Future Arena.  The Future Arena was host to the handball tournament and will play host to the Paralympic goal ball.  Once the athletic competitions are in the history, the Arena will be re-purposed into four state-run schools in the adjacent communities of  Jacarepagua and Barra, and in Sãn Cristóvão, on Brazil's east coast.  Each of the school will accommodate 500 students.  Manuel Nogueira, the managing director of the United Kingdom firm AndArchitect, told Ms. Poon "The Arena was designed to be dual-purpose from the get-go."  Mr. Nogueira added,

The way everything gets moved from place to another is a bit like Lego.

Interior of Future Arena
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The Lego analogy is not that far fetched as you may think.  Linda Poon writes, "The arena is made of smaller modular parts that are bolted together."  When the competitions end, the parts (roof included), the façade panels, and vertical column will be taken apart, stacked and moved to their new homes.  AECOM's Bill Hanway told Ms. Poon,

The numbing components and wiring are all designed so that you don't rip it out.

AECOM is an American firm responsible for the master plan of Barra Olympic Park, which includes the Future Arena.  Mr. Hanway added,

You unbolt it and remove it, and reapply it to these four schools.

Rendering of Maria Lenk Aquatic Centre
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The Maria Lenk Aquatic Stadium is another temporary venue will be dismantled and reconstructed as two community pools, preferably without the lime green water.  Ms. Poon writes,  "...300-acre Olympic Park, which houses a total of nine venues, will be turned into public parks and private development."  According to Next City, "The International Broadcast Center will also get a high-school dormitory."

In short, Rio de Janeiro is making use of the increasingly popular concept of "temporary architecture" in the urban landscape.  Rio is not the first city to make use of this concept.  Four years ago, the late architect Zaha Hadid designed the spectacular Aquatic Center so that the spectator stands could be removed so that the venue could be made smaller and more manageable once the Games were over.  Mr. Hanway added,

There's been a move toward temporary venues in major sporting events and the Olympics..When we started working in Rio, the mayor became ever more conscious about the cost of everything, from the permanent structures to more the more temporary ones.  He came back with a [challenge] is there is a way of reusing those materials at a modular level?

Scene from the Closing Ceremony of the 2016 Olympics
One of the central themes in Rio de Janeiro's bid to host the Games was sustainability, dubbing them "Green Games for a Blue Planet."  The organizers made all sorts of ambitious pledges to alleviate traffic congestion by bolstering the public transit infrastructure, and clean up the toxic waterways.  Although, cleaning up the toxic waterways forgot about the infamous sofa that capsized an unfortunate kayaker.  Oh well, you get to everything.  Ms. Poon put it a little more articulately, "Rio has fallen short of delivering on those promises, even as the estimate price tag climbs [ed] to $12 billion."

Given all that and the litany of host cities not honoring their Olympic legacies, Jay Coakley, a retired professor who studies the sociology of sports and the impact of sporting mega-events at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, raised this point,

It looks and sounds great, but we don't know for sure if it's going to if it's going to happen...The city of so far in the hole financially that it's very tough to honor their legacy promises.  After the games are over, the organizing committee disbands, and its very difficult to know who will actually pick up the tab and do this particular change with buildings.

Athletes entering Maracaná Stadium during the Closing Ceremony
In Prof. Coakley's critique, co-authored with social researcher Doralise Lange Souza at the Federal University of Paraná University of Paraná, Brazil, Prof. Coakley writes that good intentions not withstanding, the benefits almost never reach the socially excluded populations.  We can define the excluded population as rural dwellers, particularly in the North-East, and the favela dwellers. (  He continues,

The problem is that the legacies haven't been planned for...Turning things into a school a school when you can't hire teachers, or when you haven't already started training teachers, creating the curriculum, or working with parents-unless they have things planned out and budgeted for, it isn't going to happen.

Prof. Hanway admits to the economic challenges but adds "that the nature of the private-public partnership that the Olympic was delivered as puts pressure on developers to fulfill their post-games promises."  By developing the sites, he notes, developers can recoup their initial investment.  Prof. Hanway, also credits Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes for making eduction a priority, noting that Mayor Paes's vocal support for "nomadic architecture" will also increase pressure on him to follow through on his word.  For now, Prof. Jay Coakley says, it' all up in the air.  No truer statement

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Blogger Candidate Forum: Affordable Housing affordable-housing/492959/?utm_source=nl_link3_072716

Donald Trump on the campaign trail
Hello Everyone:

It is time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Before we get going on why Democrats and Republicans do not talk about affordable housing, yours truly would like to say a word or two about the latest development in the Trump-Pence campaign.

 Facing slumping numbers in swing states with less than three months before Election, Mr. Trump overhauled his campaign staff.  Mr. Trump added two officials to key positions to wright his floundering campaign and pivoting towards a scorched earth outsider determined to win.  Mr. Trump hired Breibart News executive and former investment banker, Steve Bannon to the position of campaign chief executive and promoted senior advisor and pollster Kellyanne Conway to campaign manager.  Campaign chief strategist Paul Manefort will retain his position as campaign chairman and recently dismissed head of Fox News Roger Ailes will advise Mr. Trump.  Can this shuffle save the this campaign or is it too little to late?  Only time will tell.  On to affordable housing.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake at the 2016 DNCC
Housing is not one of the most bold faced concerns of both the Democrats and Republicans.  The 2016 Republican Party platform includes a housing plank, i.e. "responsible homeownership and rental opportunities," something that did not get much airplay during the Republican National Committee Convention in Cleveland.  The Democrats did not give the subject a lot of attention at their convention in Philadelphia.  Kriston Capps, in his CityLab article "Why Democrats and Republicans Need to Talk About Affordable Housing," tells us, "No doubt, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro would have made housing a big deal, but the White House banned members of the cabinet from addressing the DNC.  Democratic VPOTUS-in-waiting Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) recently published an essay on his experience, as an attorney with Housing Opportunities Made Equal representing African Americans who discriminated against because of their race. (

Senator Kaine giving his acceptance speech at the DNCC
During his acceptance speech, the Gentleman from Virginia did not share his experience of representing a young African American woman who denied an apartment because of her race.  The Gentleman from Virginia had to cover national security, healthcare, the economy, and a number of other issues during his allotted him.

Neither major party were that anxious to place affordable housing on the front burner of their respective convention.  Mr. Capps writes, "This is a surprise in at least two respects: Democrats and Republicans broadly disagree about what to do about housing, but have policy solutions in mind that are close to their ideological solutions."  More to the point, Americans most definitely want hear about these solutions.

Public investment in affordable housing
Kriston Capps reports, "According to a recent national poll, more than half (59 percent) of all Americans list housing affordability as a top-tier issue."  Breaking this down in terms of demographics, housing affordability registers as higher concern for 73 percent of people 18-34.  The poll was conducted by Ipsos for the Enterprise Community Partner.  The poll found that "...71 percent of respondents wanted to see housing affordability as a 'core component' of the Republican and Democratic platforms."  Approximately one out five Americans considers the housing as important an issue as immigration, taxes, and entitlement reform.

This issue is more important to Democrats-i.e. "...71 percent of Democratic respondents emphasized housing affordability as a priority versus 44 percent of Republicans."  It is not as if Republicans do not care about affordable housing.  It is a situation of Democrats being more likely know someone having difficulty paying the rent or mortgage-women (51 percent as opposed to 43 percent of men) and respondents without college degrees (44 percent versus 40 percent of those with college degrees).  Thus, it is logical that Democrats would dedicate more airtime to housing.

Brooklyn affordable housing project
Brooklyn, New York
Interestingly, Kriston Capps believes that it makes just as much sense for the Republicans to take up the cause.  He reasons, "Among issues dividing the left and right, housing affordability is relatively neutral-it's not a moral third rail anyway."  Wishful thinking on his part considering that neither party can even agree on what brand of bottled water to put on the table.  Further, he speculates that the Red Team could draw blue-collar voters, the very kind that Donald Trump hopes to attract from the Blue Team.  In fact, Mr. Capps believes that if the Republicans offered a good solution for affordable housing, it might help them counter the accusation that Mr. Trump rooted for the housing market implosion in 2007/

The problem, one of many for the Red Team, is that Mr. Trump DID cheer for the housing crash and did build his real estate empire on discriminatory housing practices.  Yet, the Republican Party 2016 platform believes that the solution to housing affordability is " to strip away regulations on building, scale back Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and shrink the role Federal Housing in guaranteeing mortgages.  Affirmative Furthering Fair Housing earns special ire in the GOP ire."

OOR 2016 Housing wage map
The Democratic Party platform has a completely different approach to ending the affordability crisis.  Their remedy plans to increase incentives to build more housing and affordable housing, increasing funding for the National Housing Trust Fund, enhance the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, and defend the work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in preventing predatory lending.

The big surprises all around:  The Red Team wants to restrict the federal government regulatory agency, designed to give the housing market in providing housing (except with respect to local zoning codes, something the GOP are keen to protect).  The Blue Team does not assign any role for the market at all in growing housing and make some improbable claims-"It would take a huge expansion of the modest National Housing Trust Fund to 'create millions of good-paying jobs in the process.'"

Be that as it may, both the Democrats and Republicans stand by their proposals and genuinely believe that their solutions will alleviate a major concern for voters, the party standard bearers should pay attention to this.  Events like the Terwilliger Foundation's  #MakeHousingGreatAgain benefit during the RNC Convention did not make the grade.

Kriston Capps cites one part of Democratic Party platform as being particularly noteworthy for the future,

Over the nest decade, most new households will be formed by families in communities of color, which typically have less generational wealth and fewer resources to put toward a down payment.

This is fact and making sure that these communities have equal access to the housing market over the next decades, something critical to the future of the nation's economy.  In short, both the Democrats and Republicans cannot afford to ignore this issue.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Maybe It Is Time To Give Suburbia A Little Respect

A model for how suburbs could one day be designed.
Hello Everyone:

Yours truly is back from a little child-parent bonding time and ready to plow ahead.  A quick programming note, yours truly will be on the road, in the United Kingdom in mid-September.  Blogger will be posting photo-blogs during the UK sojourn and the Candidate Forum will take a short break but be back in time for the great debates.  Now onto today's subject: suburbia gets no respect.

 For sometime, urbanists have been carrying that the future of the world is in its cities.  Alan Berger, a landscape architecture and urban design professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been hearing this line for years, the city "...are the destinations of a great migration, the places where everyone, particularly millennials, want to live."  Randy Rieland of writes in "Suburbia Gets No Respect, But It Could Become a Very Different Place," that suburbia-as-a-dead-zone is conventional wisdom.  This thinking, according to Prof. Berger, is not true.

Suburban development
Photograph by Dan Reed:Flickr
Creative Common license
Although urban centers are gaining population, the epicenter of growth is in the suburbs, not the downtown areas.  Surprised?  In fact, Prof Berger points out "...that census data shows more are leaving cities than moving into into them."  Are still surprised?  He told Mr. Rieland,

People who are saying everyone will live in the city in the future aren't reading the research.

The impact of driverless cars

Professor Alan Berger is someone who takes suburbia very seriously. Admittedly, it makes him an outlier in his field.  He readily acknowledges,

People are astonished why I would even went to study suburbia...Urban planners do not study suburbia.  Architects absolutely have nothing to do with suburban research.

Be that as it may, Prof. Berger is convinced "...that it's the communities outside center cities that will be critical to sustaining urban areas they evolve in the decades ahead."  As the co-director of MIT's Center for Advanced Urbanism recently co-organized a conference, "The Future of Suburbia."  The conference was the finale of a two-year research project on how suburbs could be re-imagined.

Modern middle class suburbia
Eastern USA
The speakers at the conference covered a myriad of topics: the role of suburban vegetation and how it can reduce carbon dioxide level and suburbia's increasing racial and age diversity, and technological progress that can help transform it.  One such technological advance is the autonomous car, which was the subject of Prof. Berger's presentation.  Driverless car have gained a lot of currency in the media.  Specifically, the prospect of fleets of driverless cars circulating through downtown streets.  However, according to Prof. Berger, the driverless car will have the greatest impact in the suburbs, which have been define by how cars are used.  Prof. Berger told Mr. Rieland,

It will be in suburb-to-suburb commuting...That's that's the majority of movement in our country.  As more autonomous cars come online, you're going to see more and suburbanization, not less.  People will be driving father to their jobs.

Some of you may be thinking if the whole point of increasing access to transit options is to get people out of their cars and reduce environmental pollution, why would anyone encourage people to live further away from work?

Autonomous car
Randy Rieland writes, "With truly autonomous vehicles still years away, no one can say with much certainty, if they will result in people spending less time in cars.  However, Prof. Berger predicts one big potential positive affect, less pavement.  This predication is based on the likelihood of more car-sharing and less need for multiple lane roadways because the vehicles could continuously travel around a single track.  Mr. Rieland adds "Berger believes the amount of pavement in a suburb of the future could be cut in half.  You no longer need huge shopping center parking lots, or even driveways and garages."

What about the potential for environmental damage?  Fewer paved surfaces mean an increased amount of space could be available for carbon absorbing trees and plants.  It would also mean more water seeping into the soil and reduce of the risk of flooding in the urban areas.

The suburbs at night
It is this type of interdependence between the suburbs and urban areas that is the essence of Prof Berger and his colleagues at CAU vision for the future.  Instead of typical cut-de-sac communities and malls, they imagine a suburbia that "...would focus on using more of their space to sustain themselves and nearby urban centers-whether it's by providing energy through solar pan micro-grids or using more of the land to grow foo and store water."  A future of self-sustaining suburbs, if you will.

This model of the future metropolitan area of 3 million people is a departure from what we know as urban-suburban.  Mr. Rieland reports, "Rather than have neighborhoods continuously spreading outward from a downtown core, it presents a handful of dense clusters mind what Berger describes as 'big sea of suburban development that's much more horizontal than vertical.'"  This would whirl as a kind of holistic sustainable machine......

Georgetown, Brooklyn, New York
Taking suburbia seriously

No doubt, Prof. Alan Berger's scheme is a bold one that is centered on planning  new suburbs around the world rather than rehabilitating existing ones.  As hypothetical as this model may appear, it is the first step in acknowledging suburbia while redefining it.  Joel Kotkin, a fellow of urban studies at Chapman University and the author of The Human city: Urbanism for the Rest of Us, told Mr. Rieland,

The reality is that the large majority of people want to live in suburbs...People make these choices for kinds reasons that urban theorists don't pay attention to.  They'd rather live in a detached house than in an apartment building.  Or they can't afford to live in the middle of a city.  Or they're worried about where their kids will go to school.

Further, You hear people say that the suburbs are going to become more and more dense and that they're going to be for people who aren't quite smart enough to live in the center city.  But most people don't want that kind of density.  That's not they moved there.

Like Prof. Berger, Mr. Kotkin believes that it is time to rethink what suburbs can be and become more pointed about how it evolves.  Both gentleman co-edited a collection of articles and research that focus on this issue.  The volume is titled Infinite Suburbia  and will be published next year.  Prof. Berger does concede that there are times "...he feel he's pushing a rock up a hill, given the common misconception that most of the world's population is flocking into cities."  He points to the United Nations report that projects by "...2050, 66 percent of the people on Earth will live in urban areas."  He clarifies the term "urban areas" as widely misinterpreted to mean cities.  He said,

Certainly, the world's urbanizing, but it's urbanizing in a much different way than cities...It's urbanizing horizontally.

This is why he keeps push the proverbial rock up the proverbial hill.

I'm not that interested in figuring out how to add more houses to cities and squeezing more people into smaller square footages...I'm interested in what people seem to actually want and how to make that better.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Blogger Candidate Forum: Donald Trump's Contradictory Urbanism

Donald Trump (R-NY)
Hello Everyone:

It is Wednesday and time for another edition of the Blogger Candidate Forum.  Today we are going to talk about the Republican nominee Donald Trump.  Specifically, we are going to look at Mr. Trump's heated rhetoric on inclusivity and diversity as it relates to cities.  Did you think that Blogger was going to address his latest bon mots?  Yours truly has declared a moratorium on commenting every controversy inducing utterance.  Instead, with the help of Vann R. Newkirk's CityLab article, "Mayors vs. Trump," we are going to look how his party's appeal to the blue collar profession and specific concepts of race and Americanness, stress "...rural Americana as rightness and uses cities as a foil."

If anything, Mr. Trump is urbanite through and through.  He was born in Queens an is now a commercial real-estate mogul who was the subject of late night talk show fodder long before he made his political aspirations known.  Donald Trump is a grandiose cartoon of New Yorkness.  The city is in every fiber of being.  This blatant sense of "metropolitanism" seems an anathema to the current state of the party of which he the standard bearer.  We know that cities are more inclusive and typically more liberal than rural communities and are the punching bag for people like Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who snark about New York values.  He is never going live that one down, is he?  Mr. Trump is not above using fear about urban crime to motivate voters because cities stand for the the very thing that Republicans despise the most.

Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu

Mr. Newkirk reported that on the second night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, "...a group of mayors from many of those big cities coordinated an attack on the anti-city rhetoric of Trump and the Republican Party in an endorsement of Hillary Clinton."  At  press conference, New Orleans Mayor  and vice president of the United States Conference of Mayors Mitch Landrieu joined a group of his colleagues from others cities and challenged Mr. Trump on his vision of "...violence and decline in America and its cities" saying that he was just flat-out wrong.

Mayor Landrieu took particular exception to the manner in which Mr. Trump incorporated a recent jump in homicides in his acceptance speech.  Just to refresh all our memories, Mr. Trump said,

...decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this Administration's rollback of criminal enforcement...

To put it proper context, the city of New Orleans "...had a 30-year low in homicides last year after having been known for years as a hotbed for murder."

Snapshots of New Orleans, Louisiana
Mayor Landrieu told Mr. Newkirk,

What they're missing is the truth...From 1996 until today, crime has decreased in major American cities all across America...You can cherry-pick statistics and not show certain cities-for example my city, murder is to the lowest it's been since 1970.  And so if you pick small trends and you just look at it over a week or two two weeks or three week, it belies the whole truth.

 In Vann Newkirk's assessment, Mayor Landrieu's "...rebuttal was a fair reading of facts-a one year spike in murders does not constitute an alarming trend-but Trump seems to have public opinion on his side."  Concerns about crime was at a 15-year high before the recent killings in Baton Rouge and Dallas.  Fear of crime operates independently of the actual act, and it is likely the Mr. Trump will continue to successfully use this line of attack as a weapon against cities.  Even if the crime rate decreases next year, most Americans will perceive that cities are violent and dangerous place.

"Diversity: the art of thinking together independently"
Malcolm Forbes

Some of Mr. Trump's rationale may have to with the second party of his anti-urban rantings: demographics.  Vann Newkirk observes, "Trump's anti-immigrant remarks and routine bigotry are also implicit attacks on big cities, which are common destinations for immigrants and more diverse than rural areas."  It is those very destinations that resemble what the United States is transforming into.  At the same Mayor Landrieu-led press conference, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio remarked that,

...when they talk about cities, they about places that represent our future...

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti picked up the thread, saying

...we look like the future of this country.

Urban diversity and belonging
These demographic shifts have already taken root in many American cites.  The majority of the cities represented by the Conference of Mayors are majority-minority including: Los Angeles, New York City, and New Orleans with more heading in this direction.  Immigration is remaking cities and increasingly promulgating ideas such as multilingualism, which rub against the very notion of Americanness.  However, as someone who grew up in a bilingual home and studied French and Japanese in school, multilingualism always was the norm not the exception.  Yours truly grew up in Los Angles, hearing Spanish, Russian, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Yiddish, and a multitude of languages spoke all the time.  To Blogger, this is Americanness, not the homogenous concept that Donald Trump and his cohorts are trying to push onto the American voter.  

Yours truly understands that fear of the "other."  The "other" being immigrants.  New people come in from countries that do not live according to the same customs and rule of law that we do, speak a language that we do not understand, cluster together in urban areas.  For a person living in rural America, an immigrant from a non-English speaking country can seem scary.  However, Blogger chooses not to give into the fear of the "other."  Blogger chooses not to participate in the "...proxy war for what Americans want the country to look like..."  A proxy war that is backed up by real rural and urban voting trends.  Rather, Blogger chooses to embrace change, use it as a way to learn and grow.  Knowledge is power and can overcome fear.  The November General Election will go a long way in determining whether or not the United States will embrace urban.