Category Archives: Urban Issues

[Important] News Coverage: Which Poor People Shouldn’t Have to Work for Aid?

[Important] News Coverage: Emily Badger & Margot Sanger-Katz, Which Poor People Shouldn’t Have to Work for Aid?, N.Y. Times, May 15, 2018. [Covering the racism of Michigan’s work requirements and rural exemptions.]


New Book: Collaborative Capitalism in American Cities: Reforming Urban Market Regulations

CC RashmiNew Book: Rashmi Dyal-Chand, Collaborative Capitalism in American Cities: Reforming Urban Market Regulations (Cambridge University Press, 2018). Overview below:

In many American cities, the urban cores still suffer. Poverty and unemployment remain endemic, despite policy initiatives aimed at systemic solutions. Rashmi Dyal-Chand’s research has focused on how businesses in some urban cores are succeeding despite the challenges. Using three examples of urban collaborative capitalism, this book extrapolates a set of lessons about sharing. It argues that sharing can fuel business development and growth. Sharing among businesses can be critical for their economic survival. Sharing can also produce a particularly stable form of economic growth by giving economic stability to employees. As the examples in this book show, sharing can allow American businesses to remain competitive while returning more wealth to their workers, and this more collaborative approach can help solve the problems of urban underdevelopment and poverty.

Editor’s Note: I am a huge fan of everything Rashmi does so even though I have not read this yet, I highly recommend this as a book that is sure to be great. Congrats Rashmi!

New Article: Perpetuating Segregation or Turning Discrimination on its Head? Affordable Housing Residency Preferences as Anti-Displacement Measures

New Article: Zachary C. Freund, Note, Perpetuating Segregation or Turning Discrimination on its Head? Affordable Housing Residency Preferences as Anti-Displacement Measures, 118 Colum. L. Rev. 833 (2018). Abstract below:

Affordable housing residency preferences give residents of a specific geographic “preference area” prioritized access to affordable housing units within that geographic area. Historically, majority-white munici­palities have sometimes used affordable housing residency preferences to systematically exclude racial minorities who reside in sur­rounding com­munities. Courts have invalidated such residency pref­erences, usually on the grounds that they perpetuate residential segregation in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

More recently, as gentrification spurs rising housing costs in many formerly majority-minority urban neighborhoods, cities including New York and San Francisco have implemented intramunicipal residency preferences as a mechanism for mitigating gentrification-induced dis­placement. These cities’ policies offer residents preferred access to affordable housing units in their own neighborhoods, relative to both nonresidents and to city residents living in other neighborhoods. Pro­ponents of these policies contend that their use on an intracity level preserves rather than excludes minority communities, thereby inverting the traditional discriminatory application of such preferences. Opponents of the policies argue that any residency preference imple­mented in a racially segregated area necessarily perpetuates segregation and violates the law.

This Note examines how neighborhood-level, anti-displacement res­idency preferences should be understood under the relevant law. It observes that the neighborhood-level residency preference is a potent anti-displacement tool that suffers from an emerging mismatch between fair housing goals and fair housing law. Neighborhood-level anti-displacement residency preferences likely suffer from the same legal defects as intercity preferences used to exclude minority applicants, and may even be at heightened risk because they are more likely to be ex­pressly race-conscious. Despite the fact that these preferences aim to promote accessible affordable housing for low-income and minority residents, they do so in response to displacement pressures that the Fair Housing Act does not contemplate and in a manner that arguably clashes with its anti-segregationist objective. If neighborhood-level resi­dency preference policies are to be effectively and legally utilized to address issues of urban displacement, either courts’ approaches to such policies or the policies themselves must evolve.

New Article: The Everyday Economic Violence of Black Life

New Article: Renee Hatcher, The Everyday Economic Violence of Black Life, Journal for Affordable Housing and Community Development Law, Volume 25, Number 3, 2017. Abstract below:

A book review of Ferguson’s Fault Lines by Kimberly Norwood. In analyzing the thirteen chapters, the review highlights the central themes of spatial racism, uneven development, and discriminatory practices in Ferguson and the greater St. Louis metropolitan region. In doing so, the review argues that discriminatory development practices create unequal access to education, employment, transportation, health outcomes, and life expectancies, based on race and zip code. These development practices also give rise to and enable discriminatory policing.

The review ultimately argues that state-sanctioned discriminatory policies of both physical and economic violence are intertwined, cyclical, and compounding. In looking to solutions, I advocate that community-driven strategies that address historical discrimination and inequality will move the needle towards progress. By the same token, local housing and development policy makers should employ a racial equity impact assessment for all future investments and policies and take affirmative action to address the geography of inequality that they have helped to create and sustain.

New Book: Moving toward Integration: The Past and Future of Fair Housing

MTI.jpgNew Book: Richard H. Sander, Yana A. Kucheva, and Jonathan M. Zasloff, Moving toward Integration: The Past and Future of Fair Housing (2018). Overview below:

Reducing residential segregation is the best way to reduce racial inequality in the United States. African American employment rates, earnings, test scores, even longevity all improve sharply as residential integration increases. Yet far too many participants in our policy and political conversations have come to believe that the battle to integrate America’s cities cannot be won. Richard SanderYana Kucheva, and Jonathan Zasloff write that the pessimism surrounding desegregation in housing arises from an inadequate understanding of how segregation has evolved and how policy interventions have already set many metropolitan areas on the path to integration.

Scholars have debated for decades whether America’s fair housing laws are effective. Moving toward Integration provides the most definitive account to date of how those laws were shaped and implemented and why they had a much larger impact in some parts of the country than others. It uses fresh evidence and better analytic tools to show when factors like exclusionary zoning and income differences between blacks and whites pose substantial obstacles to broad integration, and when they do not.

Through its interdisciplinary approach and use of rich new data sources, Moving toward Integration offers the first comprehensive analysis of American housing segregation. It explains why racial segregation has been resilient even in an increasingly diverse and tolerant society, and it demonstrates how public policy can align with demographic trends to achieve broad housing integration within a generation.

Op-Ed: Poverty is moving to the suburbs. The war on poverty hasn’t followed.

Op-Ed: Aaron Wiener, Poverty is moving to the suburbs. The war on poverty hasn’t followed, Wash. Post, Apr. 5, 2018.

New Book: Places in Need: The Changing Geography of Poverty

COVER_PlacesinNeedNew Book: Scott W. Allard, Places in Need: The Changing Geography of Poverty (2017). Overview below:

Americans think of suburbs as prosperous areas that are relatively free from poverty and unemployment. Yet, today more poor people live in the suburbs than in cities themselves. In Places in Need, social policy expert Scott W. Allard tracks how the number of poor people living in suburbs has more than doubled over the last 25 years, with little attention from either academics or policymakers. Rising suburban poverty has not coincided with a decrease in urban poverty, meaning that solutions for reducing poverty must work in both cities and suburbs. Allard notes that because the suburban social safety net is less developed than the urban safety net, a better understanding of suburban communities is critical for understanding and alleviating poverty in metropolitan areas.

Using census data, administrative data from safety net programs, and interviews with nonprofit leaders in the Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas, Allard shows that poor suburban households resemble their urban counterparts in terms of labor force participation, family structure, and educational attainment. In the last few decades, suburbs have seen increases in single-parent households, decreases in the number of college graduates, and higher unemployment rates. As a result, suburban demand for safety net assistance has increased. Concerning is evidence suburban social service providers—which serve clients spread out over large geographical areas, and often lack the political and philanthropic support that urban nonprofit organizations can command—do not have sufficient resources to meet the demand.

To strengthen local safety nets, Allard argues for expanding funding and eligibility to federal programs such as SNAP and the Earned Income Tax Credit, which have proven effective in urban and suburban communities alike. He also proposes to increase the capabilities of community-based service providers through a mix of new funding and capacity-building efforts.

Places in Need demonstrates why researchers, policymakers, and nonprofit leaders should focus more on the shared fate of poor urban and suburban communities. This account of suburban vulnerability amidst persistent urban poverty provides a valuable foundation for developing more effective antipoverty strategies.

New Report: “Facing Eviction Alone” [About evictions in Denver]

New Report: Audrey Hasvold & Jack Regenbogen, Facing Eviction Alone: Denver Colorado 2014-2016 (2017).

New Book: “City of Debtors: A Century of Fringe Finance”

CityofDebtorsNew Book: Anne Fleming, City of Debtors: A Century of Fringe Finance (2018). Overview below:

Since the rise of the small-sum lending industry in the 1890s, people on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder in the United States have been asked to pay the greatest price for credit. Again and again, Americans have asked why the most fragile borrowers face the highest costs for access to the smallest loans. To protect low-wage workers in need of credit, reformers have repeatedly turned to law, only to face the vexing question of where to draw the line between necessary protection and overreaching paternalism.

City of Debtors shows how each generation of Americans has tackled the problem of fringe finance, using law to redefine the meaning of justice within capitalism for those on the economic margins. Anne Fleming tells the story of the small-sum lending industry’s growth and regulation from the ground up, following the people who navigated the market for small loans and those who shaped its development at the state and local level. Fleming’s focus on the city and state of New York, which served as incubators for numerous lending reforms that later spread throughout the nation, differentiates her approach from work that has centered on federal regulation. It also reveals the overlooked challenges of governing a modern financial industry within a federalist framework.

Fleming’s detailed work contributes to the broader and ongoing debate about the meaning of justice within capitalistic societies, by exploring the fault line in the landscape of capitalism where poverty, the welfare state, and consumer credit converge.

New Article: “Side by Side: Revitalizing Urban Cores and Ensuring Residential Diversity”

New Article: Andrea J. Boyack, Side by Side: Revitalizing Urban Cores and Ensuring Residential Diversity, forthcoming Chicago-Kent L. Rev. Abstract below:

Fifty years ago, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed a hope that someday people of all races would “live side by side in decent, safe, and sanitary housing.” Residential patterns in America today, however, remain highly segregated by race and income. The Fair Housing Act outlawed overt housing discrimination and unjustified discriminatory impacts, but zoning laws and housing finance structures have continued to impede housing integration, leaving communities nearly as racially homogenous as they were in the mid 20th century. These separate neighborhoods are far from equal. The majority of people who reside in financially distressed city-center neighborhoods are non-white. Historically, efforts to renovate city centers have perpetuated racial housing segregation by moving impoverished minority residents out of gentrifying areas. City-center revitalization is a key way to promote community health, wealth, and safety, but revitalization efforts must improve diversity as well as infrastructure. Revitalization efforts that include housing for all income levels and amenities that enrich all residents can help combat not only continuing racial disparity of opportunity in this country, but also the indicia of un-resolved racial animus that both geographically and psychologically divides the nation.

Failing urban cores represent one of today’s biggest societal problems. Decades of population and income loss have left many urban neighborhoods trapped in a physical, economic, and social death spiral. Cities present great potential sources of wealth and culture for society. It will be challenging for municipalities, regions, and states to create and execute plans to rebuild decaying urban neighborhoods in a way that will both generate economic opportunity and sustainably integrate people of different races, ethnicities, and income levels. Federal financing structures and local zoning laws should be harnessed to achieve that vision. At the very least, financing and zoning programs and policies must be reformed so that they are no longer barriers to integrated gentrification.

Market trends support the city investment effort. The “American dream” concept of home is no longer unitary, focused solely on single-family detached homes on large lots in far-flung suburbs. Housing preferences seem to be shifting toward denser, more walk-able, urban-feel mixed-use neighborhoods; provided, however, that those neighborhoods are safe and provide adequate amenities and services. The market’s renewed demand for quality urban housing presents an opportunity for urban revival. Municipalities can salvage their city centers by aligning their land use laws and affordable housing policies to catch and ride this wave of consumer demand. Financial institutions and zoning approaches need to modernize in order to encourage and enable the creation of multi-use neighborhoods and properties. Innovative zoning and financial tools can be employed not only to achieve a redesigned city’s integrated physical infrastructure, but also its income, racial, and cultural diversity.

This article discusses the need to reform financial structures and zoning approaches in the context of needed urban redevelopment. Part I explains the inadequacy of historic affordable housing programs, pointing out that these have been insufficient to provide equitable housing opportunities and have, in fact, entrenched the problems of city-suburb divide and racial and income segregation. Part II posits that federal housing assistance should be re-imagined in a more holistic way, focused first on improving a neighborhood rather than individual renters or units. It also discusses some creative ways that federal and local agencies may enlist private investment and involvement in community revitalization efforts while retaining necessary control. Part III advocates that city planners move away from use-segregated zoning approaches and embrace inclusionary approaches that will promote neighborhoods that are diverse with respect to property uses and types of residential housing options. With the proper foresight and incentive structures, urban gentrification can be channeled to maximize housing integration and neighborhood stability.