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.
Posted by Laura Barrett on May 7, 2013
President Obama on April 29 nominated Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx for Secretary of Transportation. Transit advocates are hoping that Foxx's experience as the successful mayor of a mid-size city will ground his work as secretary.
The two year transportation authorization bill, MAP-21, signed into law last July has some serious shortcomings as far as advocates are concerned. As Transportation For America put it: "The bill dedicates zero dollars to repairing our roads and bridges, cuts the amount of money that cities and local governments would have received, makes a drastic cut in the money available to prevent the deaths of people walking or biking, and ensures that you have less input and control over major projects that affect you and the quality of your community."
Transit advocates will push for a more progressive bill when MAP-21 expires in September 2014. Foxx can make a difference in this process, highlighting the need to fix our country's aging bridges and other systems as well as the need to build a sustainable, clean economy.
Posted by John Emmeus Davis on May 6, 2013
During the worst years of the Great American Mortgage Meltdown, shared equity homes represented an island of stability in a turbulent sea of market failure. Whether community land trusts (CLTs); limited equity cooperatives (LECs); or houses, townhouses, and condominiums encumbered with long-lasting affordability covenants, every model within this sector had admirable outcomes, with fewer defaults and fewer foreclosures than conventional, market-rate housing.
One model of shared equity homeownership, in particular, posted rates that were dramatically lower. Between 2008 and 2010, during the height of the mortgage crisis, CLT homeowners defaulted and descended into foreclosure at rates merely one-eighth to one-tenth the default rate and foreclosure rate experienced by homeowners as a whole.
It would be reasonable to assume such sectoral success would garner wide acclaim and rich reward. You’d think that members of a financial industry so recently burned by lavishing loans on market-rate homes that plunged so easily into disaster when boom turned to bust would be impressed by the resiliency of shared-equity homes. You’d think that bankers so recently scolded for investing in dangerous derivatives would be attracted to a sector where risks are low, where post-purchase stewardship has been proven to work.
You’d be wrong.