At Lincoln House

The Weblog of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

May 21, 2015

Renewal, house by house, in Detroit

FullSizeRenderThe shrinking of Detroit and the city’s vast areas of abandoned and vacant land – about 20 square miles, roughly equivalent to the size of Manhattan – have been well-documented. But a lesser-known story is how some neighborhoods are stemming the tide, fending off disintegration block by block and house by house. Representatives of the Detroit Land Bank Authority led a tour this week of homes in the East English Village neighborhood that are being auctioned off and rehabilitated. One woman who had purchased the home for about $8,000 was busy replacing floors and fixing up a big back garden. Another home drew prospective buyers at a recent open house; despite being in very rough shape, the property could sell for $20,000.
     If the trend continues, Detroit could cut in half the 80,000 structures set for demolition by a blight task force, said Craig Fahle, director of public affairs at Building Detroit. The excursion to the east side, near Grosse Pointe, was part of a Journalists Summit (On Twitter: #RVPSummit) organized by the Lincoln Institute and the Center for Community Progress, in association with the 2015 Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference. About two-dozen writers and editors were in attendance.
     Tamar Shapiro, president of the Center for Community Progress, and Lincoln Institute President George W. “Mac” McCarthy led the group through the history of land banks and reclaiming abandoned properties. There is great interest in rehabilitating blighted properties, but often it just takes too long to get required permits or a certificate of occupancy – details in the bureaucratic process that need to be streamlined, McCarthy said.
     The journalists heard from Jeff Hebert, Executive Director of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (“Weak Market, Strong Market, and Everything Between: The Role of Market Responsiveness in the Fight Against Blight”); Alan Mallach, co-author of Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities (“What’s Really Happening on the Ground: Reinvestment and Displacement in Post-Industrial Cities”); Gus Frangos, president of the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation, and Kim Graziani, director of National Technical Assistance, Center for Community Progress (“120 Land Banks and Counting: Can They Transform America's Distressed Neighborhoods?”); Frank Alexander, Sam Nunn Professor of Law at Emory University (“Zombies, Delinquents, and Other Trouble Makers: Understanding How Properties Get Stuck”); and Toni Griffin, director of the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City, who showcased a new platform for sharing innovations (“Designing a Just Post-Industrial City”).
     The group also engaged in a spirited conversation about the challenges of writing about struggling cities and gentrification, even as there is a growing readership for stories about cities and numerous online venues such as Next City and CityLab. As organizer of the Journalists Forum on Land and the Built Environment and partner in UN-HABITAT’s  Urban Journalism Academy, the Lincoln Institute seeks to improve the dialogue about land policy by helping turn often highly technical material into compelling journalism.

May 20, 2015

Data-driven decision-making

  The ability to visualize data – where residents have health insurance, how close they are to a park or library, or who is going through foreclosure – has become prerequisite in citybuilding these days. It’s almost hard to imagine making policy decisions or launching initiatives without big data as a guide. And as Maggie McCullough, founder and President of PolicyMap, made clear in a presentation at the Lincoln Institute last month, the technology is getting better all the time.
     PolicyMap, an online data and mapping tool that enables government, commercial, non-profit and academic institutions to access data about communities and markets across the US, is a project of The Reinvestment Fund, a nonprofit community development financial institution that works across the Mid-Atlantic. The idea was simple: create an enormous online library of place-based data and make it available through a familiar map interface, empowering individuals and organizations with “location intelligence.”
     A veteran in housing at local, state, and federal agencies, McCullough said she saw the need to present a wide array of data in an easy-to-understand and actionable format. Whether at the city level or at the Census, CDC, or FBI, information is “available but not accessible,” she said. Users can build maps based on 37,000 data indicators including demographic information, home sale statistics, health data, mortgage trends, school performance scores, unemployment rates, and crime statistics. The maps have been used for research, market studies, business planning and site selection, grant applications, and impact analysis – the latter especially important at a time when scarce resources need to be targeted for maximum impact. The applications are numerous, from siting health care centers, supermarkets, or neighborhood libraries, to tracking tax delinquencies and vacant lots.
     The platform has a unique application as well in fostering interdepartmental coordination and strategic planning by sharing data across city agencies, McCullough said.
     “It’s always better to be making decisions based on information, rather than based on intuition,” said Lincoln Institute President George W. “Mac” McCarthy, who promised future collaboration with PolicyMap on zoning and land use information, for example. “We want to bring data to practice and policy on the ground.”
     The presentation, The Power of Data-Driven Decision-Making, part of the Lincoln Institute’s spring lecture series, can be viewed in its entirety here.
     McCullough has worked for the City of Philadelphia's Office of Housing, Governor Casey of Pennsylvania, the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton Administration, and within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She joined The Reinvestment Fund in 2004, conducting housing-related research and analysis for several of its public sector and foundation clients. She holds a Masters Degree in Governmental Administration from the University of Pennsylvania and has a B.A. in Economics and Political Science from St. Joseph's University.

May 07, 2015

Cities Increasing Reliance on Fees as Other Revenues Fall

     Cities continuing to struggle with finances have been increasingly relying on user charges and fees, according to an analysis of freshly updated data from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy’s database on local government finance, Fiscally Standardized Cities.
      User charges and fees - for sewer systems, waste management, parks, city-run hospitals and airports, and for a range of services including education, housing, and community development - are the only major source of revenue that has grown since the start of the Great Recession in 2007. On average, after adjusting for inflation, per capita revenues from user charges grew by over 7 percent between 2007 and 2012. During the same period, property tax revenues fell by 5 percent, and revenues from state aid and from other taxes by nearly 10 percent.

Fisc-bar-chart
     The growth in user charge revenues continues a long trend. Data from the Fiscally Standardized Cities database show that after adjusting inflation and population change, user charge revenue in the average city in the database increased by 143 percent from 1977 to 2012. Revenues from local taxes other than the property tax, such as a local sales tax, increased 88 percent, while revenue from more traditional sources increased at a lower rate in that period. State aid grew by 53 percent, and property tax revenues by 17 percent, while federal aid actually declined by 18 percent.

Fisc-line-chart

     The increased reliance on user charges has helped cities offset drops in other revenue sources, but has not led to increased spending. In fact, real per capita spending reductions from 2009 to 2012 occurred across almost all categories of spending, including public safety and education. Further, cities have scaled back dramatically on basic investments: the largest percentage cuts occurred in capital outlays (18.4 percent). These reductions in capital spending occurred at a time when many central cities are facing large unmet infrastructure needs due in large part to aging water, sewer, and transportation systems, and during a time when the interest rate costs of financing capital investments are at historical lows.
      “Cities are making unwarranted choices to make fiscal ends meet in the short term while compromising long term security and stability,” said George W. “Mac” McCarthy, president and CEO of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, who called for a revisiting of the fundamental covenant of property taxes - the focus of opposition and tax limits - to fund services and restore “municipal fiscal health.”
     “The costs of these choices are invisible until they erupt in dramatic ways - when bridges fall into the Mississippi, or buildings explode in Harlem as a result of hundred-year-old gas lines, or are debilitated by social protests. We are facing real structural challenges regarding the way we supply the basic public goods that most people take for granted.”
     Writing in the current issue of the Lincoln Institute’s quarterly magazine Land Lines, McCarthy noted how many municipalities are increasing reliance on revenue from traffic citations and the sale of tax liens to investors, as they struggle with decades-old planning decisions that have decanted jobs and population to the suburbs, and costly federal mandates in the upgrading of infrastructure.
     The Fiscally Standardized Cities database uses data from the Census Bureau to provide a full picture of all revenues raised from central city residents and businesses and spending on their behalf, whether done by the city government or an independent overlying government. The estimates add together revenues and expenditures for city governments and an appropriate share from overlying county governments, school districts, and special districts, allowing a meaningful comparison of local public finance across 112 cities. The database includes data up to 2012, the most recent year for which Census Bureau fiscal data are available. Users can build their own tables to analyze the data in the database, to compare property tax revenues in two cities, rank all cities by their school spending, investigate changes in public sector salaries over time, or see which cities are most reliant on state aid to fund their budgets.
     In 2012 both revenues and spending in most of the nation’s largest central cities remain below their pre-recession levels, said Lincoln Institute fellow Andrew Reschovsky, who teamed with senior research analyst Adam Langley at the Lincoln Institute and Howard Chernick of Hunter College to create the database. “Incomplete evidence from 2013 and 2014 data suggest that in 2015 many central cities remain in weak fiscal health, with inadequate revenues to provide important public services to their residents.”
     The single largest category of user charges are for sewers, and these grew substantially during and after the Great Recession. Sewer charges averaged $221 per capita for the 112 FiSCs in 2012 - up 16 percent from 2007 in real per capita terms. That is nearly $900 for a family of four. In some cities, sewer charges are much higher than average, including Detroit ($728), Seattle ($662), Atlanta ($503), and Tacoma ($501). Higher sewer charges are driven by many factors, including rising costs associated with meeting wastewater treatment requirements under the Clean Water Act.

Fisc-table

       Categories of charges include sewer systems, hospitals, airports, solid waste management, parking, seaport facilities, highways, school lunch programs, higher education, parks and recreation, and natural resources. The categories are detailed by the U.S. Census Bureau in this classification manual.

April 17, 2015

Lincoln Institute at APA's National Planning Conference in Seattle

     Preparing for the impacts of climate change, regeneration in Legacy Cities, and the expanding use of scenario planning tools will be among the topics explored by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy at the  American Planning Association’s National Planning Conference in Seattle April 17-22, 2015.
     The Lincoln Institute’s latest book, Planning for States and Nation-States in the U.S. and Europe, edited by Armando Carbonell, Gerrit-Jan Knaap, and Zorica Nedovic-Budic, will also be launched at the National Planning Conference. The research surveys higher-level planning initiatives in five U.S. states -- Oregon, California, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey – and spatial planning structures in five western European nations: The Netherlands, Denmark, France, U.K., and Ireland.
     Though planning at the state and national level leads to more efficient investments in infrastructure, better resilience in the face of climate change, and greater equity in economic development, most land use planning continues to be done at the local level.
     Throughout the conference, at the Washington State Convention Center, the Lincoln Institute will co-sponsor the Planning and Climate Change Symposium, taking stock of initiatives in cities and states in addressing increased hazards and preparation for the impacts of climate change, disaster recovery and building resilience.
      On Sunday, April 19 from 10:45 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., Armando Carbonell, AICP, senior fellow and chairman of the Department of Planning and Urban Form at the Lincoln Institute, will lead a conversation, Planning and Climate Change in Context, with Peter Calthorpe, principal at Calthorpe Associates, and Harriet Tregoning, this week appointed to be Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Office of Community Planning and Development, and previously Director of the Office of Economic Resilience at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
     Addressing Climate Impacts in Vulnerable Communities is also set for Sunday from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m., with Ana Baptista from The New School for Public Engagement, George W. “Mac” McCarthy, President and CEO of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Jacqui Patterson, at the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, and Sharon Harlan, Arizona State University, School of Human Evolution and Social Change.
     Building New Economies in Legacy Cities, from 1 to 2:15 p.m. on Saturday April 18, will feature Lavea Brachman, executive director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center and co-author of the Lincoln Institute report Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities, and Jason Segedy, director of the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study, in a panel moderated by Anthony Flint, Fellow and Director of Public Affairs at the Lincoln Institute.
     Also Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Ken Snyder, founder and CEO of PlaceMatters, Arnab Chakraborty, AICP, associate professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ray Quay, Research Professional with the Decision Center for a Desert City project in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, and Brad Barnett, project manager at Calthorpe Analytics, will lead a workshop, Thinking About the Future with Scenario Tools. The panelists will draw on the initiative and report Opening Access to Scenario Planning Tools, published by the Lincoln Institute, and the experiences of the Open Planning Tools Group, a Lincoln Institute partner.
     Oil and Gas Development, Local Responses, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, will explore the land use implications of resource extraction, including fracking, with Brad Mueller, AICP, City of Greeley Planning Department; Lorelei Oviatt, AICP, Kern County; and Tushar Kansal from the Consensus Building Institute, a Lincoln Institute partner.
     The Lincoln Institute will host two sessions on Monday, April 20 based on the long-running convening of planning directors nationwide. In the first, What’s Up with Seattle-Area Planning Directors from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m., planners will share the results of an all-day retreat, with Brian Jackson, City of Vancouver, British Columbia; Shane Hope, AICP, City of Edmonds, Washington; Eric Shields, AICP, City of Kirkland, Washington; Nathan Torgelson, City of Seattle, Washington; Colin Cooper, AICP, City of Hillsboro, Oregon; Jean LaMontagne, City of Surrey, British Columbia. Peter Pollock, the Lincoln Institute’s Roland Smith Fellow based in Boulder, Colo., will serve as moderator.
     In the second panel, Big City Planning Directors on Affordable Housing and Equity, from 2:45 to 4 p.m., participants from the annual convening organized by the Lincoln Institute, APA, and Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design will include David Rouse, AICP, American Planning Association; Armando Carbonell, AICP, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy; Robert Hickey, Center for Housing Policy, a division of the National Housing Conference; John Rahaim, planning director from San Francisco; and Purnima Kapur from the New York City Department of Planning.
     The Lincoln Institute will have publications and a wide range of materials available throughout the conference in the Planning Expo at Booth 701. 

April 14, 2015

Planning for States and Nation-States

Planning_for_States_and_Nation_States_coverPlanning at the state and national level leads to more efficient investments in infrastructure, better resilience in the face of climate change, and greater equity in economic development, but most land use planning continues to be done at the local level, according to new research published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
     Planning for States and Nation-States in the U.S. and Europe, edited by Armando Carbonell, Gerrit-Jan Knaap, and Zorica Nedovic-Budic, examines the role of the U.S. federal government and the European Union, and compares land use and spatial planning structures in five U.S. states (Oregon, California, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey) and five western European nations (The Netherlands, Denmark, France, U.K., and Ireland).
     The case studies highlight innovative strategies adopted by states and nation-states to address global and local planning challenges in the 21st century. The conclusions suggest a trend towards the devolution of planning responsibilities from the level of nations, states, and nation-states, to lower levels of government.
     “In the U.S., where few states engage in planning and an aversion to national planning persists, the love affair with ‘localism’ handicaps our ability to deal with challenges like climate change, growing economic disparity, and inadequate infrastructure,” said Armando Carbonell, senior fellow and chairman of the Department of Planning and Urban Form at the Lincoln Institute.
      The book, which is based on a symposium by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Policy at University College, Dublin, and the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education at the University of Maryland, will have its debut at the American Planning Association’s National Planning Conference in Seattle April 17-22, 2015.
      The fundamental challenges of building and sustaining human settlements have not changed significantly for centuries: shelter, sanitation, transportation, nutrition, social interaction, and economic production. The relative urgency of these challenges, however, has changed over time, as have the planning and public policy approaches to address them. Since the turn of the last century, climate change, economic development, social justice, and community revitalization have risen to the top of the planning agenda.
     To address these issues, planners have conducted extensive research, developed and marshaled new technologies, and adopted a variety of new tools and policy instruments. In addition, planners and policy makers in some European nations and some U.S. states have significantly changed the relative roles of international organizations and national, state, regional, and local governments.
     In the United States, during the first term of the Obama administration, the federal government launched several new initiatives to facilitate collaborative planning at the metropolitan scale. Beginning in the 1970s, some states strengthened and then loosened oversight of local planning, some assigned new responsibilities to regional governments, and still others prepared and adopted statewide development plans. Oregon and Maryland are perhaps best known for robust statewide planning initiatives to encourage more sustainable development.
     In Europe, changes in the roles of governments have been more dramatic and widespread, beginning with the creation of the European Union (EU) and the emergence of pan- European planning frameworks.  To foster unity and economic growth, the EU promulgated principles of spatial development for its member nations. Some European nations adopted national spatial development strategies, while others delegated more responsibilities to regional and local governments.
     Planning for States and Nation-Statesin the U.S. and Europe (2015 / 552 Pages / Paper / $35.00 / ISBN: 978-155844-291-7 / eBook ISBN: 978-1-55844-292-4) is edited by Armando Carbonell, senior fellow and chairman, Department of Planning and Urban Form, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy; Gerrit-Jan Knaap, Professor of Urban Studies and Planning,Director, National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education, Associate Dean for Research and Creative Activity, School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, University of Maryland; and Zorica Nedovic-Budic, Professor of Spatial Planning, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Policy, University College Dublin, Ireland.
     Contributors in the U.S. analysis are Patricia E. Salkin, dean of the Touro Law Center (Land Use Regulation in the United States: An Intergovernmental Framework); Ethan Seltzer, professor at the Nohad A. Toulon School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University (Land Use Planning in Oregon: The Quilt and the Struggle for Scale); William Fulton, director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University (Will Climate Change Save Growth Management in California?); Martin A. Bierbaum, senior scholar at the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education, University of Maryland (The New Jersey State Planning Experience: From Ambitious Vision to Implementation Quagmire to Goal Redefinition); Gerrit-Jan Knapp (Using Incentives to Combat Sprawl: Maryland’s Evolving Approach to Smart Growth); and Rebecca Lewis, assistant professor of Planning, Public Policy, and Management at the University of Oregon (Delaware’s Quiet Emergence into Innovative State Planning).
     Contributors providing commentary in the U.S. section are: Richard Whitman, Natural Resources Policy Director, Oregon Office of the Governor; Richard Hall, Secretary, Mary land Department of Planning; Constance C. Holland, Director, Delaware Office of State Planning Coordination; Mike McKeever, Executive Director, Sacramento Association of Governments; and Frank J. Popper, professor of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University, and the Environmental Studies Program, Prince ton University.
     Contributors to the section on Europe are: Andreas Faludi, Emeritus Professor of Spatial Policy Systems in Europe and Guest Researcher, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands (The European Union Context of National Planning); Barrie Needham, Emeritus Professor of Spatial Planning, Nijmegen School of Management, Radboud University, The Netherlands (The National Spatial Strategy for The Netherlands); Stig Enemark, Professor of Land Management Aalborg University, and Honorary President, International Federation of Surveyors, Denmark, and Daniel Galland, Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, Department of Development and Planning, Aalborg University, Denmark (The Danish National Spatial Planning Framework: Fluctuating Capacities of Planning Policies and Institutions); Anna Geppert, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Paris– Sorbonne, France (Planning Without a Spatial Development Perspective? The French Case); Mark Tewdwr-Jones, Professor of Town Planning, Newcastle University, United Kingdom (National Planning in the United Kingdom); and Berna Grist, Senior Lecturer, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Policy, University College Dublin, Ireland (The Irish National Spatial Strategy).
     Commentators in the Europe section are Jane Kragh Andersen, Geographer, Ministry of the Environment, Denmark; Henriette Bersee, Head of Policy Studies, Directorate for Spatial Development, Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, The Netherlands; Niall Cussen, Senior Planning Adviser, Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Ireland; Jean Peyrony, Director General, Mission Opérationnelle Transfrontalière, France; Brendan Williams, Lecturer, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Policy, University College Dublin, Ireland; and Leonora Rozee, Visiting Professor, Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, United Kingdom.

April 09, 2015

At Journalists Forum, confronting social equity

Journalists Forum 2015 CurtatoneThe growing problem of inequality in cities was the central theme of the annual Journalists Forum on Land and the Built Environment, held last month at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Some 40 leading writers and editors and Nieman Fellows gathered for the two-day forum.
      Cities in the U.S. and all around the world are confronting gentrification and the widening gap between rich and poor, and mobilizing to bring greater equity through better policies in jobs, affordable housing, transportation infrastructure, parks and public space, and more meaningful civic engagement.
     The extent of the problem was illustrated vividly by Edward G. Goetz, professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, who shared research on “Racially Concentrated Areas of Affluence,” where segments of the population in metropolitan areas are more than 90 percent white, with incomes four times the poverty level. The concentration of wealth showed up as polycentric swaths of red on maps of cities from San Francisco to Boston – the flip side of the American urban inequality narrative highlighting disadvantaged neighborhoods. These areas are effectively being subsidized -- at an astonishing rate up to three times greater than in poor neighborhoods -- by such policies as the home mortgage interest deduction, Goetz said.
     Social equity presents special challenges for political leadership, and four speakers at the forefront led probing conversations with the journalists. Joseph Curtatone, the mayor of Somerville – described as the “Brooklyn of Boston” due to rising prices -- called for a more regional approach to planning and economic development to “unwind the mistakes of the past and plan for the future.” More balanced growth can be achieved through value capture, affordable housing policies, and community benefit agreements, especially at transit-oriented development at the stations along the planned extension of the Green Line. But he said the city is also “embracing density,” in industrial areas transitioning to mixed-use development.
     Mitchell Silver, the New York City parks commissioner, said the community parks initiative emphasized fairness and equity in the distribution of capital investments in what he argued was a vital component of infrastructure in any city. The parks department is also trying to work smarter and more efficiently, he said, with mobile maintenance crews and money-saving innovations in playground design.
      As a researcher and legal activist, Stephanie Pollack agitated for a public transportation system that better served the low-income people who needed it most. Then newly elected Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker appointed her secretary of transportation – just in time for a crippling winter that exposed the many shortcomings of the MBTA. When the T was forced to shut down, “that was the day employers found out how their workers got to work,” she said. While the financing of the system remains a priority, Pollack said she was open to cost-effective solutions wherever they may be. For late night service, the T spends $7.50 per trip. “I could give people cash to take Uber home,” she said. “If Bridge and Uber can get more people where they need to go – and affordably – then we absolutely should be embracing that conversation.”
      Finally, Christine Quinn, former speaker of the New York City Council and now a fellow at the Kennedy School, shared her rough-and-tumble experiences trying to bring balance to New York’s red-hot real estate development market, at the evening assembly at the Nieman Foundation’s Walter Lippmann House.
     In analyzing “the most unequal society we’ve had since the last gilded age,” Chris Benner, professor at the University of California at Davis and a collaborator with Manuel Pastor at Just Growth, said places with more income equality and racial inclusion have a better quality of economic growth, and more stability through boom-and-bust. Growth spells tend to be shorter in metropolitan regions with more political fragmentation, racial segregation, and income inequality, Benner said, citing a recent study he had conducted.
     As models for more inclusive growth he cited the Salt Lake City area, Oklahoma City, and Seattle – the latter represented at the Forum by Tony To, executive director of Homesight, whose focus has been “communities of opportunity” bolstered by job training and digital literacy. Deborah Scott from Georgia Stand-Up similarly shared experiences in fighting displacement next to the Atlanta Falcons stadium and otherwise fostering inclusion in major economic development projects.
     Calvin Gladney of Mosaic Urban Partners  analyzed the dizzying forces of gentrification in Washington D.C., in the U Street and H Street neighborhoods.  “We talk about gentrification as the moment when a white person moves into a black person’s house,” though income and education level are more clearly identified in shifting demographics.
     Mitigating displacement can be achieved through affordable housing requirements and education and assistance, he said, citing the success of Ben’s Chili Bowl in adapting retail strategies. “Gentrification harder to survive than the riots,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s about participation in this upgrading.”
     Displacement is a “process of dispossession … the traumatic stress reaction to loss of part or all of one’s emotional ecosystem,” said Mindy Fullilove, professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Clinical Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University, and author of Root Shock. Whether in urban renewal or gentrification, she said, there are few more vivid expressions of inequality than residents of minority communities losing a home – and seeing others thrive in their place.
      In an exploration of the role of design in social equity, Michael Murphy, Mass Design Group, demonstrated how the construction of hospitals can be healthy in every sense, particularly in places like Haiti and Rwanda – good for the local economy in terms of workers and materials, and better for patients with abundant windows and natural ventilation that speeds recovery. “The process of building is being under-leveraged in terms of community health and wellness,” he said.
      True inclusion requires genuinely listening to a community, said Georgeen Theodore of Interboro Partners, citing effective outreach in the West Market Neighborhood Plan and the Holding Pattern project at MoMA’s PS1 courtyard – a collection of recyclable and moveable amenities, from cubes to trees to chess tables, requested by taxi drivers, the elderly, kids, and Teamsters with an office across the street. “Community engagement isn’t a checklist – it’s an opportunity to tap into the needs of hopes of different people,” she said. A similar survey of residents’ attitudes towards public space is currently being tested by the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City, led by Toni Griffin. Equity performance measures include feelings of safety, stewardship, and connection.
     A resurgence in the locally crafted maker economy and small-scale manufacturing is helping many struggling cities move on from the days of a single large company dominating the economy, said Ilana Preuss, founder of Recast City. Municipalities that set zoning and otherwise support smaller-scale manufacturing at sites such as Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center and FirstBuild – sharing space, equipment, tools, and back-end functions – enjoy greater economic diversity and resilience.
     On the critical topic of housing, home ownership remains a positive force for household stability, holding a job, getting access to good education, and civic participation, said Roberto G. Quercia, chairman of the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina. But the nation’s housing policies are simply “not working,” said Emily P. Thaden, Research & Policy Development Manager at the National Community Land Trust Network. Limited-equity housing cooperatives, shared-equity Community Land Trusts, and deed restrictions through inclusionary housing can all achieve more lasting affordability, she said.
      New technology has vastly improved the information that can be conveyed through mapping of social vulnerability, said Loyola University professor Robert R.M. Verchick, scholar at the Center for Progressive Reform. From farm workers being affected by drought to low-income residents in the path of hurricanes, the most vulnerable face a future that is “hotter, wetter, drier, and weirder,” he said.
    Lincoln Institute President George W. “Mac” McCarthy and Omar Blaik, partner at U3 Ventures, pointed out the challenges of implementation as anchor institutions – colleges and universities and medical centers – in theory can be powerful forces for balanced prosperity in cities. They are big employers – in some cities, the biggest – and purchasers of goods and services; but they can be creatures of habit and risk-averse. The Affordable Care Act requires hospitals to do more for the communities where they are located, McCarthy said. Case studies included the University of Pennsylvania in West Philadelphia, Midtown Detroit, and College Park, Maryland.
     Looking at the law of urban equity, there are those that both diminish and promote equity, said GSD professor Jerold Kayden. The latter includes the Housing Act of 1949, so-called “right to the city” laws internationally, inclusionary zoning, linkage, affordable housing mandates such as those stemming from the Mount Laurel court decision in New Jersey and Chapter 40-B in Massachusetts, rent control, and living wage laws. Those that diminish equity include exclusionary zoning, minimum lot sizes, and construction requirements that make it harder to build multifamily housing.
     In the “Practicing the Craft” sessions, Alex Jones, director of the Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School, said that the problem of inequity has been stubborn in the culture, compared to more rapidly changing attitudes about gay rights, for example. Public awareness of poverty would be helped by greater empathy – including on the part of the generally highly educated media. “The poor live in a different place. They have different lives,” he said. Jim Brady, founder of the Philadelphia-based local news site BillyPenn, said that millennials yearn for civic engagement, and want to follow up on major themes in the news, whether about gentrification or charter schools or the death penalty. “They want to be in real, physical conversations,” he said.
     In the concluding roundtable discussion, the journalists grappled with the challenge of writing about the rich and poor. “I feel like we are on a strange path where we are “othering” poverty,” said Jennifer Reut, associate editor at Landscape Architecture. “An us and them, versus, this is a problem for all of us.”

April 07, 2015

New look, and approach, for Land Lines

  LLApril15_coverLand Lines, the quarterly magazine of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, has been redesigned to include new features and articles written by a broader range of contributors.
      “As we elevate the dialogue about the importance of land policy in the built and natural environments, the new and improved Land Lines will blend compelling journalism and scholarly articles of the highest quality,” said George W. “Mac” McCarthy, president and CEO of the Lincoln Institute.
     “By linking our research to the lives of real people, we hope to elevate the general understanding of what we do, deepen and broaden demand for our expertise, and ultimately inform more equitable, effective, and resilient land policy,” wrote Maureen Clarke, senior editor and director of publications, in an Editor’s Note in the April 2015 Land Lines, published today.
     For 26 years, academic experts wrote Land Lines articles, commissioned as part of larger research programs ultimately by the Lincoln Institute’s three departments: Valuation and Taxation, Planning and Urban Form, and International Studies, which includes programs on Latin America and China.
     While the magazine will continue to reflect their work, Clarke said, the magazine has “begun commissioning journalists—carefully chosen for their experience, expertise, and locations—to write narratives that draw on the Institute’s research and demonstrate how effective and creative land policies help to solve vexing social and economic challenges.”
      Moving forward, Clarke said, “Land Lines writers will interview our researchers as well as the citizens and leaders whose problems would be solved by smarter planning, municipal finance, and land-related taxation.”
      In the April issue, veteran Detroit Free Press journalist and author John Gallagher writes about Detroit’s visionary strategic planning framework; and Ryan Dubé, a contributor to The Wall Street Journal and The Globe & Mail, examines the role of property titles in addressing informal settlement in Peru.
     A new column, City Tech, will highlight advances in the use of technology in land policy, authored by Rob Walker, a contributor to The New York TimesDesign Observer, and Yahoo Tech. The debut column looks at a new app called BlightStatus, developed by Code for America, that serves as a critical tool for rebuilding and redevelopment.
     Adam H. Langley, senior research analyst at the Lincoln Institute, authored another major feature on property tax relief. Additional well-established features—such as the Message from the President, the Faculty Profile, and announcements of new publications, events, and fellowship opportunities—will continue to be a prominent part of every quarterly issue. 
     “Although Land Lines is changing, some constants will endure. It will remain free and stubbornly nonpartisan. Our research program departments will still develop the key themes we explore. And we will continue to publish quarterly, honoring the Lincoln Institute’s historic identity as a school and research institute by taking the long view, plumbing the depths of contemporary global challenges, and recommending land policy approaches to address them,” Clarke said.
     “By linking our research to the lives of real people, we hope to elevate the general understanding of what we do, deepen and broaden demand for our expertise, and ultimately inform more equitable, effective, and resilient land policy,” she said. “We seek to make Land Lines a requisite read for Lincoln Institute followers and a gateway for newcomers.”

March 21, 2015

For cities, the doctor is in: a focus on municipal fiscal health

     The future prospects for cities worldwide has a foundation in something that doesn't always get much talked about: municipal fiscal health. That was the message delivered by Lincoln Institute President George W. McCarthy in an appearance at the USC Price School of Public Policy earlier this month.
     The basic covenant of funding local government for services and infrastructure has gone awry, he said, saddling cities with debt and plummeting some, most famously Detroit, into bankruptcy. “We have to ... rebuild the understanding in the general population of the role of local government and why it is necessary and good to pay taxes, or otherwise the provision of public goods would not happen,” McCarthy said.
     Noting that from 1980 to 2010, there was an average of seven municipal Chapter 9 bankruptcy filings per year, McCarthy said that  “very often insolvency today is the result of poor planning that was done 40 years ago."  Cities must manage around unpredictable federal and state government mandates beyond their control -- for example changes made at the state level on how to redistribute sales tax money.
     Fiscal problems are not unique to U.S. municipalities. In China, cities have issued $3.3 trillion in public debt since 2008 with permission of the national government, and they have few revenue sources to repay it. “Municipal fiscal health, if not managed correctly, can lead to cataclysmic problems nationally,” McCarthy said.
     In the long term, public debt almost always accumulates in the under-maintenance of infrastructure, which has dire consequences. The United States already has an estimated $3.6 trillion demand for infrastructure maintenance, with global estimates at $17 to $40 trillion.
     The urban growth seminar was covered by USC News, including a video of the presentation in full.

March 11, 2015

Conservation as Revenue Generator for State Trust Lands in the West

Conserving_State_Trust_Lands_coverStates are obligated to generate income from state trust lands, through mining, grazing, agriculture, or logging, but a new report published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy shows how conservation can be an equally robust revenue source.
     State trust land management agencies are poised to make better use of conservation mechanisms including conservation sales and leases through easements or outright fee-simple purchases, ecosystems services markets, and land tenure and exchange, according to the Policy Focus Report Conserving State Trust Lands: Strategies for the Intermountain West,co-authored by Susan Culp and Joe Marlow.  
    
The report, the product of Western Lands and Communities, a joint program of the Lincoln Institute and the Sonoran Institute, is being unveiled at the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute’s 24th annual conference Western Places, Western Spaces: Building Fair & Resilient Communities, in Denver March 12-13, 2015. It will be featured in a moderated session on land management for long term sustainability including Tobin Follenweider of the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners, Genevieve Johnson of Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative, and Culp, formerly a project manager at the Sonoran Institute, and now principal at Next West Consulting, LLC.
     At each state’s inception, Congress granted lands to each state for the purpose of supporting public institutions, primarily K-12 public schools. Eighty-five percent of the remaining 46 million acres of these state trust lands held in trust for these beneficiaries are concentrated in the West.
     Conserving State Trust Lands, available in print and by free download,explores current and recommended strategies to achieve conservation of state trust lands with ecological and environmental value, while maintaining the trust obligation to earn revenue for K-12 schools and other beneficiaries.
     State trust lands are an often misunderstood category of land ownership in the U.S. According to Stephanie Sklar, CEO of the Sonoran Institute, “Revenue generation and land conservation are frequently viewed as being at odds; however, this latest report delves into how conservation of trust lands can be compatible with the trust responsibility of revenue generation.”
      “Improving conservation methods will provide new opportunities for the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners to fulfill its dual mission of producing reasonable and consistent income and providing sound stewardship for trust beneficiaries,” said Tobin Follenweider, the deputy director of the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners.
     The Lincoln Institute’s first Policy Focus Report on state trust lands, State Trust Lands in the West: Fiduciary Duty in a Changing Landscape (2006), and a companion website, State Trust Lands, served as a primer on the issue: how much land each state holds in trust; the type of revenue generating activities conducted on trust lands; who the beneficiaries are; and the annual revenue generated and distributed to the beneficiaries.
     Building on that work, authors Culp and Marlow evaluate the pros and cons of the conservation mechanisms that are currently available to state trust land management agencies, including conservation sales and leases through easements or outright fee-simple purchases, contributory value and nonmonetary value, ecosystems services markets, and land tenure and exchange. They also offer recommendations for new methods to realize revenue from conservation activity. Key recommendations are to:

  • Expand the use of conservation sales and leases
  • Improve the utility of contributory value in the master planning process
  • Increase access to ecosystem services markets; and
  • Streamline the land tenure adjustment process, which includes reform of the appraisal process.

     Monetizing conservation will provide opportunities for land management agencies to pursue conservation options. All state trusts carry the mandate to fund beneficiaries in perpetuity, indicating the need for sustainable land management practices.

February 25, 2015

A Case-Shiller Index for China

     The Peking University--Lincoln Institute Center for Urban Development and Land Policy and the Hang Lung Center for Real Estate at Tsinghua University recently launched a new initiative to better track the price of housing in rapidly urbanizing China. The China Quality-Controlled Urban Housing Price Indices were announced late last year at a press conference in Beijing attended by media, researchers, and real estate professionals.
     The urban housing hedonic price indices were constructed for eight urban housing markets, including Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Dalian, Wuhan, and Xi’an. The joint team worked for the last four years to develop the indices, with original housing price data provided by a partner, Shenzhen World Union Appraisal Co. Ltd. The core methodology for compiling the indices is a variant of the hedonic repeated-sale hybrid model, first developed in the Case-Shiller Home Price Indices in the U.S. During the construction of the indices, several international experts offered technical advice, including Karl “Chip” Case, co-founder of the Case-Shiller Index, former Lincoln Institute president Gregory K. Ingram, Joyce Man, former director of the China program and now director of the Indiana University Research Center for Chinese Politics and Business , David Geltner, and Daniel McMillen, a visiting fellow at the Lincoln Institute. The indices, available online, will be updated on a quarterly basis and will be expanded to cover more urban housing markets where data become available.