At Lincoln House

The Weblog of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

October 20, 2014

Cities at Center Stage: Towards Habitat III

CasertaThe number of people living in cities is expected to top 6 billion by 2050 – two-thirds of the projected global population of 9 billion. Yet approximately 1 billion people already live in slums, and rural migrants are moving directly into these areas of informal settlement every day, particularly in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. An estimated three billion people will need housing, basic infrastructure, and services by 2030.
     Last week about 100 thought leaders and practitioners from around the world gathered for the Urban Thinkers Campus, hosted by UN-HABITAT, to establish a framework for making these global cities more inclusive, resilient, and vibrant. The three-day forum was part of the run-up to Habitat III, the United Nations Housing and Sustainable Urban Development summit, to be held in 2016.
     A Lincoln Institute delegation led a conversation about using value capture to finance infrastructure and urban development generally, underscoring the important of land policy in the provision of affordable, serviced land. We summarized our assessment of efforts to improve slum conditions to date, such as awarding title in Peru or making targeted upgrading improvements in the favelas of Brazil, outlined in the report Regularization of Informal Settlements in Latin America. But the emphasis was on policies to redirect informality in the first place, through inclusionary housing, a form of which has been used in Chile, Community Land Trusts, betterment levies, and Brazil’s zones of special social interest or ZEIS. We also shared the Atlas of Urban Expansion, a tool for tracking the growth of global cities that is set to be updated in 2015, to assist decision-makers in preparing for the massive influx of population in the years ahead.

October 10, 2014

The unnerving story of China's underground urban dwellers

Beijing undergroundThe amazing and unsettling story of China’s underground urban dwellers is told in the October issue of Land Lines. An estimated one million people are living in subterranean apartments in Beijing, where affordable housing near employment is scarce for the greater city’s 23 million inhabitants, writes Annette M. Kim, associate professor at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California, in Hidden City: Beijing’s Subterranean Housing Market.
     The underground homes are often windowless subdivisions in basements and air raid shelters, and the median size is 9.75 square meters. Some complexes contain as many as 600 units below street level, deep underground.
     Demand remains high to live underground, despite an official initiative of evictions dating back to 2010. In some areas of the city, particularly in the outer districts, conspicuous signs on the street advertise subterranean rentals, and advertisements proliferate on the Internet. The article draws on the author’s analysis of this phenomenon from 2012 to 2013, when online advertising for subterranean apartments was active and growing. The listings were a roadmap providing clues about location, price, size, amenities, and depth below ground, in the context of a wild low-income rental housing submarket.
     Like most Chinese cities, Beijing suffers an acute shortage of affordable rental housing, driven by the massive migration to urban centers. Underground space is common, thanks in part from a policy dating to 1950 that requires all new buildings to have common basements and air defense shelters, that include basic infrastructure such as electricity, water, and sewer. Desperate to address the housing deficit, Chinese officials actually encouraged the utilization of underground space, but then stopped sanctioning the practices in 2010.
     Given the number of people involved and the lack of affordable housing alternatives, the process has posed challenges, including landlords who demand compensation for occupancy rights they had purchased when the units were legal.
     Since China transitioned to a private market from a centrally planned economy, where the state provided all housing, the real estate sector has grown explosively. Treated primarily as an investment vehicle, new private units are accessible only to those with enough savings to purchase a house with little financing. Restrictions on land supply also tighten the market. Meanwhile, workers are eager to shorten commutes, to save time and money, and be close to subway stations and ideally within the 5th Ring Road. 
     There have been extraordinary accounts of people living on roofs and in sewer wells, trying to find a way to live in central Beijing. Reliance on underground housing is another desperate measure by the urban poor who lack the means to acquire housing through “hukou,” the official housing registration permit, Kim writes. The challenge of housing will intensify as Asian megacities continue to boom.

October 09, 2014

Redevelopment, value capture, TIFs on tap for visiting fellows

     Alexander von Hoffman, senior fellow at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, has been named a visiting fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, charged with developing a foundation for future work on redevelopment. He joins several other new visiting fellows studying such topics as value capture, TIFs, and global urbanization.
     The author of House by House, Block by Block: The Rebirth of America’s Urban Neighborhoods (Oxford University Press, 2003), von Hoffman will be researching a paper on lessons from redevelopment in the U.S., with a particular focus on the troubled cities of the 1970s, such as Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and San Francisco. The factors leading to the recent trajectory of economic resurgence may inform how redevelopment is linked to recovery, for cities here and abroad.
     In the current issue of the quarterly journal Land Lines, Lincoln Institute president George W. McCarthy explores the theme of redevelopment – improving land that is already developed or occupied – as the major planning and development challenge of the 21st century.
     The Lincoln Institute also announced these appointments:
-- David Vetter, a former vice president of Dexia Credit in Latin America, is a visiting fellow in the Latin America program, conducting research on value capture as a way to help finance Brazil’s considerable urban infrastructure needs, seeking to define the dimensions of Brazil’s urban infrastructure needs.
-- David Merriman, from the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at University of Illinois Chicago, is a visiting fellow in the Department of Valuation and Taxation, researching local and state-imposed business property taxes, economic efficiency, and the political economy of state business taxation. He will also research on tax increment financing and contribute to the Lincoln Institute database Significant Features of the Property Tax.
-- Enrique Silva, an assistant professor and program coordinator at the City Planning and Urban Affairs program at Boston University, has joined the Lincoln Institute as senior research associate in the Latin America program. An expert in comparative urbanization, metropolitan governance, and the institutionalization of planning practices in North and South America, he will supervise and evaluate research, and organize research seminars. He will present on new strategies to mitigate informal settlement at the Urban Thinkers Campus next week organized by UN-HABITAT.
-- Scott Campbell, executive director of the Palmer Land Trust in southern Colorado, is this year’s Lincoln-Loeb Fellow, studying how conservation and natural resource allocations intersect.

October 03, 2014

Tax liens, tax sales, and due process

     Today at the Lincoln Institute, Emory law school professor Frank S. Alexander, co-founder of the Center for Community Progress, will lead a conversation on one of the least understood and yet most important aspects of property tax administration – that of delinquent tax enforcement. Collection rates of 90 to 95 percent are viewed with pride and satisfaction, but even these high rates frequently mask externalities. Delinquency rates of 2 or 10 percent impose disproportionate negative consequences on neighborhoods, communities, and local government fiscal solvency. Little attention has been given over the past century to the creation of an efficient, effective, and equitable system of property tax enforcement. Little is understood about the financial calculations of delayed enforcement, lack of enforcement, and the transfer of enforcement rights to private third parties. The recent economic recession and mortgage foreclosure crisis have renewed interest in the effects of broken property tax enforcement systems.
     Frank S. Alexander is the Sam Nunn Professor of Law at Emory University School of Law and co-founder of the Center for Community Progress. He is the author or editor of eight books and over fifty articles in real estate finance and community redevelopment including Georgia Real Estate Finance and Foreclosure Law 2013-2014 (9th ed., 2013) and Land Banks and Land Banking (2011). Professor Alexander's work has focused on homelessness and affordable housing. He has served as fellow of the Carter Center of Emory University (1993-1996); commissioner of the State Housing Trust Fund for the Homeless (1994-1998); interim dean of Emory University School of Law (2005-2006); visiting fellow at the Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University (2007); and he has testified before Congress concerning the mortgage foreclosure crisis (2008, 2009). Professor Alexander received his J.D. from Harvard Law School, a Masters in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, and his B.A. from the University of North Carolina.

September 29, 2014

Cities at center stage

Photo (15)We are immersed in a wide ranging conversation about cities at CityLab 2014 in Los Angeles, hearing from thought leaders in the public, private, and non-profit sectors on the challenges of more sustainable and equitable metropolitan regions. Richard Florida led a panel with Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto, who participated in a workshop on Legacy Cities at the Lincoln Institute in the spring, on the tough issues of gentrification and skyrocketing housing costs. America's top cities have inequality similar to many struggling third world cities, according to CityLab. In another workshop, former New York planner Amanda Burden posed the question, "Is gentrification inevitable?"  
Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke of deploying "urban accupuncture," and using technology to bring about a new sense of civic togetherness for a famously disparate metropolis. Henk Ovink, the Dutch water expert who is guiding Rebuild by Design, expressed hope that the all vulnerable regions will be better prepared to rebuild for greater resilience. In the 1953 equivalent of Superstorm Sandy in The Netherlands, he said, it took decades to put new systems in place. Even so, "no place is really ready" for the volatile events the future has in store.
    A session on the peer-to-peer sharing economy, including Brian Chesky, co‐founder of Airbnb, with James Bennet, editor‐in‐chief of The Atlantic, underscored the way that the Internet facilitates building trust and gaining credibility, allowing everyone to be an entepreneur, though concerns remain about regulations and fairness to incumbent regimes. UCLA's Donald Shoup joined Janette Sadik-Khan, principal at Bloomberg Partners, in surveying innovations in transport and parking, including variable pricing. Other topics included new forms of local manufacturing, promoting physical activity, farm-to-table and local food trends, innovation teams for city governments, big data, and aging in place.
     The next stop is Detroit and the Meeting of the Minds, an annual convening of practitioners, civic leaders, and technology innovators with which the Lincoln Institute has been longstanding partners. The first day will include a conversation about incremental change and big plans in Legacy Cities, post-industrial areas struggling with population and jobs loss.

September 19, 2014

Conservation leader Jean Hocker named Kingsbury Browne Fellow

     Jean Hocker, a former president of the Land Trust Alliance and longtime board member at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, was named as the next Kingsbury Browne Fellow at the Lincoln Institute. Hocker was also named the winner of the Kingsbury Browne Conservation Leadership Award by the Land Trust Alliance in recognition of outstanding leadership, innovation and passion in land conservation. The announcement was made at the Land Trust Alliance's Rally 2014: The National Land Conservation Conference, in Providence last night.
     The Kingsbury Browne fellowship and award is named for the Boston tax lawyer whose gathering of conservation leaders from across the country in 1981 at the Lincoln Institute evolved into the Land Trust Alliance, today representing more than 1,200 member land trusts. A special short film celebrating Browne’s life and career was shown at the Rally welcoming dinner.
     “I am truly humbled to receive the Kingsbury Browne Award,” Hocker said. “Over the decades, I’ve seen land trusts build on Kingsbury Browne’s vision to become a sophisticated force for conserving and stewarding irreplaceable land resources. I know that folks connected with land trusts are special – smart, dedicated, hard-working, results-oriented. To receive this award is to feel an invaluable kinship with my friends and colleagues who make land conservation a reality.”
      During her tenure from 1987 to 2002 as president and CEO of the Land Trust Alliance, Hocker played a key role in shaping the organization, ensuring land trusts have the tools they need to do their critical work, such as guidance through Land Trust Standards and Practices, extensive educational materials, resources for direct services, and a key voice advocating for federal funding and tax incentives for private land conservation. She continues to be active, consulting with land trusts and their boards, chairing the board of The Wilderness Land Trust, and serving recently as a member of the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. In the fellowship, she will engage in research, writing and mentoring, under the Lincoln Institute's Department of Planning and Urban Form.
     The Kingsbury Browne fellowship and award is in its ninth year. Previous winners were Larry Kueter, a Denver attorney specializing in agricultural and ranchland easements in the West; Peter Stein, managing director of Lyme Timber Co; Audrey C. Rust, president emeritus of the Peninsula Open Space Trust based in Palo Alto, Calif.; Jay Espy, executive director of the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation; Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society; Laurie A. Wayburn, co-founder of the Pacific Forest Trust; Mark Ackelson, president of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation; and Darby Bradley, president of the Vermont Land Trust.
     In 1980, as a fellow at the Lincoln Institute, Kingsbury Browne first envisioned a network of land conservation trusts, and convened conservation leaders at the Lincoln Institute in 1981. That gathering led to the formation of the national Land Trust Exchange, which was later renamed the Land Trust Alliance. Browne is considered the father of America's modern land trust movement, a network of land trusts operating in every state of the nation. Together these land trusts have conserved more than 37 million acres, an area the size of New England. Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people love by strengthening land conservation across America. The Land Trust Alliance, based in Washington, D.C. and with several regional offices, represents 1,200 member land trusts supported by more than 100,000 volunteers and 5 million members nationwide.
      The Land Trust Alliance rally kicked off a busy fall for the Lincoln Institute on the topic of land conservation, with the publication of the Policy Focus Report Large Landscape Conservation and the establishment of The Practitioners Network for Large Landscape Conservation, a group of leaders and innovators on the forefront of today's conservation strategies. Prior to the Rally this year, Lincoln Institute Fellow James N. Levitt brought together three dozen representatives of private and civic land conservation organizations from 16 countries all around the world, to consider formation of the International Land Conservation Alliance, a similar network.
     Next month, the Lincoln Institute is a major partner in the National Workshop on Large Landscape Conservation in Washington D.C. October 23-24. Sally Jewell, the United States Secretary of the Interior, will present a keynote address at the conference, which will showcase conservation innovations and landscape-scale solutions across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Krysta Harden, United States Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary, also will address the group, identifying key conservation provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill. In November, a Lincoln Institute delegation will travel to Sydney, Australia, for the IUCN World Parks Congress, where a new book, Conservation Catalysts: The Academy as Nature’s Agent, edited by Jim Levitt, will be launched.

September 17, 2014

The conversation about land conservation


International large landscape gatheringIt’s a busy fall for the Lincoln Institute on the topic of land conservation, and particularly large landscape conservation. This week we’re headed to Providence, R.I. for the Land Trust Alliance Rally: The National Land Conservation Conference, where the life of Kingsbury Browne will be celebrated with a special video presentation. As a Lincoln Institute fellow in 1981, Browne brought together conservation leaders to form the Land Trust Exchange, which evolved into the Land Trust Alliance, the national organization dedicated to protecting land and natural resources throughout the U.S. Also at the event, the winner of the Kingsbury Browne Fellowship and Award will be announced.
     Prior to the Land Trust Alliance Rally, Lincoln Institute fellow James N. Levitt, a leading expert in conservation and conservation finance. brought together some two-dozen representatives of private and civic land conservation organizations from 16 countries all around the world, to consider formation of the International Land Conservation Alliance, a similar network.
     Next month, the Lincoln Institute is a major partner in the National Workshop on Large Landscape Conservation in Washington D.C. October 23-24. Sally Jewell, the United States Secretary of the Interior, will present a keynote address at the conference, which will showcase conservation innovations and landscape-scale solutions across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Krysta Harden, United States Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary, also will address the group, identifying key conservation provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill. Her advocacy in conservation has included improving economic opportunities through increased outdoor activities and expanding modern forest management, and being a champion of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, a key part of USDA’s Farm Bill implementation effort.
      The Lincoln Institute published the Policy Focus Report Large Landscape Conservation: A Strategic Framework for Policy and Action in 2010, and has been instrumental in the formation of the Practitioners Network for Large Landscape Conservation. Finally, in November, a Lincoln Institute delegation will travel to Sydney, Australia, for the IUCN World Parks Congress, where a new book, Conservation Catalysts: The Academy as Nature’s Agent, edited by Jim Levitt, will be launched.

September 09, 2014

In the wake of Ferguson, regeneration in St. Louis

Washington AvenueSt. Louis was ranked 8 of 18 post-industrial cities studied in our Policy Focus Report Regenerating America's Legacy Cities, and the metropolitan area continued to make progress in planning and economic development. The revitalization along Washington Avenue, where turn-of-the-century garment and warehouse buildings have been renovated for adaptive re-use, was singled out by the report's co-authors, Lavea Brachman and Alan Mallach, as one success story. The rebirth along the boulevard embodied one of the major recommendations of the report -- that cities should take advantage of existing assets and strong urban fabric.
     On a recent visit that happened to coincide with the immediate aftermath of the police shooting and racial tensions in Ferguson, we toured a thriving business incubator in the Lammert furniture building called T-Rex. Brian Matthews, co-founder of the St. Louis-based Cultivation Capital, was managing the finishing touches on what he called an “entrepreneurship ecosystem,” including start-ups like Tunespeak and Less Annoying CRM. There are high hopes for St. Louis to become an alternative to the Bay Area, New York and Boston as a mecca for technology innovation. The most obvious edge is lower costs, for the businesses and their employees; a number of other medium-sized cities, such as Louisville, are seeking to take advantage of this strength.
     As promising as it is, however, this kind of regeneration has its limits, as Mallach points out -- particularly in terms of being inclusive in building the workforce. "Many residents of legacy cities lack the education, job skills, and labor force attachment for them to benefit from economic growth, whether in the city or its surrounding region," the authors write in the report. "While many legacy cities still contain large numbers of jobs, most of the positions are held by commuters. For example, there are 216,000 jobs inside the borders of St. Louis, yet less than 55,000 are held by city residents. Building the city’s human capital by increasing residents’ education and skills must be intimately linked with the city’s economic growth strategy to maximize the benefits city residents will gain from job growth inside the city."
     The promise of jobs and the creation of new amenities is also at the heart of another project, north of Washington Avenue -- beginning at the site of the ruins of the Pruitt-Igoe public housing project, destroyed in 1972 after being deemed a failure. The city hopes to get the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency—the high-tech eyes and ears of the Defense Department—to relocate to where the towers of Pruitt-Igoe once stood. The facility, currently at the banks of the Mississippi River near the Anheuser-Busch brewery, would anchor the proposed NorthSide Regeneration project, spread out over 1,500 acres of largely vacant blocks, and including residential, commercial, and office space, plus a school and 50 acres of parks and trails.
     There are thorny issues of scale inherent in this project, however. The high-security facility requires a large footprint of as much as 120 acres, leading some to fear another superblock-style development. Proponents believe that good urbanism would sprout up all around, however, an outcome that would clearly be better than existing conditions.
     More detail on the story of Washington Avenue and the redevelopment of the Pruitt-Igoe site is available in this original post at CityLab.
     The challenges of regenerating post-industrial Legacy Cities will be the topic of a session at the Meeting of the Minds in Detroit beginning October 1, with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Rob van Gijzel, mayor of Eindhoven, the fifth-largest city in The Netherlands. The Lincoln Institute is a partner in the annual convening of some 350 thought leaders from the private, public, and non-profit sectors, focused on reinvention, technology, and "alternative urban futures."  

September 03, 2014

Assessing the property tax at IAAO

     The International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) celebrated its 80th annual conference in Sacramento, California August 24-27, and the Lincoln Institute’s Valuation and Taxation Department once again had a big presence.
     Senior fellow Joan Youngman addressed the subject of “The Nationwide Impact of Proposition 13: Lessons and Challenges” in a plenary session on the legacy of Proposition 13, that also included Larry Stone, Assessor of Santa Clara County, California; Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation; and professor Terri A. Sexton of California State University, Sacramento. From the reaction of the audience it was clear that California’s shift from a market-based property valuation system to an acquisition-based valuation system evokes strong feelings, both positive and negative. In her talk, Youngman compared California’s Proposition 13 with Massachusetts’ Proposition 2 ½. She concluded that property tax stability in California has been achieved at a heavy price in horizontal equity or the distribution of the tax burden across properties of equivalent value. She noted that Massachusetts’ levy limit was accomplished without moving away from a market-based valuation system.
     Lincoln Institute Fellows Daphne Kenyon and Sally Powers organized an education session on “Reducing Reliance on the Personal Property Tax: Pros and Cons.” In recent years several states have eliminated property taxes on business tangible personal property, and others have adopted or increased exemptions. This session included national experts on tax policy and tax administration: Joseph Henchman, vice president, Legal and State Projects, Tax Foundation; William Fox, professor of economics and director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee; Ronald W. Rakow, Commissioner of Assessing, City of Boston; Robert W. Wassmer, professor in the department of public policy and administration, California State University, Sacramento; and Alan Dornfest, bureau chief of the Property Tax Policy Section at the Idaho Tax Commission. The panelists discussed such topics as the revenue implications of reductions in personal property taxes, the special nature of a tax on movable property and its effect on business location, challenges in distinguishing personal property from real property, and methods of reducing the record-keeping and reporting burdens on taxpayers and tax administrators.

August 13, 2014

New leader for Western Lands & Communities

      Summer Waters, a Phoenix-based specialist in water and watersheds, is the new leader the Western Lands and Communities program, a partnership initiative focused on shaping growth, sustaining cities, protecting resources, and empowering communities in the Intermountain West.
     “Summer’s diverse background in land-use and natural resource planning make her ideally suited to lead our Western Lands and Communities program,” said John Shepard, interim chief executive officer for the Sonoran Institute. “I am especially excited about her experience on water resource issues, which is a growing concern in the arid West and expanding part of our overall program work.”
     "Summer Waters will bring significant expertise and energy to this leadership position in our longstanding partnership with the Sonoran Institute, which has been a key focal point for our work on land issues in the West," said George W. McCarthy, president and CEO of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
     Since 2008, Waters has worked for the University of Arizona as the Water Resources Extension Agent for Maricopa County, which includes the City of Phoenix. Her programs addressed a broad range of issues related to water, climate, and the environment and received numerous awards including Arizona Forward’s Environmental Stewardship Crescordia and the Arizona State University President’s Award for Sustainability. Summer has also worked in California, for the County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program coordinating regional storm water education. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of South Florida, and a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
     “I am deeply pleased to be selected to lead this unique partnership initiative, and looking forward to working to shape a new West – one that retains the elemental characteristics of an iconic past, yet embraces technologies of the future,” Waters said. “The community-based collaborative approach pioneered by the Sonoran Institute has proven to the most effective way to guide western communities through the challenges of an uncertain future.”
     The Western Lands and Communities program focuses on shaping growth, sustaining cities, protecting resources, and empowering communities in the Intermountain West. It addresses these challenges through applied research, tool development, exploring policy linkages between land and related natural resources, and engagement of policy makers.
     The Sonoran Institute, a nonprofit organization founded in 1990, inspires and enables community decisions and public policies that respect the land and people of western North America. Western Lands and Communities was led by Jim Holway until February 2014, when he left the position to run for elective office in Arizona. Summer will assume the leadership position starting August, 18, 2014.