Advancing Urban Policy:
Community Development  February, 2013


This second edition of Advancing Urban Policy, the monthly e-newsletter of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, features research and thought leadership from across the country related toCommunity Development. It highlights articles on legacy cities,  housing and neighborhoodsfood deserts, urban planning, and education. Future editions will feature topics related to Nonprofit Administration & Leadership (March), City Management (April), Environmental Policy/Management (May), and Public Finance & Budgeting (June). We welcome your ideas and submissions. They may be sent to:


Edward (Ned) W. Hill, Ph.D., Dean



Shrinking Cities / Legacy Cities


On February 13, 2013, The American Assembly, CenterState CEO, Syracuse University, and University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning released a report calling upon elected, business, and civic leaders to double down on innovative and regionally-focused approaches to economic development for Upstate New York's "legacy cities." The report summarizes input from more than 100 public, private and nonprofit sector leaders from across the state to prioritize economic development strategies. The resulting recommendations provide critical tools to encourage and inform a growing national dialogue on the future of legacy cities--a term used to describe America's older industrial cities that have experienced significant population loss and are critical in 21st century economic prosperity and quality of life. Click here.This report builds off of the Meeting the Assembly held in Detroit last year and culminated in a volume edited by Alan Mallach, Rebuilding America's Legacy Cities. The book is available at: Click Here


New house-swap programs and other incentives could encourage Detroiters to move from depopulated districts, enabling different types of land use for "blue" and "green" infrastructure projects. The report by the Detroit Works Long-Term Planning team's "Detroit Future City" suggests that scarce resources can be allocated more efficiently in densely populated areas than spread thinly across the entire city. According to their recommendations, all areas would receive some level of service. But transportation spending, workforce training, residential development, and other activity would be directed to areas most likely to produce denser concentrations of activity. "Blue" and "green" infrastructure would include farms, forest, and artificial ponds and lakes created to clean the air and water. The report's creators are quick to point out that the report offers a strategic framework for the reinvention of a city and a region--a context for thinking about the future--and not a "plan." Click here




Housing / Neighborhoods

A long-held semantic error is behind the creation of a lot of bad public policy. Robert Lerman, Institute Fellow at the Urban Institute and economics professor at American University, says the phrase "low income housing" is to blame for a lot of bad policy. Lerman states that though widely used, there is no such a thing as low-income housing in the sense that a physical place is inextricably linked only to residents with low incomes. Lerman further contends that just because low-income families commonly purchase certain cars and buy meals at certain restaurants, we do not call those things low-income cars or low-income restaurants. This error affects thinking and actions of policy makers, who, instead of providing low-income families with more purchasing power to obtain housing, too often attempt to subsidize and wall off certain houses and apartments for the poor and near poor. Lerman says the cost of subsidizing construction programs is higher than the cost of boosting peoples' purchasing power to rent or buy their own dwellings. Click here

In the coming years, more than one million U.S. veterans will return to their home cities and towns. They will join more than 20 million veterans who have served our country since World War II. Each of these veterans brings tremendous talents and gifts. Public officials and municipal personnel can provide critical leadership and leverage local, state and federal resources to support the work of nonprofits, military service organizations, faith communities, educational institutions, local businesses and foundations to ensure success in the post-service lives of veterans. To help local government better support military veterans and their families, the National League of Cities is working with the Home Depot Foundation to target the housing rehabilitation needs of disabled veterans. Click here



Residential mobility is a process that changes lives and neighborhoods. To shed light on the underlying forces of residential mobility, this study uses a unique panel survey from the Casey Foundation's Making Connections initiative targeting poor neighborhoods in 10 cities. The study classified households in the 10 cities as movers, newcomers, or stayers, and it evaluated the push and pull factors related to their mobility decisions. Cluster analysis revealed discernible types based on life cycle, household economic factors, and neighborhood attachment. The study also investigated the effect of residential mobility on neighborhood composition, finding that neighborhood change was primarily due to differences between movers and newcomers rather than changes for stayers. Combining information on the mix of household types with the components of neighborhood change, the study suggests these neighborhoods functioned in quite different ways that are relevant to family well-being and community development. It was prepared by Case Western Reserve University and the Urban Institute. Click here


A report from the Center on Community Development at the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University, focuses on "Re-Thinking the Future of Cleveland's Neighborhood Developers." Authors Norman Krumholz and Kathryn W. Hexter state that community developers must take a hard look at their current organizations, practices, and strategies and adapt to emerging conditions--not surrendering to pessimism, but recognizing a pathway forward and re-thinking approaches to their work. A strategy based on physical development as a cure for neighborhood ills made sense in a particular historical moment of cheap credit and a sustained, albeit slow, rise in real-estate values. Those circumstances no longer exist in Cleveland, and the challenge for the future is thinking through new roles for neighborhood developers that have the potential for sustained success. The report concludes that CDCs will need an integrated, thoughtful, measured set of activities to address the broader challenges in their neighborhoods: housing, schools, healthy life-styles, land reuse, community and individual wealth building, and commercial development. Click here


Place Matters: Education


Despite the connections between housing and education, policymakers in the two fields rarely coordinate their efforts or examine the relationship between the use of housing assistance and the schools attended by the recipients. According to this Poverty Race and Research Action Council report based on 2008-2009 data, holders of Housing Choice Vouchers and public housing residents tend to live in neighborhoods with lower performing schools than renters and other poor households. This is something of a puzzle, as voucher holders are able to choose where they use their subsidy and could, therefore, have access to neighborhoods with better schools. Click here 



Charter School Bond Issuance: A Complete History Volume 2 implies that charter schools are financially safe to invest. According to commentary by Don Shalvey of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the study that evaluates the financial history of charter school borrowing from the municipal bond market showed that, as a whole, charter schools beat market expectations for investment. Their assets are growing; their debt is manageable and defies the notion that charters are too young, too unstable and too risky for financial investment. The report was prepared by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a national nonprofit that drives the recovery of low-income communities with grants, loans and equity investments including financing 68,000 charter school seats across the country. Click here For more information on the LISC. Click here




Place Matters: Food Deserts


The traditional definition of food deserts is wrong because it doesn't account for people's ability to commute to food sources, according to findings in the journal of Health and Place. Previously, researchers exploring this domain have calculated access to food based on food sources in a small mile radius; that approach disregards additional opportunities that present themselves as residents move throughout a city. This report considers commuter flows, and reports a score representative of the average time residents have to grocery shop. By incorporating commuter flows and opportunities to grocery shop as people move to and from work, this research could change how people define food deserts. Click here For more on food deserts: Click here


Urban Planning Education: Not Just for Professionals

Urban Planning for Dummies is written on the premise that urban planning is vital to the success of cities, towns, and suburbs across the globe. Urban plans help communities take stock of what's good and bad about the community in the present and determine the best improvements to make for the future. With the majority of the world's population shifting to urban areas, it has become an increasingly vital profession. But the book is written for more than the professional planner. According to author Jordan Yin, Ph.D., AICP, "most urban planning gets done with involvement of lots of stakeholders--especially lay persons and community representatives who serve on boards, planning commissions and city councils across the country. They have to make those decisions, and usually they don't have lots of background; they're learning on the job, and resources aren't always the most user-friendly. Those were the people I had in mind when writing this book." Dr. Yin is director of undergraduate programs at the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University. Urban Planning for Dummies is available for purchase at book stores and online Click here 

Looking Ahead


Housing Policy Debate is organizing a special issue on the 40th anniversary of the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) in 2014. This will be an opportunity to both take stock of the program's evolution, accomplishments, shortcomings, and potential, and propose program changes to better address the needs of low- and moderate-income communities in the 21st century. The special anniversary issue will be guest edited by Bill Rohe of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and George Galster of Wayne State University.


Advancing Urban Policy: Community Development was created with counsel from Kathryn W. Hexter, MCRP, Edward Hill, Ph.D., W. Dennis Keating, Ph.D.,and Molly Schnoke; compiled by Hama Bbela, graduate assistant; edited by Roslyn Miller, consultant.

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