On Tuesday October 22, 2013, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve held the first annual Community Development Graduate Student Research Forum. The Department of Community Development Studies and Education at the Federal Reserve sponsored the event, which featured six paper presentations ranging from land value models of vacant city owned property to the importance of religious institutions in community stability. Presenters came from Penn (my classmates!), Temple, Rutgers-Camden, as well as professional presentations from local CDCs, the Philadelphia Association of CDCs, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The event offered me the opportunity to meet a number of like minded researchers, community development practitioners, and graduate students. I look forward to continuing the relationships in community development research that the Philadelphia Federal Reserve has fostered across different institutions and practice boundaries!
It is the first article in a series, “Young and Old,” on PlannersWeb.com that I will be a co-columnist on with Jennifer. We will have a year long conversation on planning issues related to senior citizens and young adults, so stay tuned!
The Washington Post has published a three part series in the paper titled, “Homes for the Taking.” The series is essential reading for urban planners, community development practitioners, and people interested in urban real estate issues. In Part One, “Left With Nothing,” the authors chronicle Bennie Coleman, a senior with dementia, who lost his home over a missed $134 property tax bill. Washington, DC sells delinquent tax bills to private companies that then take over charging interest and foreclosure proceedings. Mr. Coleman’s $134 debt ballooned to $4,999 in the hands of the private lender, who foreclosed on him and then sold the house for $71,000 months later. Many of these companies charge unreasonable interest and fees and push people out of homes. Policy makers need to be sure that their tax collection systems don’t cause more harm than good just to make up a small amount of unpaid taxes.
The redevelopment has had a number of problems – many of which led to the failure of the Urban Renewal Programs of the 1950s and 1960s. The land has restrictions on it that limited the type of housing that could be built, but the city didn’t know that before starting demolition. The private developers could not secure financing for the project’s subsidized housing – meaning that what has been built is largely market rate housing and the remainder of the site sits as an underutilized parking lot.
Redevelopment can work, but planners need to get into the details and work with developers and the community to create a viable plan that can be built quickly – before any residents are “temporarily” relocated. Then during construction, strong project management is vital to keep things on track. If not, projects will look all too much like failed redevelopments of earlier generations.
Where we live has a big influence on what we see as possible in the world. Amy Hillier, a professor of city planning at Penn, discusses life opportunity and how it is different – especially for children – across the city of Philadelphia.
The image above is a great reminder of why we should get out of the car for some of our daily trips. It is healthy! A recent article (highlighted in Planetizen) notes that not only does biking promote physical health, but it was a strong predictor of mental health and happiness as well.
The stencil above is by Peter Drew of Adelaide, Australia. He is a street artist who promotes biking – for more information see this blog. (He has added the image to the creative commons via Flickr).