A few things to know this week: July 19, 2019
Happy Friday! Every week we like to send out a collection of things that caught our attention during the week. (We were previously sending these out on Mondays, but we've decided to switch to Fridays, so you get two this week!) The following list is compiled by the whole Verdunity team — our favorite relevant or thought-provoking pieces of news, commentary, research, discussions, or cat videos we came across (or were thinking about) this week.
This week's things to know:
Building more affordable housing and finding ways to finance developers who want to build small scale developments and buildings is one of the biggest challenges facing many communities today. There are federal loan programs and grants, but the demand far outweighs the supply, and the requirements are often confusing and laborious for even the savviest of developers. This group is proposing public banks as a solution, where the banks’ priorities would be set by local voters, and they’d be run by civil servants and financial experts. – Kevin
Cities and neighborhoods struggling with high poverty rates, stagnant or declining populations, or large footprints of dilapidated housing stock may find themselves faced with high volumes of tax foreclosures. The loss of homes and businesses to tax foreclosure is an incredible burden for everyone involved and many times can be avoided. Detroit has struggled with this issue, and in May the folks at Loveland Technologies helped publish a fascinating report on the tax foreclosure crisis in Detroit. They teamed up with the Quicken Loans Community Fund, the United Community Housing Coalition, and neighborhood associations throughout Detroit to conduct a property tax foreclosure census. They reached out to approximately 60,000 Detroit residents, in person, and published their findings and recommendations in this report. – Felix
The title says it all. The what-ifs of public debate continue to kill the opportunity for better communities. As Daniel Herriges points out so effectively, it's not just that we are afraid of change, it's that we choose every day to stick with the status quo, the "presumed default." If you read this piece and it doesn't move you, something's seriously wrong. Share it with everyone you know who cares about their communities. This is the ultimate call to action. As he states in closing, "Let's stop allowing those most comfortable with the status quo, and those with the least skin in the game where its downsides are concerned, to claim the high ground of being cautious and (small-c) conservative. They haven't earned it." – AJ
Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey is making waves in Congress this month, as he proposes that portions of highway trust fund money should go to complete streets. His bill proposes that at least 5% of the federal money should go toward providing "safe and accessible transportation options for multiple modes of travel, as well as for people of all ages and abilities," in an effort to stem the swell of pedestrian deaths in America. While some states already spend more that 5% on these types of projects, the bill is likely to have a large effect in those states that aren't currently required to spend money on alternative transportation options. – Tim
I'm a civil engineer. Making our local streets and neighborhoods safer for people not driving or riding in cars is something I'm passionate about. This article highlights something that is not covered nearly enough: the role larger vehicles like SUVs and trucks are playing in rapidly escalating pedestrian fatalities. Policymakers are spending tons of time debating the safety of autonomous vehicles and scooters, but have completely ignored SUVS and trucks, one of the biggest reasons our streets are less safe for people walking and biking. As someone with two young kids, I appreciate the value and safe design of today's SUVs (for those within the vehicle, anyway), but we need to do much more with the design of local streets to force slower speeds and more attentive drivers so these vehicles don't continue to be the killing machines they've become. And we absolutely can't keep blaming people on foot for what is ultimately a fatal street design flaw. – Kevin
Even as the media reports on younger generations now leaving cities for the 'burbs, they don't talk about why. This piece by Sean Doyle for Smart Growth America takes a run at it. "We’re told younger generations are just like their parents: ‘We knew they’d move to the suburbs eventually.’ But in reality it looks like we’ve given them little other choice." The truth is, cities are continuing to exacerbate the problem. – AJ
Planting more vegetation, using reflective materials on hard surfaces and installing green roofs on buildings can help cool potentially deadly urban heat islands—a phenomenon that exists in nearly all large cities—a new study shows. And unsurprisingly, removing these heat-reducing features can cause temperatures to soar: the study demonstrated that paving over an area that previously had a lot of tree cover can raise temperatures as much as 25 degrees on a summer day, with spillover effects on the surrounding neighborhoods. Said the study's author, Vivek Shandas: "We have control over the design of our cityscapes. If summers are getting hotter, shouldn't we be considering how different built designs impact local temperatures?" To us, the answer is a clear and uncomplicated "yes." – Ryan
The folks over at Voice of San Diego have put together a handy and informative primer on the different types of housing for homeless and low-income residents, as a way to combat the confusion that sometimes can lead to community pushback on projects aimed at assisting the homeless. Yes, homeless shelters are one. But then there's transitional housing, permanent housing, and affordable housing. Check out this 2-minute companion video for a quick description of each and why the distinction is important. – Jordan
Did you listen to our recent interview with incremental developer Monte Anderson? We’re hosting a live Q&A webinar with him on Wednesday, July 31 at 4:00pm (CST), exclusively for members of our Community Cultivators Network! If you’re already a part of the Network, RSVP here, and submit questions early if you want! If you aren’t, go ahead and sign up. It’s free (but you must be employed in a local government to join)!
Hey, friends in local government:
Have thoughts on any of the links above? Think we missed something essential? We’re discussing these topics and more over on our brand-new online community, exclusively for local government employees.* Sign up for the Community Cultivators Network and join the discussion!
* The network is currently only for those wonderful folks out there who work in local government. If you’re not currently working for a city, town, or county, we still love you (and are sure many of you would add value to the community), but we want to keep our commitment to making this a community focused specifically on our friends working in local government. Thanks for understanding!