Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Making Infrastructure Great?

Donald Trump speaking before the press
Photograph by Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
Hello Everyone:

It is time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  This week we move from affordable housing to infrastructure.  Today we are going to look at seven of the infrastructural myths perpetuated by Republican nominee Donald Trump.  Our guid for today is Aria Bendix's CityLab article "7 Infrastructure Myths Perpetuated by Donald Trump."  Over the past year, we have been subjected to Mr. Trump's bloviating on a variety of hot-button subjects and himself.  One of the things he loves to brag about is how great a builder he is.  In fact, he stood before the American public and boasted that he could bring in any infrastructure project on time and under budget.  He even wrote a book on how he would fix America's ailing infrastructure, the strangely titles Crippled  America.  Ms. Bendix quotes Mr. Trump who agues,

...fixing the country's infrastructure would be a major priority project...When you talk about better talk about Trump.

Let us indulge Mr. Trump and consider this, "What exactly are Trump's views on building better cities and improving infrastructure in the U.S.?  And how to they stack up agains commonly held best practices in urban planning?"

Great River Bridge
Aria Bendix observes, "While Trump is right to identify that infrastructure is deteriorating in many areas of the U.S., his data and theories miss some major marks."  Mr. Trump has never been one for getting his facts and figures straight.  Here just a few of the more baffling infrastructure myth perpetuated by Mr. Trump.

61 percent of U.S. bridges are "in trouble"

Not exactly.  In 2014, the Federal Highway Administration cited 61,365 bridges as "structurally deficient."  This is different from being "in trouble."  It means that they need significant repair or maintenance, not falling down.  Out of the 610,749 bridges in the U.S. only 10 percent are actually in trouble.

If we include the 84,525 bridges considered "'functionally obsolete' and do not meet current design standards, the new figure still only works out to about 24 percent." Further, according to Washington D.C. infrastructure strategy firm CG/LA CEO Norman Anderson, some of these dilapidated bridges no longer important enough to maintain.  Mr. Anderson told Ms. Bendix,

A lot of those bridges you don't need [to continue operating].

He points to thousands of structurally deficient bridges in Pennsylvania to make his point.  Granted, many potential presidents get their fact figures mixed up.  Par for the course, but Mr. Trump has inflated this statistic on two occasions: at an August 25 press conference in Iowa (Ms. Bendix notes "where he declared that 59 percent of the bridges were in trouble).  The second instance was on October 14 at a rally in Richmond, Virginia.

Asbestos abatement
Cheshire, Connecticut
Asbestos is an ideal building material

Seriously?  Does this mean lead paint is also a suitable building material?  Asbestos was suitable building material in the mid-twentieth century because it was cheap, flexible, and fire resistant.  However, by the seventies, it was hard to ignore the scientific evidence linked to diseases like lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Decades after this evidence became public knowledge, Mr. Trump wrote in his 1997 tome. The Art of the Comeback, extolling the virtues of asbestos.  He called it

...the greatest fire-proofing material ever used...

He went even further to suggest that

...the movement against asbestos was led by the mob, because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal...

In 2012, Donald Trump tweeted the outrageous claim that asbestos could have preserved the World Trade Center on September 11.  He tweeted,

If we didn't remove incredibly fire retardant asbestos [and] replace it with junk that doesn't work, the World Trad Center would have never burned down  (

Regardless of their fire-resistant properties, asbestos exposure is responsible for between "12,000 and 15,000 deaths each year."  Even more vexing is, "...the fact that the U.S. government continue to ignore the extent of asbestos-related health risks."  The Environmental Protection Agency tried to ban asbestos-containing products in 1989 but it was mostly overturned in 1999.  A comprehensive ban seems unlikely under a  possible Trump presidency.

Portion of existing U.S.-Mexico Border Wall
The U.S. can build a border wall

Blogger wonders if this was topic of discussion in today's meeting between Mr. Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto?  Probably not.  Be that as it may, this has been one of the most controversial infrastructure proposals.  There are so many things wrong with this idea, that your truly would need between now and next Election Day to adequately describe everything that is wrong with this idea.  However, let us start with cost of building this proposed 30 to 80 foot high, 2,000 mile wall.  The ballpark estimate is somewhere between $25 billion to build and $750 million a year to maintain (paid for by Mexico).

Even if Mr. Trump were convince President Peña Nieto to pick up the cost of this wall, there are a number of ethical concerns.  Aria Bendix writes: "Trump's proposal may very well violate the codes of ethics for many design associations across the U.S., in addition to the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act."  Ms. Bendix's colleague wrote in March, "As wit other controversial broader projects, firms that built this wall could be subject to boycotts, blacklists, and who can build it would, and no one who would build it can."

"Road Work Ahead"

U.S. roads can be built for a third of the current cost

When Mr. Trump announce his candidacy, he promised that he would rebuild America's infrastructure

one time, one budget, [and] way below cost...I look at the roads being built all over the country...and I say I can build those things for one-third.

Really?  One-third the cost?  Let Norman Anderson make sense of this claim.  According to Mr. Anderson, securing permits are the biggest expense in the road construction approval process.  He said,

An average highway project takes nine and a half years to get through the permitting and approval process.

Factor in a shorter approval process and Mr. Anderson estimates "that U.S. roads could be built for about half the cost that they are now, not one third..."  Of course, there remains the question of just exactly how Mr. Trump intends to cut costs.

Pothole repair
Denver, Colorado

 The U.S. is doing nothing to fix its crumbling infrastructure

Aria Bendix quotes Mr. Trump's argument in Crippled America that America is doing nothing to repair the crumbling infrastructure.

...our airports, bridges, water tunnels, power grids, rail systems-our nation's entire infrastructure is crumbling, and we aren't doing anything about it...

Really?  We can forget the fact that the U.S. spent "$416 billion on infrastructure in 2014 alone.  And just last year Congress passed the largest transportation package in over a decade."

I-35E Bridge with crumbling concrete
Jim Foli Star Tribune
At a December debate, Mr. Trump allied to what he thought was a sufficient amount the federal government should spend:

In my opinion, we've spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people.  If we we could've spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems-our airports and all of the other problems we've had-we would've been better off.

As astronomical as $4 trillion sounds, it is actually a more conservative estimate than the plan put forth by the Democratic nominee Secretary Hillary Clinton.  Mr. Anderson "this number is close to his own estimate for four-year infrastructure spending."  Where Mr. Trump gets it wrong is putting the burden on the federal government even with his proposed spending cuts.  Mr. Anderson said.

There's a lot of different places where you can get additional funding for infrastructure that has nothing to do with raising taxes, but really has a lot to do with optimizing and increasing the public sector's oversight and strategic role.

Robert Puentes, the director of the Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative at the Brookings Institute made a similar argument in an interview with U.S. News:

I think because we generalize the conversation around infrastructure, we tend to overemphasize what the federal government should be doing and the federal role.  In reality, the federal government has a big regulatory role in a lot of ways.  But when it comes to overall spending and impact, it's relatively small...We've seen what happens when you have federal government directing a lot of these projects.  It doesn't always work.

The real problem is not that the U.S. is doing nothing to fix its crumbling infrastructure, the problem is it is not spending efficiently.  Instead of tossing out large sums, Ms. Bendix suggests that "Trump should be focused on strategic spending that involves key players from both the private and public sectors-an important nuance that often eve his promises of a 'trillion-dollar' plan."

Trump International Hotel and Tower under construction
Photograph by Jim Frazier
Washington D.C.
Nothing stimulates the economy more than construction

Aria Bendix writes, Yet another problem with Trump's somewhat nebulous infrastructure plan is the philosophy behind it."  Donald Trump boasts in Crippled America,

...there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that stimulates the economy better than construction...

Recent fate from the Department of Commerce does not bear this statement out.  Specifically, "According to their calculations, professional, scientific, and technical services were the largest contributors to economic growth in 2014."  Compare this to the fact that the construction industry grew 4.2 percent in 2014 and contributed .29 percent (a drop from 2013) and .20 percentage to Gross Domestic Product growth.

Aria Bendix concedes, "Still, Trump does have a point, at least on this matter.  Norman Anderson added,

What I call strategic infrastructure investment is actually the only way that we restart and re-found our economic prosperity.

Workers at Trump International Hotel and Tower
Washington D.C.
Mr. Anderson posits that the problem is stimulating the economy is difficult to achieve with "non-traditional" project that do not incorporate technology or innovation.

Ms. Bendix's CityLab colleague, Richard Florida points out that "not all construction leads to economic growth; the type of construction and the spatial distribution of our cities and suburbs matter as well.  Mr. Florida wrote,

The ultimate [economic] to achieve the kind of density and milling height that have long fueled urban creativity and powered innovation.

If past projects are any indication, any sort of thoughtful and innovative planning does not figure into the mix.

Trump World Tower
New York City, New York

When it comes to buildings, the bigger the better

Blogger must resist to make some crack about Mr. Trump's manhood or lack thereof.  Oops, my bad.  Seriously, Mr. Trump's overarching philosophy, when it comes to buildings, "bigger is better."  This may enhance his ego (what did you think Blogger was going to say?), it does not improve local communities.  One example, Trump Tower in Chicago.

Donald Trump's name stretches across almost 2,900 square feet in huge stainless steel, sparking the ire of residents and civic officials.  Mayor Rahm Emanuel called it architecturally tasteless.  In an article for The Chicago Tribune, Eric Scott expressed this sentiment:

If Trump's rather un-presidential remark about Mexican-Americans and people from Mexico is considered a hate crime, then shouldn't the T-R-U-M-P sign be considered a symbol of hate and ordered to be taken down?

Donald Trump had a different thought.  He told The Tribune, times passes, it'll be like the Hollywood sign. 


Joshua Stein, a commercial real estate lawyer, went as far as to suggest Mr. Trump's eponymous tower has landmark potential.  Mr. Stein told The New York Times in 2013:

You could subscribe to the theory that towers like [the Trump World Tower in New York] are the Empire State Buildings of the 21st century.

It is a stretch but assuming that these towers have some cultural significant, their enormous size comes at a long-term financial and aesthetic price.  The Times reported " order to build his 72-story-high Trump World Tower, Trump hoarded air rights from seven low-rise properties nearby.  This permitted his tower to take up all of the allowable density for the entire block, according to The Times, thereby preventing additional construction (which, Trump would argue, is America's greatest economic stimulus)."

What kind of infrastructure reform, if any at all, will Donald Trump make if he is elected is her to forecast.  However, one thing is clear: based on his words and actions, Mr. Trump believes in a number of fallacies about how cities and should operate.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Subways And Urban Growth: Is There A Connection?

Commuters in Tokyo, Japan
REUTERS/Kimimasa Mayama KM/CCK
Hello Everyone:

We are going to turn our attention today to the subject of transportation.  Specifically, we are going to look at a new study on the effects of the relationship between subways and urban expansion.  Our guide for this subject is Richard Florida's article CityLab article, "The Relationship Between Subways and Urban Growth."  Subway systems, across the globe have typically been thought of as way to reduce automobile traffic, ease sprawl, and provide residents with a means for affordable transportation.  The informative story focuses on the key takeaways from this study and what we can learn from it. Recently, subways have been labeled as contributors to gentrification-mechanisms for the affluent to colonize neighborhoods near stations to cut down their commutes and save time.  Mr. Florida asks, "But how do subways really affect urban development?  To what degree to promote density andante centralization?"

Construction of the Seoul metro
Seoul, South Korea

A new study, Subways and Urban Growth: Evidence from Earth (; date accessed Aug. 30, 2016), authored by Marco Gonzalez-Navarro of the University of Toronto and Matthew A. Turner of Brown University, sheds light on this relationship by examining "...the effect of subway location and expansion on transit ridership. population growth, and the development of urban areas."  To understand this, the authors developed a specific data set to describe all the subways systems in the world.  Their data set included information on "...underground, surface, above-ground rail transit lines, and identifies the latitude, longitude, and data of opening for every station."  They made use of nighttime satellite images (NASA satellites), calculating the light intensity gradients for each city to gauge it centralization.  Last, they culled information on populations shifts from the United Nations.  Their final analysis revealed key insights on the way subways form urban development around the world.

"Growth of subway systems"
Marco Gonzalez-Navarro and Matthew A. Turner
Most subways were built relatively recently

Americans frequently commute on transit line built around the beginning of the 20th-century.  The study found a sizable upswing in subway construction, in cities around the world, since the seventies and eighties.  Mr. Florida reports, "In total, the report identifies 7,886 operational subway stations and 10, 672 kilometers (over 6,600 miles) of subways across 138 cities as 2010.  Of these, 53 subway systems are located in Asia, 40 in Europe, 30 in North America, 14 in South America, and just one in Africa."

Bigger cities don't necessarily have larger subway systems

"Number of Stations and Subway Station (per 100,00 resident)"
Marco Gonzalez-Navarro and Matthew A. Turner

The table on the left-hand side lists the top fifteen cities around the world with at least 100 stations.  New York City heads the list with 489 stations, followed by Seoul-360, Paris-299, London-267, and Tokyo-255.  What becomes apparent is subways and subway stations follow population size.  Be that as it may, Mr. Florida points out, "But note the considerable variation in number of subway stations per 100,00 people.  New York Seoul, Paris, and London all have more subways stops than the three largest cities in the world: Tokyo, Delhi, and Mexico City."

Even though Europe cities are the smallest and growing at a slower rate, their subway systems are more expansive and the quality of service is higher than on other continents.  "All together, European subway systems serve an average of 32,000 people per station."  Specifically, more than two-thirds of large European cities have subway systems.  By comparison, North American cities have less than a third, South American cities, less than a fourth, and only 15 percent in Asia.

Conventional wisdom aside, the study concluded that subways do not necessarily jump start population growth.  Why is this, you may ask?  The reason is, even though bigger cities typically contain more extensive subway systems, the study revealed " correlation between the size of a system and the size of a city."  Also, while Asia is home to the majority of the world's large cities, South America is host to the largest cities, on average.  In terms of service, both of the afore contents cannot compete with the subway service in Europe and North America.  The reason for may have something to do with the fact that subways on these continents were built before automobiles went into common use and cities were smaller.  Contrast this with the fact that Asian has experienced rapid urbanization in recent years and is more dependent on automobile travel.

London Subway Map
  To measure the timing of subway construction, the study focused on the sixty-one cities that opened subway lines between 1970 and 1990.  Five years prior to the opening of the new systems, cities experienced an approximate twelve percent population growth.  However, five years after the new systems opened, population growth dropped a paltry eight percent.  The study found a similar pattern when the scope was widened to twenty years before and after new subway systems opened.  The authors observed,

...large cities build and expand subway networks but...these networks do not cause changes in subsequent population growth.  (; date accessed Aug. 30, 2016

This leads us to the next point.

Subway size comparison map
Subways spur decentralization

In a word, obviously.  To put more articulately, conventional wisdom says that cities with more extensive transit options tend to be denser and more concentrated around their downtown areas.  The study upends this notion.  Rather, it concluded "...that cities with larger subway systems are less centralized...the addition of one standard subway line causes a 0.5 percent decrease in centralization (measured by the concentration of satellite light) in the city center."  This result is still significantly smaller that that of road and highways, which, according to another study, are responsible for an up to nine percent decline in centralization.  Specifically the University of Toronto study found that North American cities with subway lines tend to be more spread out than most.

Be that as it may, globally, subway station are usually located close to the center, with the average density of stops and stations dwindling in context to the distance from the core.  Richard Florida writes, "On average, roughly 84 percent of subway stops are locate between 1,500 meters and 25 kilometers (about a mile to 15 miles) of the city center."

"Light and subways in 2010 for six cities"
Marco Gonzalez-Navarro and Matthew A. Turner

The image on the left-hand side is a light comparison study of subway systems, in six different sized cities, around the world: Boston, Singapore, Mexico City, Beijing, Tbilisi (Georgia), and Toulouse.  Both Tbilisi and Toulouse represent some of the smaller cities in the sample, with twenty-one and thirty-seven station respectively.  Boston and Singapore, in the second row, stand for above-average subway systems with seventy-four and seventy-eight stations each.  Finally, Mexico City and Beijing represent the largest cities in the collection with 147 and 124 stations.

In each case, the subways are typically centrally located and only a fraction of the city is located within walking distance of each station.

Subways shape greater mass transit use

Lastly, the study concluded that subways do lead to a growth in mass transit use.  Mr. Florida writes, "In a descriptive cross-sectional analysis, the authors point that cities with larger subway systems not only have more subway riders, but more bus and public transit riders in general."  However, subway expansions have a small impact on on bus ridership, despite the broader increase in public transit use.  He continues, "A 10 percent increase in subway expansion results in a 6 percent increase in subway ridership..."  Further, the authors discovered that the majority of new subway passengers are not commuters.  Yet, Mr. Florida does not elaborate on this point, although it would be mildly interesting to find out who the typical new subway rider is.  Finally, Marco Gonzalez-Navarro and Matthew A. Turner conclude that big cities cause subways not the converse. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Four Steps To Make Cities More Inclusive

Step One: Admit you have a problem
Flickr/Puparrazi Photography
Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a new week on the blog.  Just a quick reminder, Blogger will going on a much needed vacation the end of next week.  Instead of the usual posts, Blogger will post photo blogs and Blogger Candidate Forum will take a two week hiatus.  Blogger will be back at toward the end of September with the regular posts and the Candidate Forum will be back with live blogging from the first presidential debate.  On to today's post, how to build more inclusive cities.

What is an inclusive city?  Tanvi Misra, in her CityLab article "How to Build Inclusive Cities," defines inclusive cities as places where anyone, "...regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, age, or ability-can live and thrive."  Unfortunately, there is not a magic solution or template to follow.  However, there are solution worth imitating that cities and citizens around the world are using and recently discussed at Brookings Institute.

Mother pushing a stroller
The session was started by Ángel Gurría, the secretary general of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, which initiated its Inclusive Growth in Cities Campaign (; date accused Aug. 29, 2016), in conjunction with Ford Foundation.  Ms. Misra reports, "This initiative brings together city leaders from around the world with explicit purpose of tackling urban inequality."  Secretary Gurría was followed by a panel discussion featuring private, public, technology, and business leaders who shared their unique and novel successful strategies.  Based on the presentation, the following are four basic steps toward creating more inclusive cities.

"Everyone Counts"
Step One: Acknowledge the problem

Admitting you have a problem is not reserved for 12-step groups.  You cannot send a city to alcohol-addiction treatment but it is an absolute necessity.  Cities are centers of global innovation, power, and economy.  This puts them in the perfect position to lead the way toward a more equal society, especially in the face of political gridlock at the national level, observed Amy Liu, the vice president of the Institute's Metropolitan Policy Program.  Like admitting to an addiction, the first step to creating more inclusive cities is acknowledging there is a problem.

The Brookings Institute's Metro Monitor 2016: Tracking Growth, Prosperity, and Inclusion In 100 Largest U.S. Metropolitan Areas
(; date accused Aug. 29, 2016) is one measure of how far cities have advanced in context to economic inclusion.  Tanvi Misra writes, "According to its finds, nearly all large U.S. metro have seen a boost in jobs and economic outputs in the years since the recession."  However, with respect to economic inclusion-defined as "...the well-being of the middle and low-income residents-" only eight metropolitan saw system-wide improvements between 2009 and 2014.  The report cited Charleston, Chicago, Dayton, Denver, provo, Salt Lake City, San Jose, and Tulsa as the sole American metropolitan areas that demonstrated growth in median wages and employment rates, as well as a decline in poverty.  Be that as it may, these cities still experienced racial disparities.  Further, "...80 out of 100 largest U.S. metros, median wages actually declined in this period.

"Composite Inclusion rankings among the largest 100 U.S. Metropolitan Areas
Brookings Institute

During the presentation, Ms. Liu told the audience,

Economic growth is easy, but inclusion is harder...We need to be much more intentional about how we extend the benefits of growth and engage more people in our prosperity.  (Ibid)

The map on the left is from this, American metropolitans ranked according to the progress they made in economic inclusion between 2009 and 2014.  You can find an interactive tool on the Brookings Institute website.

Economic inequality is just one component in making cities more inclusive.  Antoinette Samuel, the deputy director of the National League of Cities told the conference,

'Inclusiveness' means affordability and non-discrimination in housing so that neighborhoods are diverse and representative of a city's population; it means acceptance of new immigrants and respecting and celebrating their culture and religious traditions.  And...protecting the rights of the LGBT community and promoting religious tolerance. (Ibid)

Light rail in Martin Place
Step Two: Push for transit-oriented development

When it comes to policy remedies, priorities vary from city to city across the United States. Suffice to say "...every single one needs to do a better job with providing affordable housing, transit access, and sage and up-to-date infrastructure."  Secretary Gurría said,

But it's too often divorced from a broader strategy for urban development and transport and access to services.  So we need housing policies that aim to build cities, rathe than build houses.  (Ibid)

Dow Constantine, executive of Kings County in Washington state (including Seattle), emphasized the urgency to invest in transit option that connect low-income communities at fringes of major cities in the urban center, and the necessity making an allowance for affordable housing close already existing transit line.  He also cited his municipalities plan to reduce bus fare for low income riders as a successful way to bring down barriers to transit access.

Bus oriented transit
Cleveland, Ohio
Cecile Bedor, executive vice president at Greater MSP, a Minneapolis-Saint Paul-based economic development non-profit, stressed that it was import that ensuring that no community was overlooked was a continuous process.  She told the assembly,

Ultimately, [Transit Oriented Development] around light rail and ensuring that there's housing for all and choices for all really only happens with intentional policy by elected officials...The market's going to do what the market does...[W]e really meed to make sure the pressure is on our elected officials to ensure that it is inclusive growth.  (Ibid)

Step Three: Invest in people, and "be nimble"

Investing in the future of cities means investing in its citizen beginning at an early age.  Mr. Constantine pointed to King's county Best Start for Kids (; date accessed Aug. 29, 2016), a multi-pronged approach to early childhood education.  The program provides a range of services, from prenatal support to educational resources for high school students.

Best Starts for Kids logo
With respect to the adult population, attention is given to include women, new immigrants, and communities of color into the workforce.  Paid family leave and equal-pay policies as two more ways women can enter and remain employed.  Madame Secretary and Mr. Trump are you paying attention?  Vocational training and entrepreneur programs for communities color (including in foreign language for immigrants) can also prepare traditionally disadvantaged groups for employment.

OECD conference
Rodney Sampson, the chairman at Opportunity Hum and head of diversity and inclusion at Tech Square Labs in Atlanta, told the group,

Minorities, and women immigrants suffer from intentional or unintentional invisibility that is often met with tokenism...We need to hack and disrupt that mindset.  (; date accused Aug. 29, 2016)

Mr. Sampson's organization work with Atlanta public schools to train "disconnects youth" in coding languages, computer skills, and financial literacy.  His organization also provides them with housing, a living stipend, and puts them in touch with potential employers.

All that aside, what workers genuinely need is predicated on their location.  To wit, JP Morgan Chase has been working with the Brookings Institute to publish information that allows global cities to understand what industries are experiencing growth and what jobs are being created by them.  Be that as it may, the working landscape is also rapidly transforming and cities need to keep pace with the changes.  Ms. Bedor shared during the discussion,

The systems that we build a decade ago don't work today because of the changes in technology, globalization, and automation...We also need to be really nimble and know that we're training [for] today may not be what they need tomorrow.  So it's not a speck in time-this is an iterative process.

Step Four: Make sure everyone is at the table

This is a given.  It is very easy for a wide range of experts to gather at conferences, present papers, hold panel discussions on making cities more inclusive but without including the actual stakeholders, all that talking is pointless.  One might even say a little patronizing?  To truly make cities more inclusive, you have to actually collaborate with different sectors, agencies, interests, and work across multiple platforms.  After all, if you want to make cities more inclusive, you cannot leave anyone behind.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Blogger Candidate Forum: What Fair Housing May Look Like housing/495749/?utm_source=nl_link2_081516

Senator Tim Kaine at a campaign rally in Philadelphia
Hello Everyone:

It is time for the weekly installment of Blogger Candidate Forum.  This week we are continuing are discussion on the issue of fair housing.  Last week we considered the question why fair housing is not a bold faced issue.  Today we are going to take a look how Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) has made fair housing an issue.  Kriston Capps writes in his CityLab article, "Tim Kaine's Vision for the Future of Fair Housing,"

As voters have come to learn, Kaine built his career as a lawyer in Richmond by pursuing fair-housing cases.  As the former mayor of Richmond and former governor of Virginia, Kaine has experience examining the issues of fair and affordable housing from a variety of policy perches.

Already on the campaign trail, the Gentleman from Virginia has drawn a sharp distinction between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump (R-NY) on this important subject.  While Americans have indicated that housing is as an important priority as immigration or healthcare, the subject has not had a lot of traction on the campaign trail so.  However, the Gentleman from Virginia's unique qualifications on housing will ensure that fair housing will be front and center.

"40 Years of Fair Housing in Virginia"

In an editorial published on CNN August 12, 2016, the Gentleman from Virginia writes,

A house is more than just a place to sleep.  It's part of the foundation on which a family built a life...Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air the you breathe, and the opportunities you have.  And when you are blocked from living where you want, it to the core of who are.  ( Date access Aug 24, 2016)

Senator Kaine's editorial lays out the ways a possible Clinton administration would strive to make housing more fair and affordable.  The following is an outline of possible policy initiative and what Americans can look forward to should Madame Secretary win the election.

"Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program"
Low Income Housing Tax Credits

Mr. Capps reports, "The U.S, spends about $6 billion annually on LIHTCs, an indirect form of housing assistance."  This is a first line item on the Gentleman from Virginia's housing which we can infer that a potential Clinton believes that LIHTCs are the right tool for the job.  Mr. Capps continues, "The use of LIHTC has steadily since the 1990s."  Ironically, tax credit subsidized has sometimes resulted in more segregated neighborhoods.

Rental assistance

Senator Kaine's editorial does not elaborate on how a potential Clinton Administration was revive federal housing assistance.  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (, "growth in rental assistance has slowed dramatically.  If present trends continue, federal housing-assistance spend would reach its lowest point in 40 years."  Of course this is predicated on the Democrats winning control of the Senate (a distinct possibility), given that it would take divine intervention in Congress to get another budget passed.  Restoring housing choice-vouchers to pre-sequester levels would be the next step.

Quoting Senator Kaine, Mr. Capps writes "...that the Democrats will help families choose from a wide range of neighborhoods to live in"-an acknowledgment of fair housing and a campaign pledge that would mean implementing the Affordably Furthering Fair Housing standards established by the Department Housing and Urban Development under the current administration.

Poughkeepsie Housing Authority
Public housing authorities

Senator Kaine is more vague in his explanation of how a potential Clinton administration would build more public housing.  Senator Kaine, Blogger has a suggestion, consider adaptive re-use projects.  There are under used buildings, around the country, that are ripe for rehabilitation and are eagerly await you.  He writes,

We'll provide more resources to public-housing authorities, and pair these investments with broader economic development efforts. (

The cost for new public housing is estimated at $46 billion.  This break downs into a capital backlog for America's 1.1 million public housing units, almost all of which were built before 1985(this figure is soaring.  In 2010 it climbed to $26 billion; the costs grow on average of $3.4 billion annually).

Kriston Capps writes, "Undoing the damage done by austerity will be the first order of business for a Clinton administration looking to boost spending on housing."  However, scaling back the Budget Control is not enough.  Mr. Capps adds, "Federal housing spending, in terms of direct  rental assistance and public-housing maintenance, has been declining for decades."

First time home buyers
First-time home-buyers

Madame Secretary has pledged to provide $10,000 in down payment assistance for families wanting to buy their first home, an idea that would build on the popularity of the first-time homebuyer tax credit ( of 2008-2010.  Of all the housing initiative detailed by the Gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Capps predicts, "this one's bound to be the most popular, since Americans of all income levels would eligible to receive it (unless I misread him, the program is not means tested)."

The chief benefit of this initiative is that this one-time down payment assistance could help launch millions of new households.  Here is an interesting statistic, "Today, more than 50 percent of renters could afford mortgages, but still can't afford to buy a home."  Why is this the case? One of the reasons for this situation is that said renters lack the savings, particularly cities with climbing housing costs.

Expanding this program to all first-time home-buyers, regardless of incomes, translates into an enormous subsidy for middle- and upper-class in the same manner as the mortgage-interest tax deduction-a $195 billion subsidy for wealthier Americans,  Mr. Capps suggests, "A progressive administration should look at ways to dial back regressive subsidies, not expand them."

Fair Housing infographic
Fair-Housing Laws

This is real dividing line between the Clinton-Kaine and Trump-Pence campaigns.  The Blue Team standard bearers spent their early careers fighting discrimination, Mr. Trump made his billions on discrimination.  Quoting Senator Tim Kaine's editorial.

Around this same time, if a woman like Lorraine attempted to rent an apartment from Trump's company, federal investigators were told that employees would have added a piece of paper to her rental application with the letter "C" on it.  As the Department of Justice would later discover, "C" stood for "Colored."

The U.S. government brought a housing discrimination suit challenging this racist and discriminatory practice, which took place across 39 Trump properties.

The Fair Housing Act is an example, cited by Senator Tim Kaine, "...of what government can and should do in people's lives."  While some of a possible Clinton administration's plans for fulfilling their campaign promises have yet to be revealed, they do acknowledge that when it comes to race, we are far from enlightened as we think we are.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Post-Olympic Glow?

Vila Autódromo Favela
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Hello Everyone:

Amid all the confetti and fireworks of the 2016 Summer Olympics, one story that was overlooked was the massive displacement of Favela residents to make way for new development projects in Rio de Janeiro.  Before you all groan, "please the Olympics are old news, Yours Truly promises no more Olympic-related articles after today.  Natalie Delgadillo shares in her CityLab article, "Olympic Development in Rio Leave a Tarnished Legacy," looks at a Brazilian research project (; accessed Aug 23, 2016) outlining development projects in Rio since the city won the right to host the Games in 2009.  The study paints an unflattering portrait of Olympic-motived development and its impact on the host city.

The winning ballot
When Rio de Janeiro won the right to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, Governor Sergio Cabral was brimming with promises.  Governor Cabral told Tom Phillips of The Guardian,

[Residents stand to] gain more metro lines, more trains, more sewage treatment, more in terms of the environment, social services, in terms of  sport and culture. (http://www,; accessed Aug 23, 2016)

Did any of these promises come true?  For the most part, no they did see the light of day.  Actually, these promises were fulfilled for some of the people, not all.  The Olympic-induced development-i.e. new Metro lines and the "smart city investments-has been seriously pilloried by Rio residents and the international "...for perpetuating the city's already vast inequality."  The website,, from architecture professor Ana Luiza Nobre tracks every development project from 2009 t0 2016, gives a detailed look at building and how focused (or non-existent) the benefits have been.

Rio de Janeiro high rise with Favelas in the foreground
RioNow is the completion of years of research undertaken by Prof. Nobre and a group of student at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.  Perusing the site, visitors can find an interactive list of projects launched in conjunction with mega-events, a topographic map locating the majority project, and academic papers about Olympic-motived development.  The website visitor can compare projects side-by-side with different economic indices-unemployment, fluctuation of the dollar, and Brazilian stock market behavior.

The information on the website is objective without offering any specific opinions.  That does not mean that Prof. Nobre has her thoughts.  She told Ms. Delgadillo,

There is nothing worthwhile that's going to stand in 10 year's time...All the projects are so bad, and all the work has been done so badly.  It's really striking, the low quality.

Quite a contrast to yesterday's post on the future of Olympic venues.

Museum of Tomorrow
Santiago Calatrava
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The list of examples is deep.  A mere four months before the start of the games, a bicycle path built specifically for the games collapsed into the sea, killing two people.  Prof. Nobre observes,

Working conditions on construction sites were so bad...that 12 laborers dies on the job over the past seven years.

The Olympic Village buildings have been continuously plagued with construction and maintenance issues-flooded floors, moldy wall, and holes in the ceiling.

The myriad of infrastructure and safety problems aside, according to Prof. Nobre, there was "...the lack of respect for Rio's traditional aesthetic and architecture."  She cites the heralded Museum of Tomorrow, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava as a prime example.  She said,

It's a bad project.  [It's] badly constructed, and it has nothing to do with the landscape.  It's this very aggressive, iconic type of building that we are trying get rid of.

Prof. Nobre was also bothered the city's decision to hire Mr. Calatrava to build the oblong-shaped museum, given the repeated controversy of the quality of his previous work.

Map of the 2016 Olympic venues
Natalie Delgadillo reports, "But perhaps the most striking observation Nobre has made about the construction in Rio is just how inequality it's been distributed."  Prof. Nobre told Ms. Delgadillo "...that various Olympic projects, to her mind, have simply function to create a specific image of Rio for the rest of the world, much to the benefit of richer citizens."  Case in point, in 2014 the city laid out a plan to install the iconic favela cable cars in Rocinha, the largest favela with almost 70,000 residents.  However, the residents rejected the plan, requesting instead more basic necessities be fulfilled first.

Rocinha Favela
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Prof. Nobles said,

They said, 'No we don't want cable cars, we want a sewage system,...'But this [type of infrastructure] isn't as visible as a cable car, which has become very iconic.

The favela received neither of the improvements.

Then there was the issue of displacement.  According to Prof. Nobre, "..22,000 families in total have been displaced by Olympic work, totaling nearly 100,000 people [other sources give lower number, around 60,000]."  Regardless, you have to be shocked by the number of people left without homes.  The most infamous was is Villa Autódromon, a small favela, home to 600 families who were violently removed from their homes to make way for the eventual entry to Olympic Park.  Ms. Delgadillo reports, "After brutal confrontations with police, only 25 families managed to stay, in new buildings constructed by the government.  Prof. Nobre continued,

[The favela] was right near the entrance.  They didn't need to displace people, but it looked bad have these people there [in such public view...

Two women in Villa Autódromo
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The majority of the displace went to live on the west side of Rio de Janeiro, in a complex of large government building called Minha Case, Minha Vida (My Home, My Life).  Prof Nobre adds,

This place is very far, about 50 or 60 kilometers from downtown, and it has very little infrastructure.

RioNow's topographic map presents the focus of Olympic-related project is in one part of the city, and a completely empty west side, where the government housing is sited.  She said,

They made an investment in one half of the city, and the people who got displaced were moved to the other half.

For Professor Ana Luisa Nobre, the legacy of inequality in the wake of the Olympic Games is "microcosm of Brazil's problems as a country."  Inequality runs amok-Brazil is considered one of the 25 most unequal countries in the world-no one has a clue about what life  will be like for Brazil in 10 years.  Her assessment,

The situation in Rio is a good example for people who want to understand Brazil.  [It is] like this all over the country.

Monday, August 22, 2016

What Happens After The Excitement Of The Games?

Maracanã Stadium
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Hello Everyone:

The Games of the 31st Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are officially in the history books,  Somehow, the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Organizing Committee managed to pull off an Olympics, despite dire predications, Jell-O© green dive pool water, and a fraudulent police report.  Now comes the hard part, what do you with all the leftover facilities?  This is a huge issue that every city, that hosts an Olympic (Winter or Summer) Game, faces immediately after the games.  In the case of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the McDonalds Swim built on the University of Southern California became the training facilities for the university swimming, diving, and water polo teams.  Already built stadiums, like the Rose Bowl, continued to be used by the University of California Los Angeles Football team.  However, what will become of the stadiums, arenas, training facilities, and athletes's housing now that all the excitement from the Rio Games has died down?

Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This is the question that Linda Poon ponders in her CityLab article, "Rio's Plan to Transform Its Arenas After the Olympics."  What will happen to all those sparkling new facilities now that all the medals have been won and records broken is one of the big morning-after questions faced by the host cities.  For example  the Bird's Nest Stadium, built for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, requires "...$11 million in maintenance fees each year, despite sitting virtually empty."  Going back further to the 2004 Athens Games, all the venues have become aging symbols of money that could have been put to better use.  However, Rio de Janeiro is determined to forge a brighter and more sustainable future with plans to " make some of its venues transformable through what the city's mayor, Eduardo Paes, calls 'nomadic architecture.'"

Future Arena
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
One example of Rio de Janeiro's plans to create a more sustainable legacy is the Future Arena.  The Future Arena was host to the handball tournament and will play host to the Paralympic goal ball.  Once the athletic competitions are in the history, the Arena will be re-purposed into four state-run schools in the adjacent communities of  Jacarepagua and Barra, and in Sãn Cristóvão, on Brazil's east coast.  Each of the school will accommodate 500 students.  Manuel Nogueira, the managing director of the United Kingdom firm AndArchitect, told Ms. Poon "The Arena was designed to be dual-purpose from the get-go."  Mr. Nogueira added,

The way everything gets moved from place to another is a bit like Lego.

Interior of Future Arena
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The Lego analogy is not that far fetched as you may think.  Linda Poon writes, "The arena is made of smaller modular parts that are bolted together."  When the competitions end, the parts (roof included), the façade panels, and vertical column will be taken apart, stacked and moved to their new homes.  AECOM's Bill Hanway told Ms. Poon,

The numbing components and wiring are all designed so that you don't rip it out.

AECOM is an American firm responsible for the master plan of Barra Olympic Park, which includes the Future Arena.  Mr. Hanway added,

You unbolt it and remove it, and reapply it to these four schools.

Rendering of Maria Lenk Aquatic Centre
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The Maria Lenk Aquatic Stadium is another temporary venue will be dismantled and reconstructed as two community pools, preferably without the lime green water.  Ms. Poon writes,  "...300-acre Olympic Park, which houses a total of nine venues, will be turned into public parks and private development."  According to Next City, "The International Broadcast Center will also get a high-school dormitory."

In short, Rio de Janeiro is making use of the increasingly popular concept of "temporary architecture" in the urban landscape.  Rio is not the first city to make use of this concept.  Four years ago, the late architect Zaha Hadid designed the spectacular Aquatic Center so that the spectator stands could be removed so that the venue could be made smaller and more manageable once the Games were over.  Mr. Hanway added,

There's been a move toward temporary venues in major sporting events and the Olympics..When we started working in Rio, the mayor became ever more conscious about the cost of everything, from the permanent structures to more the more temporary ones.  He came back with a [challenge] is there is a way of reusing those materials at a modular level?

Scene from the Closing Ceremony of the 2016 Olympics
One of the central themes in Rio de Janeiro's bid to host the Games was sustainability, dubbing them "Green Games for a Blue Planet."  The organizers made all sorts of ambitious pledges to alleviate traffic congestion by bolstering the public transit infrastructure, and clean up the toxic waterways.  Although, cleaning up the toxic waterways forgot about the infamous sofa that capsized an unfortunate kayaker.  Oh well, you get to everything.  Ms. Poon put it a little more articulately, "Rio has fallen short of delivering on those promises, even as the estimate price tag climbs [ed] to $12 billion."

Given all that and the litany of host cities not honoring their Olympic legacies, Jay Coakley, a retired professor who studies the sociology of sports and the impact of sporting mega-events at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, raised this point,

It looks and sounds great, but we don't know for sure if it's going to if it's going to happen...The city of so far in the hole financially that it's very tough to honor their legacy promises.  After the games are over, the organizing committee disbands, and its very difficult to know who will actually pick up the tab and do this particular change with buildings.

Athletes entering Maracaná Stadium during the Closing Ceremony
In Prof. Coakley's critique, co-authored with social researcher Doralise Lange Souza at the Federal University of Paraná University of Paraná, Brazil, Prof. Coakley writes that good intentions not withstanding, the benefits almost never reach the socially excluded populations.  We can define the excluded population as rural dwellers, particularly in the North-East, and the favela dwellers. (  He continues,

The problem is that the legacies haven't been planned for...Turning things into a school a school when you can't hire teachers, or when you haven't already started training teachers, creating the curriculum, or working with parents-unless they have things planned out and budgeted for, it isn't going to happen.

Prof. Hanway admits to the economic challenges but adds "that the nature of the private-public partnership that the Olympic was delivered as puts pressure on developers to fulfill their post-games promises."  By developing the sites, he notes, developers can recoup their initial investment.  Prof. Hanway, also credits Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes for making eduction a priority, noting that Mayor Paes's vocal support for "nomadic architecture" will also increase pressure on him to follow through on his word.  For now, Prof. Jay Coakley says, it' all up in the air.  No truer statement

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Blogger Candidate Forum: Affordable Housing affordable-housing/492959/?utm_source=nl_link3_072716

Donald Trump on the campaign trail
Hello Everyone:

It is time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Before we get going on why Democrats and Republicans do not talk about affordable housing, yours truly would like to say a word or two about the latest development in the Trump-Pence campaign.

 Facing slumping numbers in swing states with less than three months before Election, Mr. Trump overhauled his campaign staff.  Mr. Trump added two officials to key positions to wright his floundering campaign and pivoting towards a scorched earth outsider determined to win.  Mr. Trump hired Breibart News executive and former investment banker, Steve Bannon to the position of campaign chief executive and promoted senior advisor and pollster Kellyanne Conway to campaign manager.  Campaign chief strategist Paul Manefort will retain his position as campaign chairman and recently dismissed head of Fox News Roger Ailes will advise Mr. Trump.  Can this shuffle save the this campaign or is it too little to late?  Only time will tell.  On to affordable housing.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake at the 2016 DNCC
Housing is not one of the most bold faced concerns of both the Democrats and Republicans.  The 2016 Republican Party platform includes a housing plank, i.e. "responsible homeownership and rental opportunities," something that did not get much airplay during the Republican National Committee Convention in Cleveland.  The Democrats did not give the subject a lot of attention at their convention in Philadelphia.  Kriston Capps, in his CityLab article "Why Democrats and Republicans Need to Talk About Affordable Housing," tells us, "No doubt, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro would have made housing a big deal, but the White House banned members of the cabinet from addressing the DNC.  Democratic VPOTUS-in-waiting Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) recently published an essay on his experience, as an attorney with Housing Opportunities Made Equal representing African Americans who discriminated against because of their race. (

Senator Kaine giving his acceptance speech at the DNCC
During his acceptance speech, the Gentleman from Virginia did not share his experience of representing a young African American woman who denied an apartment because of her race.  The Gentleman from Virginia had to cover national security, healthcare, the economy, and a number of other issues during his allotted him.

Neither major party were that anxious to place affordable housing on the front burner of their respective convention.  Mr. Capps writes, "This is a surprise in at least two respects: Democrats and Republicans broadly disagree about what to do about housing, but have policy solutions in mind that are close to their ideological solutions."  More to the point, Americans most definitely want hear about these solutions.

Public investment in affordable housing
Kriston Capps reports, "According to a recent national poll, more than half (59 percent) of all Americans list housing affordability as a top-tier issue."  Breaking this down in terms of demographics, housing affordability registers as higher concern for 73 percent of people 18-34.  The poll was conducted by Ipsos for the Enterprise Community Partner.  The poll found that "...71 percent of respondents wanted to see housing affordability as a 'core component' of the Republican and Democratic platforms."  Approximately one out five Americans considers the housing as important an issue as immigration, taxes, and entitlement reform.

This issue is more important to Democrats-i.e. "...71 percent of Democratic respondents emphasized housing affordability as a priority versus 44 percent of Republicans."  It is not as if Republicans do not care about affordable housing.  It is a situation of Democrats being more likely know someone having difficulty paying the rent or mortgage-women (51 percent as opposed to 43 percent of men) and respondents without college degrees (44 percent versus 40 percent of those with college degrees).  Thus, it is logical that Democrats would dedicate more airtime to housing.

Brooklyn affordable housing project
Brooklyn, New York
Interestingly, Kriston Capps believes that it makes just as much sense for the Republicans to take up the cause.  He reasons, "Among issues dividing the left and right, housing affordability is relatively neutral-it's not a moral third rail anyway."  Wishful thinking on his part considering that neither party can even agree on what brand of bottled water to put on the table.  Further, he speculates that the Red Team could draw blue-collar voters, the very kind that Donald Trump hopes to attract from the Blue Team.  In fact, Mr. Capps believes that if the Republicans offered a good solution for affordable housing, it might help them counter the accusation that Mr. Trump rooted for the housing market implosion in 2007/

The problem, one of many for the Red Team, is that Mr. Trump DID cheer for the housing crash and did build his real estate empire on discriminatory housing practices.  Yet, the Republican Party 2016 platform believes that the solution to housing affordability is " to strip away regulations on building, scale back Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and shrink the role Federal Housing in guaranteeing mortgages.  Affirmative Furthering Fair Housing earns special ire in the GOP ire."

OOR 2016 Housing wage map
The Democratic Party platform has a completely different approach to ending the affordability crisis.  Their remedy plans to increase incentives to build more housing and affordable housing, increasing funding for the National Housing Trust Fund, enhance the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, and defend the work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in preventing predatory lending.

The big surprises all around:  The Red Team wants to restrict the federal government regulatory agency, designed to give the housing market in providing housing (except with respect to local zoning codes, something the GOP are keen to protect).  The Blue Team does not assign any role for the market at all in growing housing and make some improbable claims-"It would take a huge expansion of the modest National Housing Trust Fund to 'create millions of good-paying jobs in the process.'"

Be that as it may, both the Democrats and Republicans stand by their proposals and genuinely believe that their solutions will alleviate a major concern for voters, the party standard bearers should pay attention to this.  Events like the Terwilliger Foundation's  #MakeHousingGreatAgain benefit during the RNC Convention did not make the grade.

Kriston Capps cites one part of Democratic Party platform as being particularly noteworthy for the future,

Over the nest decade, most new households will be formed by families in communities of color, which typically have less generational wealth and fewer resources to put toward a down payment.

This is fact and making sure that these communities have equal access to the housing market over the next decades, something critical to the future of the nation's economy.  In short, both the Democrats and Republicans cannot afford to ignore this issue.