In the spotlight

Do Shallow Rental Subsidies Promote Housing Stability? Evidence on Costs and Effects from D.C.’s Flexible Rent Program

By Maria Alva (Georgetown University), Natnaell Mammo (The Lab @ DC), Ryan T. Moore (The Lab @ DC), and Sam Quinney (The Lab @ DC) | The District of Columbia piloted and evaluated a shallow rent subsidy to answer two questions: Do shallow flexible rental subsidies promote housing stability? And, can they be a vehicle to further stretch the existing housing resources to serve more people? These questions are important to growing metropolitan areas like D.C. that face severe challenges in making housing affordable and preventing homelessness. Similar to New York or San Francisco, most D.C. residents are renters, 70% of whom spend more than 30% of their gross income on rent. Approximately 1 out of every 125 residents in D.C. is in emergency shelters, in transitional housing, or is unsheltered. Housing vouchers, representing "deeper subsidies," have historically been in short supply and, necessarily, targeted at the most vulnerable households. In 2017, D.C.'s Department of Human Services (DHS) decided to test a model that could serve more residents by targeting a shallow subsidy to families experiencing housing instability but not homelessness. To this end, DHS began piloting the Flexible Rent Subsidy Program (D.C. Flex). Read More
  • By Bharat Punjabi (University of Toronto) | Om Mathur and his colleagues have done us a great service by publishing the State of the Cities: India Report (SOCR) where they have developed a grounded empirical framework to answer some of the most interesting puzzles around India`s urbanization in the last three decades. The SOCR has answered questions that have been around for some time but had to wait for the authors’ deft combination of experience in the Indian urban policy context, their knowledge of census data sources and the depth of understanding of India’s urban trajectory to provide us with insightful answers to some very interesting but complicated questions on India’s urban system. Read More
  • Urban Affairs Review is sponsoring a $250 award given by the the Urban and Local Politics Section for the Best Paper in Urban or Regional Politics presented at the 2022 American Political Science Association conference. We encourage chairs of all Urban and Local Politics Section panels to nominate papers. We also welcome self-nominations. Papers presented on any panel associated with the conference are eligible for this award. Read More
  • By Victoria Morckel (University of Michigan-Flint) and Noah Durst (Michigan State University) | Sophisticated methods for studying changes in the physical forms of cities that are losing population (i.e. “shrinking cities”) are lacking in the literature. This research highlights the use of a newer method—ArcGIS Pro’s emerging hot spot analysis of space-time cubes from defined locations—to examine the spread of housing vacancy, a common indicator of city shrinkage. The method has existed in ESRI’s ArcGIS Pro since 2017, but has not been previously applied to the study of vacancy. This method differs from traditional hot spot methodologies in that it identifies statistically significant spatiotemporal relationships (i.e. spatial change over time). Read More
  • By Lynda Cheshire (The University of Queensland, Australia), Siqin Wang (The University of Queensland, Australia) and Yan Liu (The University of Queensland, Australia) | Human beings live in a society embedded by intricate networks and relationships with other people, including their neighbors who offer localized interactions at the day-to-day level. While it is expected that neighbors are generally friendly, helpful and respectful of each other’s privacy, in reality, there is considerable variation in the way neighbors perceive and interact with each other. This suggests that neighboring is not an unproblematic social practice, but can be wrought with tensions and conflicts that arise in the context of living in physical proximity. Neighbor annoyances over noise, pets, parking, fences or trees can undermine one’s sense of home as a place of enjoyment, privacy and autonomy, while disputes can escalate into criminal behavior involving damage to property, intimidating behavior and physical harm. Read More
  • By Loren Collingwood (University of New Mexico), Gabriel Martinez (University of New Mexico), and Kassra A.R. Oskooii (University of Delaware) | In 1982, Tucson, Arizona, birthed the sanctuary movement, with a minister of Southside Presbyterian declaring his church a sanctuary for immigrant refugees fleeing civil conflict in El Salvador and Guatemala. However, in 2019, despite being a broadly progressive city with a 2 to 1 advantage in registered Democrats, Tucson voted down a ballot initiative (Proposition 205) that would have made the city a sanctuary. While no single definition exists, sanctuary cities have two common elements: 1) an ordinance that forbids local law enforcement from inquiring into residents’ immigration status and, 2) limits on local law enforcement’s cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Read More
  • 2021 UAR Two-Year Journal Impact Factor Released in June 2022 is 2.387. Read More
  • By Traci Burch (Northwestern University) | It is clear from the news, and perhaps even from personal experience, that many citizens are mobilizing to express outrage and demand justice in the wake of officer-involved killings.  However, despite the fact that officer-involved killings are the focus of such an important social movement, very little work attempts to explain the circumstances that lead the public to protest the deaths of particular victims. In my UAR paper, I leverage my own collection of data on individuals killed by police, combined with the Collaborative Multi-racial Political Survey (CMPS) and demographic data, to show that officer-involved killings can have complex effects on protest. Read More
  • By Domingo Morel (Rutgers University), Akira Drake Rodriguez (University of Pennsylvania), Mara Sidney (Rutgers University), Nakeefa B. Garay (Rutgers University), and Adam Straub (Rutgers University) | The city of Newark, New Jersey holds an important role in the field of urban politics: its infamous uprisings/rebellions of 1967 spawned the 1968 Kerner Commission, a voluminous report that placed the blame of the emerging “urban crisis” at the feet of policymakers operating on the local, state, and federal level; on the widespread police brutality supported by these policymakers, and on the White-oriented media that provided cover for those in power. Following the uprisings, Newark remained in the shadow of other post-industrial cities that emerged from the moment of crisis stronger than ever: New York, Hoboken, Jersey City, and Philadelphia have seen recent gains in population and economic activity. But Newark also charted another important path in urban politics: beginning in 1970, the city elected the first Black mayor of a major northeastern city and has continued to elect Black mayors into the present. Read More
  • By Steven P. Erie (adapted from a presentation to the Scholia Club of San Diego on May 10, 2022) | Norton E. Long (1910-1993), through his writings, teaching, mentoring, and extensive public service, was an extraordinary public intellectual. He was committed to understanding and improving governance and the functioning of public bureaucracy in a democratic society; making the public interest and improving the human condition the core missions for civic participation and leadership; and warned of the perils of a racially-segregated metropolis and society. Read More
  • By Tal Alster (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) | Renting or owning an apartment in the world’s most desired cities has become increasingly unaffordable, especially for low-income households and less-skilled workers. One of the main reasons is growing regulatory barriers to new construction. Many blame NIMBYism – opposition to new construction by existing homeowners who adopt a “Not in my back yard” position – as the driver of excessive regulation. Richard Florida calls them the ‘New Urban Luddites’, Edward Glaeser ‘The Entrenched’, and William Fischel ‘Homevoters’. The takeaway is similar: older and more affluent homeowners use their political power to prevent new housing from being built and profit from rising urban rents, and in the process economic growth and the mobility prospects of the poor are stifled. NIMBYism, historically considered a micro phenomenon associated mostly with suburbs, is now considered to have macro effects on entire urban regions. Read More
  • By Andrew Fenelon (Penn State University), Natalie Slopen (Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health), and Sandra J. Newman (Johns Hopkins University) | American cities are heavily segregated by race and income, reflecting a legacy of racism and a housing policy heavily tilted toward white suburban homeowners. Recent research suggests that the economic impact of growing up in a poor neighborhood is significant – children can experience reduced rates of economic mobility, which reduces adult earnings and employment. For very poor children, moving to a high-opportunity neighborhood early in life can significantly affect future economic outcomes. Read More
  • By P. Nicole King (University of Maryland Baltimore County) and Meghan Ashlin Rich (University of Scranton) | Hudson Yards in New York City. L.A. Live in Los Angeles. Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia. The Amazon HQ2 in Crystal City, Virginia. Cities in the U.S. are competing with each other for corporate investment and population growth, and mega-developments are an increasingly popular way to redevelop distressed urban areas. But can multi-million dollar mega-development projects serve as revitalization engines for cities while building partnerships and neighborhood capacities for economically struggling communities? Our research explores what happens when local neighborhoods organize to build community power and demand community benefits from private developers who make claims of “inclusive” redevelopment. Read More
  • By Nathaniel Decker (UC Berkeley) | About half of US rental housing is held by small-scale “mom and pop” owners. These owners often have only one or two units and, historically, have rarely drawn the attention of scholars or policymakers. However recent work on eviction and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and eviction moratoriums on small-scale landlords have brought “mom and pop” owners into the headlines. In this article I answer a basic question: is there a difference in how “mom-and-pop” owners manage their properties relative to larger, more professional owners? Read More
  • By John J. Betancur (University of Illinois at Chicago) and Peter Brand (Universidad Nacional de Colombia) | When the world is dark, any ray of light feels like the sun. Emerging from the profound crises that decimated the economy and social fabric of Colombia’s second city Medellin in the period 1980-2000, a grassroots movement and a powerful corporate group (GEA) formed a governing alliance that assured the world that the city had risen from the ashes. The new millennium saw strategic signature interventions in the poorest and most violent sectors of the city which captured the attention of the world while a public-private partnership consolidated the interests of the corporate group. This followed in the wake of a shadowy partnership of national government and paramilitary forces which produced the violent expulsion of urban militias of the left. An ensuing national amnesty and local pacts allowed control of large parts of the city by narco-paramilitary organizations in exchange for drastically reduced homicide rates – an essential component of some formidable city marketing which sold to the world the idea of the Medellin ‘miracle’ based on its social programs and progressive urbanism. This myth earned the city 21 national and 30 international awards (Mazo, 2016) but ignored critical works characterizing it as smoke and mirrors (see Hylton, 2007; Brand, 2013; MacLean, 2015). After the dust settled, this study spoke to 40 of the protagonists of the Medellin model and examined documents, reports, and archives to reexamine the coalition behind this experience. Read More
  • By Eun Jin Shin (Sungkyunkwan University) | Homelessness has been one of the most critical issues facing major US cities in recent decades. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s latest Annual Homeless Assessment Report (2020), about 0.57 million people in the United States experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2019. Although some cities, like Chicago, have witnessed a general downward trend in homelessness in recent years, numbers have risen dramatically in Los Angeles—an area known for long-standing high homelessness rates. Read More
  • By Kyle Jaros (University of Notre Dame) | Imagine that residents of New York City awoke tomorrow to reports that the governor of New York State had authorized, without public consultation, a far-reaching change to the city’s territorial map: Brooklyn would be split into two boroughs and the Bronx would merge with newly annexed Westchester County to form a northern mega-borough. This would be huge and highly contentious news for New Yorkers, with far-reaching implications for business, housing, infrastructure, public services, and governmental operations across the metropolis. Read More
  • By Jesse Mumm (DePaul University) and Carolina Sternberg (DePaul University) | “Every one of you that comes into this neighborhood, it ups our property rate ten thousand dollars,” one Black woman on the West Side of Chicago tells two white newcomers walking by where she sits on her front porch. How is gentrification racial? In our new UAR article, we look at race and gentrification in three Chicago neighborhoods: Garfield Park, Pilsen and Humboldt Park, where we map changes in demographics, property value, and material conditions. Garfield Park lies at the heart of the supermajority Black West Side; Pilsen has been called the cultural center of Mexican Chicago, and Humboldt Park hosts Paseo Boricua—the Puerto Rican Promenade. We know that gentrification is not always linear, and its multiple causes not universal, but enacted through urban phenomena as disparate as toxic loans, planned gallery districts, and subway restoration. Yet this does not diminish their meanings as racial projects, and our findings here destabilize the notion that material improvement in the built environment largely determines increases in property values. While urban scholars generally recognize today that abandonment and disinvestment were socially produced and politically organized racial projects of midcentury capitalism, we owe the same critical assessment to gentrification – the major urban racial project of the present day. Read More
  • By Sunyoung Pyo (Catholic University of Korea) | The police force’s discriminatory treatment toward Black residents has long been a significant social issue in the U.S. (Gaston 2019; Homes, Painter II and Smith 2019). There is substantial empirical evidence showing that Black people are more likely than White people to be stopped-and-frisked and to be arrested for minor offenses (Cooley et al. 2020; Gelman, Fagan and Kiss 2007). The issue of discriminatory policing has become more publicly salient over the last few years following several high-profile police-involved deaths of Black residents. Read More
  • Urban Affairs Review (UAR) has been a leading scholarly journal focused on urban politics, policy, and governance for fifty years. Submissions reflecting different scholarly disciplines and methodological perspectives are welcome when the research advances theory and improves our understanding of political processes, policy impacts, and approaches to governance in urban, regional, and metropolitan settings. The Urban Affairs Review is affiliated with American Political Science Association’s section on Urban Politics. Read More
  • By Dragan Kusevski, Maja Stalevska (Uppsala University), and Chiara Valli (Malmö University) | In September 2020, the Swedish government commissioned the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning to “review any obstacles for using the [Business Improvement District] method” to help address socio-economic exclusion in struggling urban areas. Stressing BIDs’ putative success in dealing with similar issues in other parts of the world, the government has argued that coalitions of local property owners, together with residents and public actors, could help “lift” socio-economically challenged neighborhoods out of poverty through real estate investments, crime prevention, and security measures (Regeringen 2020a). Read More
  • By Peter Hepburn (Rutgers University-Newark), Devin Q. Rutan (Princeton University), and Matthew Desmond (Princeton University) | Eviction is often seen as a city problem. We tend to think of the eviction crisis as playing out in urban neighborhoods, both in high-poverty places where eviction is a constant threat and in gentrifying neighborhoods where long-term residents may be at growing risk of being forced out. This overlooks what's going on outside of inner cities, leaving us blind to eviction patterns in suburban areas. Read More