CURS Director Bill Rohe Talks Affordable Housing on WRAL TV News

WRAL TV News: A new UNC study indicates that rising rents and stagnant wages have created a rental housing crisis in North Carolina. While it’s recommended not to spend more than 30 percent of one’s income on rental housing, the study shows that 400,000 North Carolinians are spending nearly 50 percent of their income on rent.

Watch the report here.

 

 

 

 

 

Post-Disaster Recovery Plans after China’s Wenchuan Earthquake

At 2:28 pm on May 12, 2008, the Wènchuān dà dìzhèn (literally “Great Wenchuan earthquake”) registered 8.0 on the Richter magnitude scale. As the 21st deadliest earthquake of all time, the Wenchuan (also known as Sichuan) earthquake took more than 69,000 lives and left about 4.8 million people homeless. On November 6, 2008, China announced that it would spend about $146.5 billion over the next three years to rebuild areas ravaged by the earthquake as part of the Chinese economic stimulus program.

Wenchuan

Natural disasters such as this have long been considered one of the major challenges confronting humankind. In recent years, both the incidence and frequency of natural disasters have increased. It is also evident that losses due to natural catastrophic events have increased dramatically over decades.

In this context, post-disaster recovery practices have become more common and research on disaster recovery within the academic community is also increasing. Many of these studies suggest that urgency and uncertainty in the aftermath of disasters lead to short-term decision-making that does not address, or may even amplify, pre-disaster social, economic and environmental weaknesses, which are the main challenges to long-term sustainability. Therefore, it is essential to incorporate sustainability into the disaster recovery process.

In a recent article published in the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Center for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS) Faculty Fellow and Director of the Program on Chinese Cities Yan Song, Chaosu Li, a UNC Department of City and Regional Planning doctoral candidate, and their colleagues examined 16 local recovery plans developed in response to the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake.

Through a CURS-supported, National Science Foundation-funded grant, planning documents from the affected areas were analyzed and evaluated, and in-depth interviews with government officials, planners and researchers were conducted. Song and her colleagues found that the local recovery plans do not appear to have sufficiently incorporated concepts of sustainability.

The severely devastated town of Jundao in Sichuan Province during the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake. (Wikipedia photo)

Photo above: The severely devastated town of Jundao in Sichuan Province during the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake. (Wikipedia photo)

The report’s findings reveal five challenges for incorporating sustainability into disaster recovery plans. These include: limited inclusion of environmental and equity goals; limitations to local planning capacity; insufficient enforcement tools; inadequate stakeholder engagement; and weak interagency coordination.

“The Chinese central government has emphasized ‘eco-reconstruction’ as the overarching goal for disaster recovery after the Wenchuan earthquake,” explained Song. “Nevertheless, disaster recovery goals at the local level were still economics-oriented.”

Song and her colleagues suggest the following four steps to improve the local disaster recovery planning process:

First, efforts must be made to include sustainability within a plan’s visions and goals. Environmental goals and achievements should be evaluated in the promotion of government officials. Policy frameworks should be formalized, with visions translated into goals encompassing different dimensions of sustainability that can be measured and tracked. For instance, to achieve the vision of providing a sustainable future for its citizens, one goal could be “mitigating secondary flood hazards,” with an objective to “reduce peak runoff volume.” These policy frameworks must be shared with other government agencies to support the implementation of policy action items by other agencies.

Second, data-sharing mechanisms should be enhanced. “We recommend that planning departments at city and provincial levels possess backups of basic data for areas that are prone to natural disasters,” said Song. “Basic ecological, geological and socioeconomic data at the local level should be shared across government agencies.”

The road heading to Wenyuan, the epicenter of 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. (Wikipedia photo)

Photo above: The road heading to Wenyuan, the epicenter of 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. (Wikipedia photo)

Third, planning techniques such as hazard exposure analyses, ecological impact analyses and ecological carrying capacity assessments should be applied during the early stages of the plan-making process to ensure sufficient sustainability considerations. “In the Chinese context, where a top-down approach often plays the primary role in guiding urban planning, the central government can lead in designing tools and policy actions for sustainability,” explained Song.

Finally, interagency collaboration is an important way to alleviate the existing fragmentation in governmental structure. In the current local government setting in China, agencies involved in, or responsible for, sustainability-related issues include the Development and Reform Commission, the Department of Environment Protection, the Department of Land Resources and Planning, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Forestry and Agriculture and the Department of Transportation. Because sustainability touches issues administered by this wide range of agencies, developing a framework for interagency coordination is critical for promoting sustainability.

“It is laudable that China has begun to recognize the importance of sustainability in post-disaster recovery planning,” said Song, “and it is especially notable that sustainability was prominently reflected in State Council policies for post-earthquake reconstruction. While this disaster provided a moment to make a statement about sustainable recovery, it also created a situation in which it was difficult to actually accomplish these goals. It may be that Chinese planning practices are able to achieve greater sustainability in situations that allow for more time and deliberation.”

A Tale of Two States: White-Collar Jobs

U2P0

In part three of the five-part Urban 2 Point 0 series, CURS Researcher Michael Webb looks at white-collar jobs, specifically finance and professional services – which includes management, research and engineering. These industries have driven job growth in both North Carolina and the entire U.S. over the past decades. White-collar jobs tend to concentrate in large cities, and North Carolina is no different – with Charlotte serving as a major financial center and Raleigh as a hub of research and technology. Read the blog here.

 

Frescoln Wins Hadzija Award and Impact Award

Kirstin Frescoln

Kirstin Frescoln

UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies researcher Kirstin Frescoln, a doctoral student in city and regional planning, received the 2017 Boka W. Hadzija Award for Distinguished University Service by a Graduate or Professional Student.

The Boka W. Hadzija Award recognizes a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate or professional student with outstanding character, scholarship, leadership and service to the university. Frescoln and other award recipients were recognized at the Chancellor’s Awards Ceremony on April 18, 2017. The Graduate School recognized Frescoln at the 19th Annual Graduate Student Recognition Celebration, held April 20, 2017.

Frescoln works as a research assistant at the UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies, where she evaluates programs related to housing and community development. She received a GEAB Impact Award for her evaluation of Charlotte Housing Authority’s work requirements for non-elderly and non-disabled residents and the policy’s effect on family well-being. Her findings indicate that Charlotte’s public housing work policy largely fulfills the housing authority’s goal of enhancing family economic mobility while not harming family well-being. Included in the many stakeholders Frescoln interviewed were residents subject to the Charlotte policy. She interviewed them three times and shared her reports with interviewees to ensure accuracy and gain their perspective on additional questions she should ask.

Frescoln developed and taught a course titled Race, Poverty and Planning, which will be added to the city and regional planning department’s course offerings. She is involved with Plan for All, a student group that strives to increase awareness of social justice issues within the department and the planning profession.

“Kirstin’s research is dedicated to better understanding the barriers to effective social policies that reduce poverty and empower communities,” her nominator said.

She has received certificates in health disparities and in participatory research and is certified in community mediation and meeting facilitation.

Frescoln served in public service positions for more than 16 years before beginning her doctoral studies. She volunteers for the Orange County Dispute Settlement Center and Orange County Justice United.

“She is steadfast in her dedication to social justice,” her nominator wrote. “Her academic research, professional career, volunteerism, church service and obligation to public service all reflect her personal charge to further social justice outcomes. There are few doctoral students who could so passionately pursue real-world impacts both through their research and their everyday engagement with policy and program challenges that affect the lives of their fellow students and fellow North Carolinians.”

Boka W. Hadzija was an award-winning professor in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy; she established the award in 2000 in honor of her students. Hadzija, who died in 2013, is remembered by students and faculty for her strong mentorship, her generous support of students and her outstanding leadership.

By Deb Saine, The Graduate School

Frescoln Wins Impact Award

The UNC-Chapel Hill Graduate School’s annual Graduate Education Advancement Board Impact Awards recognize graduate students for contributions they are making to our state. The longstanding Impact Award recognizes discoveries with a direct impact on our state in the present time. Kirstin Frescoln, UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies researcher and City and Regional Planning doctoral candidate, was one of the Impact Award winners for her work examining the Charlotte Housing Authority’s work requirement policy.

The Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA) is one of eight public housing authorities nationwide that enforces a work requirement for work-able residents. The CHA contracted with UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies to conduct a 10-year evaluation of a series of reforms including the work requirement. Frescoln directed research, as a part of the study, to inform policymakers on why and how the work requirements have been implemented, and the policy’s effect on family well-being. Her work and that of the Center is believed to be the only empirical evaluation of public housing work requirements.

Frescoln’s findings indicate that Charlotte’s public housing work policy, which is implemented with case management and employment supports, largely fulfills the CHA’s goal of enhancing family economic mobility. A majority of residents she interviewed said they support the work requirement. Wage employment was found to increase while eviction rates did not, and family well-being was not found to decrease as a result of the policy. Frescoln interviewed housing authority staff from the eight U.S. housing authorities with work requirements, and CHA leadership, managers, front-line staff and residents subject to the work requirement. She interviewed residents subject to the Charlotte policy three times and shared her reports with interviewees to ensure accuracy and gain their perspective on additional questions she should ask.

Frescoln’s findings are critical to state and national policymakers who are considering the potential effectiveness of public housing work requirements and the needs of people living within these communities.

“There is very little research on the effects of work requirements on public housing residents who would lose their housing assistance if they do not work. Kirstin’s dissertation research has the potential to have wide-ranging implications for housing policy and practice in Charlotte and throughout the United States,” said adviser Mai Nguyen, Ph.D.

The Political & Economic Development of Former Yugoslav Republics after the Death of Socialism

miro-hacekThe UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies and the UNC Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies presents:

A Brown Bag Lunch Seminar by Miro Haček, Ph.D., Professor & Chair, Policy Analysis and Public Administration, University of Ljubljana

Reading Room, New East
Thursday, March 30, 2017, 12:30-1:45 PM

Dr. Haček will discuss the political and economic development of the western Balkans in the period after 1991, when the former socialist states of Yugoslavia collapsed in the midst of civil wars and national tensions. He will address the reasons for the Yugoslav collapse and examine the consequences. A special emphasis will be given to the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Yugoslavia

Photograph by Jan Kempenaers

 

Working with In-country Chinese Migrant and Low Income Families: Creating and Sustaining Partnerships on the Other Side of the Earth

Mimi Chapman

Mimi Chapman

The UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies presents:

A Brown Bag Lunch Seminar by Mimi Chapman, Ph.D.
Professor, UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work

Reading Room, New East
Tuesday, April 11, 2017, 12:30 – 1:45 PM
Free

Since 2010, Professor Mimi Chapman of the UNC School of Social Work and Professor Meihua Zhu of the East China University of Science and Technology have been working together to understand and address the needs of in-country migrant families and low income families in Shanghai, China. Frequent policy changes in China have made this work challenging and ever-evolving. This talk will describe their work thus far, discuss findings, and plans for future development.

Chapman_China

Mind the Gap: Broken Intercity Highways in China

Dr Xingjian LiuThe UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies and the Program on Chinese Cities presents:

A Brown Bag Lunch Seminar by Xingjian Liu, Ph.D., Assistant Professor,
Department of Urban Planning and Design, The University of Hong Kong

Reading Room, New East
Tuesday, April 4, 2017, 12:30-1:45 PM

The success of intercity transport planning between Chinese cities is not always guaranteed, with broken intercity trunk roads (BITRs) as a major case in point. BITRs are highways that are: planned but unfinished; usually disconnected near administrative boundaries; and short in distance, but their completion would greatly improve linkages. BITRs have become a persistent and pervasive phenomenon in China. Aiming to shed more critical light on the issue, Dr. Xingjian explores the geographical distribution of BITRs in China and the relationship between BITRs and the underlying socioeconomic, political and geographical factors.

18中国香港马鞍山T7高速公路项目

Better Cities, Better Growth: Lessons for India’s Urban Opportunity

Better Cities, Better GrowthIndia is experiencing an urban transformation with its urban population reaching 420 million in 2015 (33 percent of total). This is expected to nearly double by 2050 to 800 million, with close to 400 million additional people living in towns and cities by 2050 (50 percent of total). By 2031, 75 percent of India’s national income is expected to come from cities and a majority of new jobs will be created in urban areas.

“Given the rapidity of change and long-lived nature of urban form and infrastructure, the decisions that India’s policy makers make in the next five to fifteen years will lock in its urban pathway for decades to come,” said CURS Faculty Fellow Meenu Tewari, associate professor, Department of City and Regional Planning at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “There are real choices to be made.”

Global evidence, gathered in a year-long effort by a team led by Tewari, suggests that an extensive, “sprawled” model of urban growth—with cities oriented around the private vehicle rather than people—can have significant economic, social and environmental costs which undermine prosperity. On the other hand, more compact, connected and coordinated cities can be more productive, socially-inclusive, resilient, cleaner and safer, unleashing the benefits of urban agglomeration.

Meenu Tewari

Meenu Tewari

A new synthesis report by Tewari for the India New Climate Economy Partnership focuses on how India can aim to foster a better urbanization — one that promotes more rapid economic transformation, improves the quality of life of city dwellers and curbs the potential harmful spillovers of urbanization, such as congestion, wasteful energy use and unwanted pollution.

The report draws on an innovative blend of nighttime lights (satellite) data and census, environmental and economic data to paint a picture of recent trends in India’s urbanization and the relationships that exist in Indian cities between types of urban expansion and transport connectivity, and economic performance. It looks at the potential nationwide costs of a “sprawled” model of urbanization, as well as noting some of the current policies and institutional conditions that create incentives for such a model of urbanization. Using case studies of four Indian cities—Bangalore, Indore, Pune and Surat—the report delves more deeply into how this model of urban growth might exacerbate key deficits in basic urban services. It concludes by suggesting policy recommendations to accelerate a better form of urbanization.

Chokepoints: Circulation and Regulation in India’s Siliguri Corridor

India's Chicken NeckKnown as the Chicken Neck, the Siliguri Corridor is a precarious sliver of territory connecting India’s ‘mainland’ to its Northeast. Flanked by international borders, the Corridor funnels a myriad of goods and bodies between Nepal, China, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India and onward to Myanmar and Southeast Asia.

It is a zone of intense traffic and a critical chokepoint of South Asia. The immense volume of resources and people moving through the Corridor puts enormous strain on its infrastructure, not to mention those charged with securing and governing this unruly space. The Chicken Neck remains interwoven with smuggling, human trafficking, and clandestine activities – all of which can easily hide within its chaotic traffic. Traffic has accordingly become the operative condition of the Corridor’s (dys)function.

CURS Faculty Fellow Townsend Middleton, assistant professor of anthropology, spent the summer of 2016 working ethnographically with customs agents, anti-human traffickers, logistics experts and truck drivers in order to understand the cat-and-mouse interplays of circulation and regulation that shape life in this transit zone.

Chokepoint TrucksThis fieldwork by Middleton and his partners is part of an ongoing National Science Foundation-funded, CURS-supported, collaborative research project examining chokepoints around the world. Work sites include:

  • The Panama Canal: a century-old chokepoint of Atlantic-Pacific shipping and emerging global logistics hub. (with Ashley Carse, human and organizational development, Vanderbilt University)
  • India’s Siliguri Corridor (a.k.a. the “Chicken Neck”): a vital geopolitical connector of India and South Asia to China and Southeast Asia.
  • The Bab-el-Mandeb Strait: a critical shipping lane between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, connecting the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. (with Jatin Dua, anthropology, University of Michigan)
  • Ecuador’s Esmeraldas Refinery: a processing facility where oil from Amazonian oilfields is piped, refined, and exported for global maritime trade. (with CURS Faculty Fellow Gabriela Valdivia, geography, UNC-Chapel Hill)
  • Russia’s Roki Tunnel: a passageway of arms, bodies, and nuclear matter through the Caucasus (with Elizabeth Cullen Dunn, geography, Indiana University)
  • The Sundarbans: a network of chokepoints straddling the India-Bangladesh border and a critical zone of climatological crisis. (with Jason Cons, public affairs, UT Austin)
Townsend Middleton

Townsend Middleton

As chokepoints, these are sites that constrict or choke the flow of information, bodies and goods due to their natural and anthropogenic qualities. They are, by definition, integral yet difficult to bypass. Importantly, what happens at these sites ripples far beyond their immediate surroundings. Indeed, as Middleton’s research is demonstrating, chokepoints are sites where forces of globalization are powerfully exposed.

“Our aim is understand the human dimensions,” explained Middleton. “We are all dependent on chokepoints. Turning ethnographic attention to these sites, we aim to develop new understandings of the global flows and frictions that define the world today.”