The Impacts of Individual Development Accounts, Assets, and Debt on Future Orientation and Psychological Depression

Journal of Policy PracticeIn an article published in the Journal of Policy Practice, William Rohe, Clinton Key, Michal Grinstein-Weiss, Mark Schreiner and Michael Sherraden analyze data from a randomized controlled experiment involving 1,103 applicants to an Individual development accounts (IDA) program.

IDAs have been adopted in communities across the United States as a way of helping lower-income individuals accrue financial assets. These programs match the savings of program participants if they invest them in the purchase of a home, the creation or expansion of a business, or additional education.

Beyond the financial benefits of holding assets, scholars have argued that they should also result in psychological benefits such as enhanced future orientations and decreased depression. This study tests this argument. The findings show that assignment to the IDA program was not associated with either future orientation or depression 10 years later. The value of assets held at that time, however, was found to be negatively associated with depression. In addition, self-reported financial stress was found to be negatively associated with future orientation and positively associated with depression.

William M. Rohe is director of the UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies and Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor in the department of city and regional planning at UNC-Chapel Hill. Clinton Key is a researcher with the Pew Charitable Trusts. Michal Grinstein-Weiss is a professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. Mark Schreiner is a senior scholar in the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis and also director of Microfinance Risk Management. Michael Sherraden is the Benjamin E. Youngdahl Professor of Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis.

Scaling Up a Place-Based Employment Program: Highlights From the Jobs Plus Pilot Program Evaluation

Scaling Up a Place-Based Employment Program: Highlights From the Jobs Plus Pilot Program EvaluationReleased on September 8, 2017 by the Office of Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Scaling Up a Place-Based Employment Program: Highlights From the Jobs Plus Pilot Program Evaluation was co-authored by the UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies Director William M. Rohe and Researchers Kirstin Frescoln and Michael D. Webb.

The original Jobs Plus demonstration was launched in 1998. Of the six sites that were part of the demonstration, only three fully implemented the model. When fully implemented, the model increased tenants’ earned income by 16%. The Jobs Plus model was replicated in 2011 in San Antonio and the Bronx through the Social Innovation Fund (SIF).

HUD is now in the process of scaling up the Jobs Plus model. In April 2015, HUD announced the first cohort of Jobs Plus grant awards to nine sites. Scaling Up a Place-Based Employment Program: Highlights From the Jobs Plus Pilot Program Evaluation is an interim report evaluating the start-up of the nine grantees in the first cohort. These sites have implemented the model more quickly and fully than the original demonstration and the SIF replication sites. Within the first 18 months, all nine sites had begun structuring their programs, building partnerships and implementing the core components of the Jobs Plus model.

Jobs Plus

First-Time Homebuying: Attitudes and Behaviors of Low-Income Renters Through the Financial Crisis

Housing StudiesIn this article published in Housing Studies, Mark Lindblad, Hye-Sung Han, Siyun Yu and William M. Rohe use psychological theory to investigate how attitudes toward homebuying relate to first-time home purchases over the past decade.

Homeownership rates in the US have dropped to 20-year lows, but whether views toward homebuying shifted due to the financial crisis is not known because studies have not compared attitudes for the same respondents pre- and post-crisis. The authors address this gap with 2004–2014 panel data from low-income renters. They found that a negative shift in homebuying attitudes is associated with a decline in first-time home purchases. Older renters aged more than 35 years at baseline report the greatest declines in homebuying intentions. Younger renters aged 18–34 also report diminished homebuying intentions, yet express highest overall levels of homebuying intentions pre- and post-crisis. Blacks report greater homebuying intentions although their odds of home purchase are 29 percent lower than whites. Homebuying norms and favorability are associated with homebuying intentions but not with actual purchases, while perceived control over homebuying influences both outcomes.

Mark Lindblad is a research fellow at the UNC Center for Community Capital. Hye-Sung Han is an assistant professor in urban affairs at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (and a Ph.D. graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill). Siyun Yu was awarded her Ph.D. in statistics and operations research at UNC-Chapel Hill in May 2017. William M. Rohe is director of the UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies and Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor in the department of city and regional planning at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Summer 2017 Newsletter

Community Histories Workshop Joins CURS; Post-Disaster Recovery Plans after China’s Wenchuan Earthquake; Bike&Place – A New Modeling Tool to Help Planners Help Cyclists; Tackling the Housing Affordability Crisis; Chinese Cities and the Use of Urban Planning to Help Control Air Quality; and News from the Center. Read about research on these subjects and more here!

Community Histories Workshop Joins CURS

Kessell History Center, Loray Mill, Gastonia, NC

Kessell History Center, Loray Mill, Gastonia, NC. Photo courtesy CHW.

The Center for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS) is pleased to announce a new partnership with The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Community Histories Workshop (CHW). CURS looks forward to expanding its support of the humanities by assisting CHW in capturing and archiving community histories. These histories can be key components of economic and community development efforts, such as the adaptive reuse of historic sites.

Launched in July 2016 and led by Robert Allen, faculty director and the James Logan Godfrey Distinguished Professor of American Studies, and Elijah Gaddis, co-founder and assistant director, CHW is dedicated to developing and testing innovative models for community engaged digital public history and humanities that benefit local communities across the state and region. In the process, this work contributes to the University’s commitment to engaged scholarship, to the reinvention of graduate training and to the integration of digital approaches and materials in undergraduate teaching and research. An outgrowth of the Digital Innovation Lab, CHW will extend and broaden its the public digital humanities work as a new program of the CURS. CHW formally joined CURS on July 1, 2017.


About the Community Histories Workshop (CHW)

CHWThe seeds for the CHW were planted when Allen served as co-principal investigator for the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative (2012-2014) and as the founding director of the Digital Innovation Lab (2011-2016). His collaborative project with Wilson Library, Going to the Show, launched in 2009, documents and illuminates the experience of movies and movie-going in North Carolina from the introduction of projected motion pictures (1896) to the end of the silent film era (circa 1930). Through its innovative use of more than 750 Sanborn® Fire Insurance maps of forty-five towns and cities between 1896 and 1922, the project situates early movie-going within the experience of urban life in the state’s big cities and small towns. The project won the American Historical Association’s Rosenzweig Prize for Innovation in Digital History in 2010.

Gaddis, assistant professor of history at Auburn University, is the first graduate of the UNC American Studies Ph.D. program, and a recipient of the 2017 Graduate Education Advancement Board Impact Award. CHW offers opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students to gain valuable experience in digital public humanities through its graduate and undergraduate research fellowship program.

The mission of CHW aligns with the UNC-Chapel Hill’s recently launched “Humanities for the Public Good” initiative, funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The announcement of the program singled out the work of the Digital Innovation Lab (DIL) and CHW as models of public humanities:

Past efforts at Carolina include the creation of one of the most ambitious public humanities projects in the University’s history — Digital Loray — an onsite and online history center that documents the story of the Loray textile mill in Gastonia, NC. UNC’s new Community Histories Workshop furthers this type of innovative work, benefiting the state and the region. The Mellon funding will allow the University to support the development of new and expanded digital humanities projects that align with the goals of “Humanities for the Public Good.”

Collaboration within UNC-Chapel Hill and partnerships with external organizations are hallmarks of CHW’s approach. CHW is partnering with the UNC Southern Historical Collection on several community-based projects, and OASIS (Office of Arts and Sciences Technology Services) is working with CHW to develop a software platform for collaborative community history and archiving projects.

A signature focus of CHW is the intersection between the adaptive reuse of iconic historical sites and community history and archiving initiatives, connecting the site’s future with its past. Its approach grows out of the three-year collaboration between Allen and Gaddis on the DIL’s Digital Loray project. Working with the property developer, Preservation NC, the Gaston County Museum of Art and History, and local volunteers, the DIL made the preservation and repurposing of one of the largest cotton mills in the South, Gastonia’s Loray/Firestone Mill, a catalyst for an open-ended community history initiative. This included: the location of a postdoctoral fellow as the University’s “public historian in residence” at the mill; the planning and implementation of the Alfred C. Kessell History Center at the site; and the creation of a digital archive of more than 2,500 photographs, maps and other historical materials.

This project led directly to CHW’s next “long-tail” public humanities initiative grounded in a major adaptive reuse development: Capital Broadcasting’s redevelopment of the Rocky Mount Mills property, site of the second oldest and longest operating cotton mill in the state (1818-1996). The history of the mill is intertwined with that of UNC-Chapel Hill: the Battle family, which owned and operated the mill for the better part of two hundred years, also included Kemp Plummer Battle, president of the university from 1876 to 1891, in addition to many other family members who attended UNC. The papers of the mill, and of the Battle family, are held by the UNC Southern Historical Collection.

Exploring Digital Rocky Mount Mills at the Feb. 2017 History Harvest

Exploring Digital Rocky Mount Mills at the Feb. 2017 History Harvest. Photo courtesy CHW.

Funded by a grant from Capital Broadcasting, CHW’s first project, Closing Stories, gave former workers in the mill an opportunity to share and preserve stories of the last decade of the mill’s operation through twenty-three short-form oral history interviews — at a time when a significant number of African Americans entered the textile workforce for the first time. A February 2017 History Harvest attracted community members to the Braswell Memorial Library to have photographs, home movies and other memorabilia of the mill and mill life scanned and added to the Digital Rocky Mount Mills archive.

The next phase of the Rocky Mount Mills project will unfold over the next eighteen months. It will include development of K-12 learning units produced by local teachers through a collaboration with Carolina K-12, a unit of Carolina Public Humanities. The mill was operated by slaves from 1818 to 1852. A collaboration with the Southern Historical Collection will test software tools for slave genealogy, using Battle family slaves as the test case.

UNC and Program on Chinese Cities Scholars: A Learning Partnership

Shenzen

An urban village approved for redevelopment in Shenzen. Photos by Bill Rohe.

“The challenges facing China’s cities and metropolitan regions are daunting in scale and complexity; without exaggeration, the lives of millions will depend on how well China manages the continued growth of its cities in coming years,” says Yan Song, professor of city and regional planning and director of the UNC Program on Chinese Cities (PCC). Since 2008, Song and her colleagues at UNC and partner universities in China have joined together for an exchange of ideas to benefit planners in China and the U.S. In 2016 alone, Song and the PCC hosted 56 scholars.

In response to invitations from former PCC scholars, Bill Rohe, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor and director of the UNC Center for Urban and Regional Planning, gave five lectures and toured four cities in China from June 12-22, 2017. “The sheer amount of construction happening in China is staggering,” said Rohe. “Although I’d been to China before, this trip allowed me to see the changes since then and experience first-hand the scale and complexity of the issues facing my Chinese colleagues.”

Rohe’s lectures included a comparison of affordable housing policies in China and the U.S., the impacts of work requirements on public housing residents in the U.S., reestablishing connectivity in urban revitalization, and a comparative look at urban revitalization in the two countries. He participated in the 11th International Association for Chinese Planning Conference at Harbin and visited the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing, the University of Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

This exchange was made possible by the connections made through the PCC, whose scholars address a variety of topics, including sustainable environment and energy; land use and transportation planning; urban redevelopment and its social equity implications; economic development policy; property rights, infrastructure planning and government finance.

The PCC is an initiative within UNC’s Center for Urban & Regional Studies. It conducts research and training aimed at better understanding the impacts of rapid urban growth on China’s built and natural environments. The Program explores ways to make China’s urbanization process more equitable, transparent, and socially and ecologically sustainable.

Below are some photographs taken during Rohe’s visit (click image to enlarge).

Tackling the Housing Affordability Crisis

Excerpted from Housing Policy Debate

On April 11, 2017, the journal Housing Policy Debate published an article by CURS Director Bill Rohe, giving his views on the current U.S. housing crisis. Below is an short summary of the article. The full article can be accessed here.

The United States is experiencing a housing crisis unlike anything we have seen for decades. Since the 2008 recession, the national homeownership rate has plummeted to a 50-year low, largely because of the spike in foreclosures, short sales and deeds in lieu of foreclosures, as well as tight mortgage credit and delayed household formation.

On the rental front, vacancy rates have fallen over the past 5 years, leading to sharp increases in rents. In the past year alone, nominal rents have increased by 3.6%, whereas incomes for low- and modest-income households have been relatively flat (State of the Nation’s Housing, 2016).

This housing affordability crisis is exacting great costs both from individuals and from society. Individual costs include:

  • a lack of funds for food and other essential needs;
  • increased housing instability, which interferes with employment among adults and education among children; and
  • poor housing conditions leading to health problems and to homelessness.

The societal impacts include increases in public expenditure to support homeless households, lost productivity and a less-educated workforce hampering the country’s ability to compete in the global marketplace. Federal policy has a crucial role to play in addressing the housing affordability crisis and its negative consequences. It needs to address the cost and the availability of both homeownership and rental housing, striking a reasonable balance between the two.

To read the rest of this article and policy recommendations, please go to Housing Policy Debate.

Bike&Place: A New Modeling Tool to Help Planners Help Cyclists

Washington Street, Houston, Mississippi: Streetscape rendering after implementing downtown, trail-oriented growth. Image Courtesy Brian Morton.

You’d like to bike downtown for your job, to go shopping or to attend an event. Those first few blocks near home seem safe enough, but you get a bit worried when traffic gets heavier. It turns out, you’re not alone in how traffic stress affects your willingness to bicycle. CURS researcher Brian J. Morton has developed a tool that will help town planners design more cyclist-friendly networks around signature places in their community.

In a recent study for the Southeastern Transportation Research, Innovation, Development and Education Center (STRIDE), Morton used an open-source software package to create an easy-to-use travel demand model for use by planners working in towns and small cities. Morton’s goal was to build a product that predicts demand for bicycle travel by “interested but concerned” cyclists. Called Bike&Place, Morton’s tool helps planners increase bicycle accessibility.

Roger Geller, bicycle coordinator for Portland, Oregon, created a typology of four kinds of cyclists: strong and fearless; enthused and confident; interested but concerned; and “no way no how.” In a national survey, participants were categorized into those four types in the following percentages: 7 percent; 5 percent; 51 percent; and 37 percent. The 51 percent of “interested but concerned” noted that they “like riding a bicycle…and they would like to ride more. But, they are afraid to ride….Very few of these people regularly ride bicycles… [and they] will not venture out onto the arterials to the major commercial and employment destinations they frequent.…They would ride if they felt safer on the roadways—if cars were slower and less frequent, and if there were more quiet streets with few cars and paths without any cars at all.”

Three small towns in Mississippi were used to develop and test Bike&Place. In Houston, Mississippi (population 3,623), Bike&Place estimates that less than 2 percent of the town’s residential neighborhoods have bicycle access to Courthouse Square, one of the town’s focal points. With an improved network, bicycle access to Courthouse Square could increase to 83 percent.

Morton hopes Bike&Place will make it easier for planners to map traffic stress problem areas and find solutions to make biking less stressful for the large numbers of interested but concerned cyclists and increase the likelihood that they will bike to important community locations. The project report, “Bike&Place: A New Tool for Designing Active, Place-Making Transportation Networks – An Exploratory Study,” provides detailed instructions on how to adapt Bike&Place to other places. For more information on using this tool, contact Morton here.

Editor’s Note: On June 28, 2017, Morton gave a Bike&Place presentation at the 2017 National Regional Transportation Conference in Denver, CO, sponsored by the National Association of Development Organizations

Chinese Cities and the Use of Urban Planning to Help Control Air Quality

Rapid growth and greatly expanded motor vehicle ownership and usage have contributed to serious air pollution across China. In 2014 alone, Beijing endured more than twenty days with almost ten times the national ambient air quality limit, causing public health issues. Can better urban form reduce air pollution?

Photo by Bill Rohe

In collaboration with four UNC Program on Chinese Cities (PCC) visiting scholars, Director of the PCC and CURS Faculty Fellow Yan Song recently published a paper in the Journal of Planning Education and Research evaluating this question.

Based on evidence gathered from 157 Chinese cities, this study analyzed the effects of aspects of urban form metrics on concentrations of ambient pollutants. Greater population density, more centralized development and better street accessibility were found to have a significant correlation with lower concentrations of air pollutants, while a higher level of urban sprawl may have a negative impact on air quality.

“The influence of urban form on pollution,” said Song, “is comparable to the effects of other factors like weather conditions.” Cities with urban sprawl are more likely to contain higher levels of air pollution, which should draw wide attention from local governments and planners in China. “These findings indicate that urban form could play a modest, but important, role in improving air quality for Chinese cities,” noted Song.

Click here to read the full here.

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.