CURS Welcomes New Faculty Fellows

 

 

 

 

Photos above (left to right) Xiaodong Chen, Julia Haslett, Adam Lovelady, Allie Thomas.

Xiaodong Chen, assistant professor of geography, researches coupled human and natural systems, as well as research on how human activities affect the natural environment, how human livelihood may be changed due to changes in environmental conditions, what are complex interactions among components in human and natural systems, and how human-environment interactions are influenced by policies.

Julia Haslett, assistant professor of communication, makes expressionistic documentary films on historical and contemporary subjects. Currently, she is developing an essay film about environmental history and British botanical exploration in southwest China.

Adam Lovelady, assistant professor of public law and government, works on zoning and land use regulation, land subdivision regulation, community planning, suburban redevelopment, renewable energy and historic preservation.

Allie Thomas, assistant professor of city and regional planning, studies how best practices travel the globe and where they land. She uses ethnographic research methods to understand how “best practices” in transportation are adopted (or not) in developing economies such as China, focusing on planners.

 

How Protest Works

Marion Fayolle

“Do protests and social movements matter? Do they really bring about change?” asks CURS Faculty Fellow Kenneth “Andy” Andrews, professor and chair of sociology at UNC-Chapel Hill, in the October 21, 2017 New York Times Sunday Review.

“Answering this question is tricky. It’s not obvious, for example, how much the recent shift to the right in American politics reflects the efforts of the Tea Party movement and how much it reflects deeper developments such as increasing racial hostility and negative reactions to globalization. Sometimes a movement matters far less than the social, economic and political forces that give rise to the movement itself.

When social scientists do uncover evidence of a movement’s influence, we have tended to focus on three main pathways by which movements gain power: cultural, disruptive and organizational. On its own, each pathway turns out to be limited in its effect. But movements that have managed to combine all three, such as the civil rights movement in the 1950s and ’60s, have had lasting impact.”

Read the full article on the New York Times website here.

A Place Called Home: The Social Dimensions of Homeownership

A Place Called HomeRoberto Quercia, director of UNC’s Center for Community Capital (CCC), and former CCC Researchers Kim Manturuk and Mark R. Lindblad recently authored A Place Called Home, the first book fully dedicated to a rich, rigorous analysis of the social impacts and non-financial effects of affordable homeownership.

Published by Oxford University Press in October 2017, A Place Called Home argues that homeownership is not only important for financial reasons, but also functions as a social tool that can improve the lives of low- and moderate-income people.

Since the onset of the mortgage lending crisis and the subsequent Great Recession, there has been ongoing debate about the economic benefits of homeownership. Some say homeownership remains an important contributor to wealth creation, while others believe that renting is a less expensive and less risky option. This debate has raised an interesting question about homeownership: if the home is not guaranteed to provide a solid return on investment, is there a rationale for promoting homeownership beyond whatever financial benefits it may deliver?

The dataset used in this study comes from a long-term examination of the Ford Foundation-funded Community Advantage Program, an initiative to provide a secondary market outlet for Community Reinvestment Act loans. On an annual basis, the study collected unique household-level information that allowed the authors to measure the social dimensions of homeownership on low-income families. A result was the observation that homeowners, when compared with renters, have: better health outcomes; experience less stress in times of financial hardship; experience a greater sense of trust in their neighbors; have access to more social capital resources; and are more likely to vote.

A Place Called Home argues that homeownership is not only important for financial reasons, but also functions as a social tool that can improve the lives of low- and moderate-income people.

CURS Researchers Speak at Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning Conference 

Michael Webb, Ph.D.

Michael Webb, Ph.D.

Denver, Colorado was the site of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning Conference from October 12-15, 2017. Among the many presenters from UNC-Chapel Hill were Center for Urban and Regional Studies Researchers Michael Webb, Ph.D., and Kirstin Frescoln, Ph.D.

Webb’s presentation, titled “Policy Mobilities and Mutations in the Moving to Work Demonstration,” was based on research conducted for The MTW GuideMoving to Work (MTW) allows participating housing authorities the flexibility to waive certain U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations and implement alternative program designs. For instance, some agencies have implemented a work requirement (which are normally prohibited), while others have modified rent calculations for their tenants (public housing residents typically pay 30% of their income as rent).

Despite wide latitude to implement a variety of programs, though, most Moving to Work agencies have implemented very similar activities. Webb’s presentation argued that housing agencies are responding to the same pressures—such as funding cuts, long waitlists and lack of access to high-opportunity neighborhoods for Section 8 residents—and, as a result, their programs look very similar. Staff at Moving to Work agencies are also very interested in seeing the program succeed, and are willing to share best practices with other agencies. Ultimately, sharing policies between agencies may be a good thing, as previously-implemented policies are already tested, have policy language already drafted and implementation issues identified and possibly addressed.

Kirstin Frescoln, Ph.D.

Kirstin Frescoln, Ph.D.

Frescoln’s presentation, titled “Public Housing’s Self-Sufficiency Mandate,” explored the history of self-sufficiency interventions undertaken by public housing agencies (PHAs). In particular, her research sought to understand: 1) Why policy makers established a self-sufficiency mandate within public housing; 2) The relative strengths and challenges of PHAs assuming this role; and 3) Whether this is an appropriate role for a PHA?

In response to public discourse, shifting demographics and changes in PHA funding, housing agencies began experimenting with direct self-sufficiency interventions as early as 1961. While the 1961 Concerted Services project was not deemed successful, Congress established a series of pilot initiatives in the 1980s including Project Self-Sufficiency and Operation Bootstrap that culminated in the Family Self-Sufficiency program in 1990. Other programs have included Community Supportive Services (part of HOPE VI), Resident Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, Jobs-Plus and various self-sufficiency initiatives launched by Moving to Work.

There are many good reasons for PHAs to engage in self-sufficiency programming; chief among them is the clear identification of a population of need. PHAs can leverage physical co-location and multiple funding streams to directly deliver high-quality programming. The greatest challenges have been lack of capacity within the PHAs, insufficient on-going program evaluation and improvement, poor data collection, and the absence of evidence-based practices to effectively increase economic mobility

Recommendations include providing PHAs with training and technical assistance to more effectively implement existing interventions and HUD funding to support data collection and evaluation of the self-sufficiency programs. Current initiatives to test and evaluate Jobs Plus, Moving to Work and other self-sufficiency policies such as work requirements may lead to the first evidence-based self-sufficiency interventions within public housing.

 

BBC World Service talks to UNC’s Yan Song about “Beijing’s Big Plan”

Xiong’an, a small rural town in China, is set to become a city of 5 million people over the next decade. That’s the government’s plan at least. But could the whole thing end up as an expensive white elephant?

Ed Butler visits the site of this mega project two hours south of Beijing to discover some excited locals and a rather poorly attended fashion show. Could this bucolic setting become the next Shenzhen or Pudong? We hear some scepticism from Yan Song, professor, UNC Department of City and Regional Planning at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and from economist Michael Pettis of the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3cstx0q

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