Lessons from the American Underground: A planner-led startup incubator in Durham, North Carolina

Nichola Lowe

Nichola Lowe

In the December 2017 issue of the American Planning Association’s Planning magazine, CURS Faculty Fellow Nichola Lowe dives into the story of a technology startup incubator based in Durham, North Carolina that put diversity and inclusion into its DNA.

“Technology Entrepreneurship is rarely uttered in the same breath with terms like racial diversity or socioeconomic inclusion,” writes Lowe, associate professor of city and regional planning at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Less than 20 percent of American technology start-ups are minority owned. African Americans account for only seven percent of the U.S. high-tech workforce and one percent of (nonfounder) technology executives; numbers for Latinos are equally low. According to recent reporting out of Silicon Valley, women also struggle for equal representation. But American Underground, a startup incubator in Durham, part of the Research Triangle region, is rapidly pushing to change that. In early 2015, American Underground leadership publicly committed to creating ‘the world’s’ most diverse entrepreneurial hub. Within one year, it had increased its share of female- and minority-led firms by more than 30 percent. Today, 75 of their 257 companies are female led and 73 are minority led.”

Read the full article here to learn more about American Underground’s success in diversifying high tech.

CURS Offers Scholar-in-Residence Program

With support from the Dean’s Office of the College of Arts & Sciences, the Center for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS) is pleased to solicit applications for its Scholar-in-Residence Program. The CURS Scholar-in-Residence Program provides an opportunity for faculty members in the College of Arts & Sciences to concentrate on developing major research proposals by providing funds for a course buyout and for proposal development expenses. In addition, the CURS Scholar-in-Residence will have full administrative support from the Center’s financial and clerical support staff. This opportunity will be provided during either the fall semester 2018 or spring semester 2019 based on the candidate’s preference. Todd BenDor from the Department of City and Regional Planning is our Scholar-in-Residence for 2017-18. As a result, faculty from that department are ineligible for the Fall 2018/Spring 2019 program. The complete details of the program and applications are available at http://curs.unc.edu/programs/scholar-in-residence-program/.

DEADLINE: Applications are due no later than 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 23, 2018. The candidates will be notified of the outcome of the selection process in mid-March 2018. 

For further information or an application contact:
Todd Owen, Associate Director
Center for Urban and Regional Studies
Hickerson House; CB# 3410
Phone: (919) 962-3076   Fax: (919) 962-2518
towen@email.unc.edu

Urban Planning Helps to Control Air Quality for Chinese Cities

The Hai River in Tianjin.

The Hai River in Tianjin. (thatreec/Shutterstock)

What is the relationship between urban planning and air quality in China?

Rapid growth and greatly expanded motor vehicle ownership and usage have contributed to serious air pollution across China. In 2013, 96 percent of key cities did not meet the national ambient air quality standard. In 2014 alone, Beijing endured more than 20 days with almost ten times the national ambient air quality limit, causing public health issues. Scholars from Huazhong University of Science and Technology and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Program on Chinese Cities (a program hosted by CURS) recently published a paper in the Journal of Planning Education and Research evaluating this question.

Read their blog post in Planetizen. In this new series, Journal of Planning Education and Research (JPER) articles will be made available to Planetizen readers subscription free for 30 days. This is possible through collaboration between SAGE Publications and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning. This blog post will have open access until December 7, 2017.

Spread Far, Stretched Thin

On October 26, 2017, CURS Researcher Michael Webb made a presentation to the North Carolina Housing Conference. Titled “Spread Far, Stretched Thin,” Webb mapped affordable housing needs in North Carolina. The three main points of the presentation, as illustrated in his Urban 2 Point 0 blog post, are:

  • Living in substandard or unaffordable housing has effects that can last a lifetime.
  • Lack of safe, decent, and affordable housing is a statewide issue in North Carolina.
  • Lack of affordable housing is getting worse for many in the state.

Webb’s presentation drew, in part, on CURS’s recent Extreme Housing Conditions in North Carolina report.

Michael Webb presenting his research.

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