Category: Uncategorized
UEP Student Internship Spotlight: Kate Ito
| June 15, 2015 | 4:44 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed
The first in a series spotlighting UEP students' summer projects and internships 

Rising UEP second-year and public health planner at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Kate Ito is in Oakland, California this summer, interning with Human Impact Partners. Human Impact Partners conducts research, advocacy and capacity building to help organizations and government agencies understand the effects of their projects and policies on community health. They are one of the few organizations in the U.S. conducting health-based analyses and health impact assessments (HIA) with an explicit focus on uncovering and then addressing the policies and practices that make communities less healthy and create health inequities. HIAs utilize public health data and predictions about newly minted policies to measure its impacts, and Human Impact Partners makes recommendations on ways to mitigate negative effects as well as strengthening positive impacts.

Kate’s research at Human Impact Partners includes a health lens analysis of displacement concerns in Santa Fe, NM and a health impact assessment of a proposed bill in the Minnesota State Legislature that would regulate payday lending. Building on her experience in public health in Greater Boston, there is no doubt that Kate’s work will have important implications for policy and public health in the rest of the nation. Reports outlining the results of previous HIAs can be found here.

Controversial New MBTA Plan from Governor Baker
| June 5, 2015 | 2:43 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

The new governor has proposed a $82.7 million plan for upgrades to MBTA infrastructure and snow removal equipment, according to a recent article. The plan will be funded through a mix of federal dollars for capital investment and the MBTA’s own capital and operating funds. The plan proposes formalizing the use of prison labor to assist in snow removal, which the city used during this year’s particularly rough winter. Prisoners, making a few dollars a day, worked alongside union workers earning $30 per hour. This winter’s use of prison labor quickly stirred up controversy, though one could have possibly made the “desperate time/desperate measures” argument. Formalizing this unfair system takes it to the next level, so it will be interesting to see what the MassDOT Board thinks when it is officially presented with the plan on next week.

A recent op-ed by Shirley Leung in the Boston Globe has proposed increased reliance on privatization as a way to fix the MBTA’s woes. She sites the already privatized commuter rail and ferry functions as examples of ways for Boston to shed some of its admittedly costly functions. For example, a typical bus ride costs the MBTA $2.74 per passenger, while the new late-night bus service costs around $20 per passenger. Leung suggests outsourcing some late night and low-ridership services to Bridj, a relatively recent startup with a demand-based schedule. She also suggests cutting a deal with unions in order to quell fears of job losses.

In order for this to work, it would have to overcome what is known as the Pacheco Bill, created in 1993 to prevent then governor Bill Weld’s efforts at privatization. Governor Baker is working to “free the MBTA from the constraints of Pacheco.” The devastating effects of last winter have created widespread demand for something to be done about the MBTA’s aging infrastructure, but outsourcing work to cheap prison labor and inviting corrupt race-to-the-bottom contracting with private firms means the people of Boston need to keep a close eye on MBTA politics and how the city and state respond to their demands.

UEP 2015 Student Award Recipients
| May 29, 2015 | 2:20 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

Another successful academic year has gone by, and the impressive work and research conducted by several UEP students hasbeen rewarded with recognition and awards.

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Kristin Haas, MA 2015, is the recipient of the Outstanding Academic Scholarship Award, given by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering. The award recognizes Kristin’s overall academic achievement, including course grades, paper quality, and thesis. Kristin defended her thesis “The Benefits, Drawbacks, and Limitations of Service Coordination Tools: Perspectives from Social Service Providers in Somerville, Massachusetts” in April.

 

 

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Rebecca Tumposky, MA 2015, was selected for the Robert M. Hollister Award for Community Service and Citizenship for her contribution to the greater community, outside of Tufts. Becca’s thesis was on “Educating Practical Visionaries at Tufts University: A Framework for Community-University Co-Learning.”

 

 

 

 

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Allentza Michel, MPP 2015, was named as the Association for Community Design’s inaugural ACD Fellow after serving as co-chair of the City of Boston’s Participatory Budgeting Project in 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

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Jonathan Diaz, MA 2016, received the Presidential Award for Citizenship and Public Service for his work with various Tufts organizations and community service work. This includes the Tufts University Refugee Assistance Program, for whose work Jonathan and others were chosen to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University and present on a new mentorship program for unaccompanied minors in the Somerville area. Jonathan has also volunteered with Environment America and the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston.

We hope that next year’s cohort will be as successful as this year’s, and we look forward to seeing all the award-worthy work that UEP produces this Summer.

Land, Wealth, and Community Control
| May 18, 2015 | 1:46 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

A Co-Learning Workshop on Race and Community Economies

Last Tuesday, an event co-sponsored by the Tufts Practical Visionaries Workshop, the Center for Economic Democracy and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative convened nearly 70 people from local Boston communities, Tufts, and MIT for a chance to converse over breakfast and coffee, a tour of the Dudley Neighbors Inc. Community Land Trust and the Dudley Greenhouse.

Tour of Dudley Neighbors Inc.

Tour of Dudley Neighbors Inc.

The Dudley Greenhouse

The Dudley Greenhouse

The event was meant to bring together both academics and community practitioners in order to foster a better understanding of building community power, especially regarding land. Much of the day was spent learning about the community land trust model, something that DSNI has been practicing successfully for the last 30 years. In Roxbury and Dorchester, DSNI and Dudley Neighbors Inc. have provided affordable housing, open space, and urban agriculture opportunities for local residents and other nonprofits by leasing the land and overlying buildings, while owning the land in a long-term trust to preserve its affordability.

Lunch was provided by Roxbury’s own Haley House Bakery Cafe, after which was held a panel on the history of struggles for community control over land in Boston. Panelists included Diane Dujon, Chuck Turner, Suzanne Lee, Bob Haas, and Che Madyun.

Community Control over Land Panelists

Community Control over Land Panelists

The final events included educational workshops on community land trusts, run by Tufts Practical Visionaries Workshop participants Penn Loh and myself, as well as Harry Smith, director of Dudley Neighbors Inc. Following that was a workshop on community finance strategies, facilitated by Aaron Tanaka and Jennifer Ly, of the Center for Community Economics.

The day was informative for all participants, and gave a much needed opportunity to for academics and urban planning students to come together with community partners to build solidarity in meeting shared goals. This combination of theory and practice can be seen in DSNI’s work with community land trusts and collaboration with Tufts UEP through the Practical Visionaries Workshop.

 

UEP Economics Guest Lecturer: John Barros
| April 1, 2015 | 3:33 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

Boston’s new Chief of Economic Development, John Barros, spoke at a recent UEP Economics course lecture addressing students’ concerns about current events in the city. Discussion began with housing, and the lack of access to affordable housing in Boston. Boston is seeing around $8 billion in residential development, with the vast majority going toward luxury apartments. One interesting note is that many of the new luxury apartments function as second homes for foreign nationals. Barros stressed his desire to maximize access to affordable housing while still allowing for this growth. He is also thinking about creating linkages between areas already benefiting from development and those in which the city wants to incentivize future development.

Affordable housing is frequently defined and priced for those making 80% of the city’s median income, which in Boston is $92,000. At the community level, this doesn’t always make sense. In Roxbury, for example, the median income is $25,000, so “affordable housing” is actually unaffordable for most of the neighborhood. Large, multiunit residential developments are currently required to offer 15% of units as affordable, but Barros wants to increase that number to 25%.

Boston 2024 Summer Olympics

John Barros supports Boston in seeking to host the 2024 Olympic Games, and has been tasked with helping to build public support. Up to this point, several Boston area CEOs have been running most of the pro-olympics campaign, which Barros admits has not helped to gain grassroots support. One positive aspect of so much private leadership is the fact that the city wants to put a lot of the development burden on these private interests. In an effort to avoid using public funds, Barros claims the city would only fund investments in roads and transit. Sports venue infrastructure investment would have to come from the various universities and sports teams in the area. The city would then use this as an opportunity to raise further funds by placing linkage fees on new developments, essentially charging a tax on Olympics development investment.

He sees the Olympics, or even just the hype around it, as a way to build support for new infrastructure. All the international press about Boston increases its name recognition and could result in increased investment, even if the bid doesn’t go through successfully.

The idea will be put to a referendum in November, with both the city and the state having a say. The referendum will require both the city and the state to separately approve Boston as the host of the 2024 Olympics.

Micro-Apartments Buzz in Boston
| March 26, 2015 | 3:44 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

An article came out in the Boston Globe this week about “millenial villages,” bringing up an interesting approach to addressing some of the issues facing Boston’s housing situation. The article quotes Barry Bluestone, founding dean of the School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs at Northeastern University,  who proposes construction of 10,000 units of these “millenial villages.”

The idea isn’t new, but has actually been historically discouraged in and around Boston. The concept is a more communal style of living, with lots of shared space but not much private square footage. In fact, in Boston they don’t meet minimum-square-footage guidelines. Apparently, in the age of urban renewal, eliminating such approaches to housing was seen as a way to eliminate poverty, something the article agrees is ridiculous.

The globe cites the disappearance of vast collections of books and records, converted into an iPad or similar device that takes up a fraction of the space, as a reason why millenials can survive in a “micro-unit.”

Last month, WBUR discussed the same topic in an article, quoting some who refer to micro-apartments a “cash cow for developers.” This is one problem with the new approach: It’s seen by many as a way to avoid paying for washers, dryers, lots of furniture, etc., but rent prices have not actually reflected that savings.

353 micro-units have been approved in Boston’s Seaport District, aimed at housing Boston’s influx of millenials (apparently the largest percentage in the country). According to Bluestone, as millenials increasingly move into micro-units, rents would no longer continue to rise and triple-deckers would open up across the city for working families.

Kairos Shen at the Boston Redevelopment Authority is less optimistic. He believes that it will require “a creative agreement with the developers on managing the rents.”

It seems that more space-efficient development of residential areas would lead to a larger housing stock, but what is being done to house the people already living in and being priced out of their neighborhoods? So much attention to a passing millenial fad seems shortsighted, as 10 years from now the demographic profile of the city could be quite different when millenials move into larger houses to start families. Despite the stereotype of a millenial as college-educated and well-to-do, Boston has plenty of folks in the same generation who don’t have all the same benefits and are not as likely to take advantage of these micro-units. Residential innovation is something Boston needs, but we need innovation for everybody, not just recent college grads.

 

Shomon Shamsuddin presentation on LIHEAP
| February 10, 2015 | 3:50 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

Examining the Effects of Home Energy Assistance on Low Income Families

Last week, UEP’s Brown House hosted a presentation about the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by MIT postdoctorate research fellow, and former policy analyst at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Shomon Shamsuddin. He began with some background on the current state of low income access to home heating, as well as general housing issues. The last 30 years have seen stagnant income for low income families, while housing costs have risen. As a way to better understand housing issues, Shamsuddin uses a new, broader framework of examining housing conditions and stability, integrating housing, energy use and health policy for communities. Residential instability has been shown to contribute to poverty and segregation.

By providing help to families in meeting their energy needs LIHEAP hopes to increase residential stability, but policy has been more focused on how assistance is delivered than on measuring outcomes. At an estimated $3 billion per year in all 50 states, Shamsuddin seeks to measure whether these policies result in end benefits to residents. Controlling for various demographic parameters, he conducted a multivariate regression analysis on housing stability, health, employment and home energy assistance. At this stage, he has come to some interesting findings:

  • LIHEAP has shown a positive effect on allowing residents to remain in their homes.
  • LIHEAP has helped to decrease residents’ medical expenses.
  • LIHEAP has shown no significant impact on employment.

A discussion with the audience followed the presentation, bringing up possible outside causes of the trends seen in the research. Interestingly, some of the strongest supporters of the LIHEAP program are in the fossil fuel industry, as it essentially acts as a subsidy increasing demand for their products.

Shamsuddin’s work has thus far suggested that LIHEAP has been successful in achieving its goals, and will hopefully lead to further improvement in residential stability.

Update on Union Square Development Plans
| January 29, 2015 | 4:14 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

UEP Professor Penn Loh is interviewed by Somerville Community Access Television (SCATV) regarding the particular situation unfolding with the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) between the City of Somerville and developers. The article and video (found here) also discuss the history and theory behind CBAs generally.

Union United and the Somerville Community Corporation, representing workers and community residents, are upset at being left out of negotiations. As Loh explains, it is important that community members are consulted before approvals are made, while they still have some leverage. Many city representatives and members of the Union Square Civic Advisory Committee have requested that the CBA be settled after plans are further developed, which would effectively exclude community approval as a regulating mechanism. Follow this link for more information.

UEP Students Make #BlackLivesMatter Statement
| January 29, 2015 | 3:37 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

The statement appears in the latest issue of The Tufts Daily, and can be found here. The letter was written in collaboration with graduate students from across the Tufts community, but organized largely by UEP students. It mentions the impressive work and organizing done by Tufts’ undergraduate population and calls for increased involvement among the graduate community. Urban planning, in particular, has had a complex history with Black communities. Recognizing this, these UEP students strive to build equitable cities “where Black lives do indeed matter.”

To get involved, email tuftsgradBLM@gmail.com and attend a meeting in the coming weeks.

Incomplete Streets: New Book by Julian Agyeman
| December 5, 2014 | 2:22 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

UEP professor Julian Agyeman, along with other contributors, is releasing a new book titled Incomplete Streets: Processes, Practices, and Possibilities. The book, and the accompanying blog, addresses the concept and movement of “Complete Streets.”

Complete Streets stresses the need to enable safe access for all users. Incomplete Streets suggests that roadways be treated as more than just physical spaces. Complete Streets may actually be reproducing many of the spatial inequalities characterizing cities for the last century. Incomplete Streets calls for a planning process that gives voice to marginalized communities and treats streets as dynamic, fluid, and public social spaces. More about Incomplete Streets and the new book can be found here.