Category: Uncategorized
Micro-Apartments Buzz in Boston
| March 26, 2015 | 3:44 pm | Uncategorized | No comments

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.

Environmental Justice Executive Order Signed
| November 28, 2014 | 2:54 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

The order, signed by Governor Deval Patrick on Tuesday November 25th, directs state agencies to devote resources to protect the health, safety, and environment of the state’s most vulnerable residents. It also encourages public participation in governmental decisions. This Factsheet provides a summary of the order, as well as the Massachusetts Environmental Justice Alliance and its efforts leading up to the signing. It also lists the agencies affected by the order.

Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

The Massachusetts EJ Alliance is convened by Alternatives for Community and Environment, ACE. The campaign began in 2009 and will be finally implemented by May 24, 2015. ACE’s senior attorney, Staci Rubin states that “This Executive Order is unique in that it requires the state to focus enforcement and funding efforts for environmental benefits in environmental justice communities.” The order creates a public participation plan including a multilingual outreach program and accessible, convenient public meetings. It will also set up an advisory council with community stakeholders.

This is a big step forward for Massachusetts, joining 7 other states that have previously passed executive orders on environmental justice. As Governor Patrick declared, “Today we reaffirm our commitment to providing the whole Commonwealth with better quality of life through parks, open space and sound environmental policy.”

The Week at UEP: Student Group Meetings
| November 22, 2014 | 7:16 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

This week at UEP both the Tufts New Economy and the Intercultural Practice Group held their monthly meetings on campus.

Wednesday evening, students interested in exploring cooperative economic models came together for dinner and discussion around plans for this and next semester. The campus New Economy group shares the goal of examining and promoting more sustainable and equitable alternatives to the dominant economic paradigm, though this can mean different things to different people. The discussion started with introductions of the new attendees and a talk about what new economy means to each of them.

Group members brainstormed ideas for activities to facilitate learning about new economy and spreading ideas to the rest of the Tufts community. Previous activities have included trips to the CERO cooperative energy, recycling and organics organization, the Hayley House Bakery Café in Roxbury, and the Taza fair trade chocolate factory in Somerville. Future plans include bringing on speakers and intellectual leaders on the topic, trips to the Wellspring Collaborative in Springfield, and coordinating with other local new economy groups.

The following Thursday evening, the Intercultural Practice Group assembled for a viewing of the documentary “Can We Talk?” about Boston’s busing and desegregation crisis  in the 1970s. The documentary brings together former students, teachers, bus drivers, and community leaders from the time period, during which Boston attempted and failed to address racism, classism and segregation plaguing the city’s public schools. Truly heartbreaking stories are told about a generation of Boston students, mostly students of color, who were effectively robbed of their formative educational years.

A post-viewing discussion focused on how different Boston may look now, but in many regards nothing has changed. There remains a huge disparity in school and education quality between rich and poor neighborhoods in Boston. The racial make up of Boston Public Schools has changed drastically since the busing period, with the flight of many white families and families of means into areas with better conditions and greater educational resources. The busing period and the failure of public policy to address issues of equality in Boston is hugely relevant to the Intercultural Practice Group, whose focus is to facilitate cross-cultural dialogue and challenge self-segregation.

Both groups will continue to meet regularly on campus, and all are welcome to join, not just UEP students. The more people involved, the more impact these groups can have. If you are interested in getting involved, please visit the web sites above or keep your eye out for flyers around campus.

UEP Professor Penn Loh in YES! Magazine
| November 17, 2014 | 12:57 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

Land, Co-ops, Compost: A Local Food Economy Emerges in Boston’s Poorest Neighborhoods

In a new article for YES! Magazine, UEP Professor Penn Loh writes about the emergence of a local food economy in the Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhoods of Boston.

Glynn Lloyd has run Fresh City Food in Roxbury since 1994, serving locally sourced food. Finding good, local food hard to come by, he founded City Growers in 2009. City Growers has joined a network of urban food enterprises in Roxbury and Dorchester. The network includes community land trusts for growers, locally sourced kitchens and retailers, to new food waste and compost processing co-ops.

After decades of disinvestment and redlining, it is inspiring to see groups like the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative bringing together residents to decide fate of their community. DSNI has helped to provide affordable homes, common areas and gardens, as well as the neighborhood’s community greenhouse.

Finding difficulty in locating areas available for further commercial growing, Lloyd founded the Urban Farming Institute to advocate for zoning reform.

More examples of Boston’s emerging local food economy can be found in Loh’s article. New businesses, restaurants, and food co-ops continue to open, but work cannot stop here. There is still much more that can be done to create sustainable, healthy food systems in historically disinvested communities.

 

UEP Alum Liz Holden on MIT’s CoLab Radio Blog
| October 27, 2014 | 6:16 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

Can anchor institutions save New Hampshire’s polluted Great Bay?

Liz Holden’s article, which can be found here on MIT’s CoLab Radio Blog, shifts the historically urban focus of anchor institutions to a more rural setting. Specifically, how can the University of New Hampshire use its position as an anchor institution to improve the condition of the nearby estuary, Great Bay?

Holden details the problems of nitrogen loading pollution and lack of state funding for UNH, as well as highlighting the work being done by nonprofits and small businesses in the region. As an anchor institution, the university could act as a uniting and legitimizing force in the effort. Read more, and be sure to check out MIT’s CoLab Radio.

Map Credit: www.flyfisherman.com

Map Credit: www.flyfisherman.com

Winning Hearts and Minds: Anti-Racism, Feminism, and the New Economy
| October 18, 2014 | 2:19 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

As part of the nationwide New Economy Week, Tufts welcomed organizer, educator and public speaker Chris Crass to explore what it takes to achieve a just and sustainable economy through inter-movement cooperation. With the goal of Collective Liberation, students at Tufts, MIT, along with interested community members, came together to discuss their shared experiences and frustrations with the status quo.

More importantly, Crass encouraged the audience to focus on individuals and movements in their lives and throughout history that have inspired them to seek change. The frustration and loneliness felt by many in the audience was channeled into small group discussions, helping to build a feeling of unity among the audience. Drawing from the history of anti-racist organizing, feminist praxis, and class struggle, Crass demonstrated the overwhelming similarities and overlaps between these movements and the power available to create change through their collaboration.

Crass emphasized the need for organizing people of privilege in the building of a movement, specifically white anti-racist organizing and bringing more men into feminist work.

Crass’s book, Toward Collective Liberation, can be found at his website, here.chriscrass