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New Cityscape Explores Methods of Measuring Blight

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August 11, 2022  

New Cityscape Explores Methods of Measuring Blight

The newest edition of Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research discusses methodologies for measuring urban blight. This issue was guest edited by Alexander Din. Across the United States, communities struggle with blighted urban environments and associated negative outcomes, including reduced property values, increased criminal activity, and poor health of residents. Historically, blight has been difficult, labor-intensive, and expensive for researchers to measure.

Eric Fesselmeyer and Kiat Ying Seah examine the relationship between inner-city blight and urban sprawl in the United States. Their study finds that city-center vacancy rates positively correlate with levels of urban sprawl, suggesting that policies that limit sprawl may also work to mitigate blight.

Jim DeLisle, Hye-Sung Han, Duy H. Ho, Yugyung Lee, Brent Never, and Ye Wang present a system of detecting abandoned houses using deep learning techniques for image classification. Their approach requires fewer resources compared to older approaches to measuring blight, is sensitive to local contexts, and is scalable to empower communities and cities to design more effective strategies to address housing abandonment.

Adam Berland investigates the degree to which tract-scale data on vacancy from the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Census Bureau correlate with physical blight. While the models tend to modestly overpredict blight based on those data sources, tract-scale housing data can be a useful proxy for blight in the absence of more detailed local data, allowing more informed decisionmaking on blighted areas for less well-resourced jurisdictions.

Alexander Din and Peter Han discuss challenges in assessing blight using the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Aggregated U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Administrative Data on Address Vacancies arising from the use of the category "not-a-statistic" ("no-stat") to describe addresses not receiving mail. In general, these addresses may or may not be vacant properties, but the authors find that in rural areas they probably are.

Brainstorming: Learning Agenda

Barry L. Steffen and Galen Savidge-Wilkins introduce a colloquy on HUD's Learning Agenda by summarizing the implementation of evidence building and equity initiatives at HUD in line with the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 and a recent Executive Order calling for affirmatively advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice, and equal opportunity across the federal government.

Lauren C. J. Barrow and Craig Evan Pollack apply an access framework (developed to understand medical care utilization) to examine questions of equity at the intersection of housing and health, recognizing that housing and health are inequitably distributed in American society.

Xavier de Souza Briggs, Carlos Martín, Vincent Reina, and Justin Steil explore what a renewed and reimagined commitment to equity might require of the Learning Agenda on housing and community development, advocating for a more outcome-oriented, participatory, and dynamic policy learning frame.

Philip M.E. Garboden offers recommendations for how to understand the structural barriers faced by traditionally marginalized groups and recommends equity principles to incorporate in HUD's Learning Agenda.

Amy Khare considers how federal housing policy can advance racial equity in ways that has catalytic impacts for an inclusive urban recovery among disinvested neighborhoods.

Stephanie Moulton deploys a life-cycle perspective to analyze racial wealth disparities as emerging from longstanding racial gaps in homeownership in the United States, perpetuated by historically racialized housing policies.

Angela Glover Blackwell and Sarah Treuhaft advocate centering equity in every aspect of HUD's Learning Agenda as foundational to progress toward achieving equity in housing.


Articles in Cityscape's regularly appearing departments include:

Data Shop: HUD Administrative Data Now Linked to National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health by Atticus Jaramillo, Michael D. Webb, and Jon M. Hussey; Geospatial Processing Tools to Enhance Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Commute Data by Michael Wohlstadter and John Posey.

Graphic Detail: Tree Equity Scores and Housing Choice Voucher Neighborhoods by Alexander Din and Perrin Krisko; Vacancy Change in Vulnerable Census Tracts in Portland, Oregon by Kirsten Ray.

Industrial Revolution: 3D Concrete Printed Construction: Building the Future of Housing, Layer-by-Layer by Jagruti Rekhi and Alaina Stern.

Policy Briefs: Survey of State Laws Governing Continuances and Stays in Eviction Proceedings by Ryan P. Sullivan; Survey of State Laws Governing Fees Associated With Late Payment of Rent by Ryan P. Sullivan.

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