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Latest Cityscape Discusses Brownfields
A picture of the Marshfield Group Home.
All across the country, there are environmentally challenged areas called "brownfields," contaminated properties that often require substantial cleanup before they can be reused for other purposes.
Impact of Integrated Housing on School Performance

Housing Shortage for Working Households

A New Economic and Housing Data Tool on


Latest Cityscape Discusses Brownfields

All across the country, there are environmentally challenged areas called "brownfields," contaminated properties that often require substantial cleanup before they can be reused for other purposes. In the latest issue of Cityscape, an independent journal published by the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, several scholars are calling for new policies and approaches that could significantly accelerate stalled brownfield redevelopment.

The November issue of Cityscape includes five symposium articles that report new findings on the redevel-opment of contaminated inner-city brownfields. After decades of policy discussions and debate about the effects of the nation's Superfund law on the inner city, the authors find that brownfield redevelopers confront much larger obstacles than just site decontamination.

Edwin Stromberg, long-time program manager of PD&R's brownfields research program, is the guest editor for this symposium and has written the introduction. Stromberg provides his perspective on HUD's brownfields policy (as compared and contrasted with that of the EPA) from the early 1990s onwards, when brownfields redevelopment became the focus of federal concern and program implementation.

Peter Meyer of the private research firm E.P. Systems Group explores the seemingly irreconcilable conflicts between economic development and environmental improvement. This paper offers a review of some American responses that avoid sacrificing the environment for economic gains and suggests lessons that states and municipalities may learn from one another. Among Meyer's key findings is that current partial brownfields cleanup approaches are unreliable over the long run and will inevitably fail. Also, residents and other neighborhood stakeholders need to be more involved from the outset to assure greater oversight of selection and subsequent management of remediation strategies to ensure that the long-term interests of the community are being met. Other noted authors (and brief summations of their findings as published in the latest issue of Cityscape) follow.

A picture of the Marshfield Group Home. Anna Alberini and Dennis Guignet of the University of Maryland examine whether a state Voluntary Cleanup Program can support redevelopment of contaminated properties in an urban industrial area. They find that participation in the program may, over time, substantially enhance the use of inner-city property for industrial and commercial purposes.

Marie Howland of the University of Maryland focuses on the impact of site contamination on sales of properties in an industrial area of Baltimore. A researcher at the University of Maryland, she finds that after the mid-1990s, contaminated parcels sold on the private market fetched prices significantly lower due to contamination and associated clean-up costs. She concludes that while the private market can address the costs of site cleanup on its own, public intervention through subsidies, or even the exercise of eminent domain, is still needed to overcome the classic problems of obsolete and fragmented land use and urban infrastructure.

Eugene Goldfarb of the University of Illinois-Chicago looks at HUD's own brownfields policy. He finds that brownfields mitigation efforts could be properly and effectively implemented, but that more guidance and oversight is needed to make the process sustainable over time.

Finally, David Slutzky (University of Virginia) and A.J. Frey (Washington and Lee University) examine the uncertain potential liabilities of lenders and developers who attempt to redevelop or reuse brownfields, and who could face potential exposure even though they did not cause the contamination. The authors offer a two-part proposal: eliminate the liability of "truly innocent third parties" and replenish the Superfund by providing incentives for developers to make voluntary contributions to it.

This issue of Cityscape is available as a free download, in print for a nominal charge from the HUD USER Webstore, or by calling 1-800-245-2691, option 1.

European Science Foundation workshop,"The Reuse of Contaminated Sites for Local Sustainable Development Strategies," Isola San Servolo, Venice (Italy), 26-28 May 2008.


Impact of Integrated Housing on School Performance

How well do children from low-income families perform when they live in low-poverty neighborhoods and attend low-poverty schools? A recently published study by researcher Heather Schwartz addresses this question by analyzing data from Montgomery County, Maryland. Forty years ago, the county adopted an inclusionary zoning policy credited with deconcentrating poverty within its jurisdiction. The policy states that developers of new subdivisions consisting of 35 or more units must set aside 12 to 15 percent of the units to sell or rent at below-market prices. In addition, the public housing authority (PHA) has exercised its right under the policy to buy and use up to a third of the set-aside units. The PHA currently operates some 700 of these homes as scattered-site federally subsidized public housing (in addition to five public housing family properties). Although the average income of families living in these scattered public housing units in 2007 was only $22,460, they lived in low-poverty neighborhoods rather than large public housing projects and sent their children to well-resourced schools. These families reside in most neighborhoods in the county and have children attending 114 of the county’s 131 elementary schools.

Schwartz compared the school performance of public housing students in low-poverty schools and neighborhoods with public housing students attending less advantaged schools in Montgomery County. These two groups of students could be fairly compared because the housing authority randomly assigns households to its public housing apartments. She found that between 2001 and 2007, public housing students from the most-advantaged schools "far outperformed in math and reading those children in public housing who attended the district's least-advantaged elementary schools (6)." According to Schwartz, by the time they finished elementary school, students from subsidized housing "who attended low-poverty schools began to catch up to their non-poor district-mates and had cut their initial achievement gap in half (32)." The study also found that these academic gains declined as the school’s poverty level rose.

The public housing families with school-age children that were part of this study had an average tenure of eight years. This residential stability also made it possible for their children to realize the long-term advantages of attending low-poverty schools.

For a thorough discussion of this study, an exploration of effective measures of school need, and the researcher's analysis of the relevance of this research to other settings, see "Housing Policy is School Policy."

Also see Amy Schwartz et al., Public Schools, Public Housing: The Education of Children Living in Public Housing.


Housing Shortage for Working Households

The Urban Land Institute's J. Robert Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing recently analyzed housing supply and demand, employment sectors, and working households to produce a study of the housing affordability crisis in the Boston metropolitan area. In studying the distribution of jobs, households, and affordable housing, researchers found an "imbalance of workforce housing — both rental and ownership housing — near key employment cores."

Affordable for-sale housing for working households is located on the outside margins of the Boston metro area, far from job centers and public transportation (see maps). Although more rental units are available within a 30- to 45-minute job commute, a shortage of 25,000 housing units exists within this area. Rentals are expensive for working households and 20 percent are in poor condition, according to the 2007 American Housing Survey. Land, development, and construction costs frequently make new units both unaffordable and too small to accommodate families. The market does not sustain construction of the affordable workforce household units needed near employment centers.

The Terwilliger Center suggests that the shortage of affordable units suitable for working families, including those for essential community workers (teachers, health care workers, police officers, firefighters, and others) will increase over the next decade. Market prices for home sales are rising, the availability of quality rental units is declining, the population is rising, and the pace of new construction cannot keep up with demand. In addition, more than 900,000 households with incomes below 60 percent of the area median income (AMI) are competing for affordable units with over 600,000 households earning 60–100 percent AMI.

These maps depict for-sale housing affordability comparisons available to three workforce household incomes as 60, 80, and 100 percent of AMI. Source: Urban Land Institute, J. Robert Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing

HUD's Office of Policy Development & Research, Worst Case Housing Needs 2009: A Report to Congress

The Urban Land Institute, J. Robert Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing,
Priced Out: Persistence of the Workforce Housing Gap in the Boston Metro Area.


A New Economic and Housing Data Tool on HUD USER

HUD has unveiled a new website that consolidates economic and housing market data at the regional, state, metropolitan area, and county levels. The Regional Economic and Market Analysis pages employ interactive maps that allow visitors to access various reports, from a region-wide look at employment and housing activity to county-level figures on population trends, rental activity, and vacancy rates.

This new online resource displays an interactive map of the United States, which is designed to serve as an intuitive interface for obtaining geographic data. After selecting a region, the data are divided into categories: market trend data, regional housing profiles, regional narratives, and comprehensive housing market analysis reports.

Market Trend Data. Called "Market at a Glance" reports, these data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Community Survey, and Census Bureau cover counts and estimates of employment, population, households, and housing inventory for every metropolitan area and county in the nation.

Regional Housing Profiles. Based on the quarterly U.S. Housing Market Conditions reports, these reports profile 12 to 15 housing market areas each quarter. Economic activity, population changes, building activity, and sales and rental market conditions with a focus on the most recent 24 months are discussed.

Regional Narratives. These are overviews of economic and housing market trends within 10 regions of the United States. The statistics are based on information obtained by HUD economists from state and local governments, housing industry sources, and ongoing investigations of housing market conditions carried out in support of HUD's programs.

Comprehensive Housing Market Analysis Reports. These reports provide counts and estimates of employment, population, households, and housing inventories of particular metropolitan housing markets. The facts, findings, and conclusions contained in the reports are useful to industry experts such as builders, mortgagees, and others concerned with local housing. Each analysis considers changes in the economic, demographic, and housing inventory characteristics of a specific housing market area during three periods: from 1990 to 2000, from 2000 to the analysis date, and from the date of analysis to a specific forecast date.

Regional Economic and Market Analysis Tool.



Measuring Neighborhood Quality

HUD researchers are seeking effective methods for measuring neighborhood quality. Using data from both the American Housing Survey and HUD's Customer Satisfaction Survey of participants in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, HUD analyst Brent Mast measured neighborhood quality using a Bayesian hierarchical model. The model examined survey responses in 13 metropolitan areas along three indicators: neighborhood quality, home quality, and crime perception. Mast found the Bayesian model offers analysis with smaller data sets and is flexible enough to use information from both surveys. Go to Measuring Neighborhood Quality With Survey Data: A Bayesian Approach to see the full study reported in Cityscape.


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