The Rise of Concentrated Suburban Poverty in the 21st Century

August 27th, 2014

By Raquel Jones, Intern

At the turn of the century, the sum of urban poor greatly outnumbered the sum of suburban residents living beneath the federal poverty line[i]. However, much has changed in the physical location of poverty over the last decade, so much so that it may now be said that suburbs contain nearly as many high-poverty[ii] tracts as cities, and almost half of all of the metro area poor population living in high-poverty tracts live in suburbs. These neighborhoods have the potential to become areas of concentrated poverty in due time, which is why there is a need for them to be closely monitored. Suburbs face an uphill battle in combating this unforeseen problem, as they are ill-equipped and unprepared for this growing issue.

The most challenging aspect of this revision in demographic trends lies in the distribution of poverty, which has been marked by intermittent clusters of poor in the display of distressed neighborhoods[iii]. As documented in the American Community Survey, the concentrated poverty rate (the share of poor residents living in distressed tracts) had jumped from 9.1% in 2000 to 12.2% from 2008-2012.

 

Although concentrated poverty is still higher in urban areas, suburban communities experienced the fastest pace of growth in the number of poor residents living in tracts of concentrated poverty between 2000 and 2008-12.

Although concentrated poverty is still higher in urban areas, suburban communities experienced the fastest pace of growth in the number of poor residents living in tracts of concentrated poverty between 2000 and 2008-12.

 

Impoverished neighborhoods provide residents with fewer opportunities and more hardships, so that locals become entrapped in an endless cycle of poverty, making it near impossible to escape. This, of course, has serious implications on the larger regions encompassing these run-down communities, as it becomes more difficult to promote growth in metropolitan areas when poverty proves to be a consistent issue. In order to more effectively tackle this growing issue, there is a need for more integrated and cross-cutting approaches.

 

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There have, however, been some positive demographic trends in the last decade or so, such as the increase in homeownership rates in higher-poverty tracts and the noticeable decrease in households receiving public assistance. Other demographic changes include a more diverse population living in lower-poverty neighborhoods, although white people continue to constitute a majority. On the other hand, higher-poverty neighborhoods have increasingly become integrated with white people.


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According to data released through a recent report, the Toledo Metro Area appears to have the highest percentage of the poor population living in high-poverty and distressed neighborhoods in Ohio. It is ranked 3rd out of the 100 largest metro areas in the nation for its share of poor living in distressed neighborhoods (poverty rates of 40% or higher).

To search for more statistics on other Ohio metro areas, visit this interactive feature in the Brookings report, “The Growth and Spread of Concentrated Poverty, 2000 to 2008-2012″ by Elizabeth Kneebone.
[i] In 2012, the federal poverty line was defined as an income of $23,492 for a family of four.

[ii] High-poverty neighborhoods: at least 20% of residents are poor

[iii] Distressed neighborhoods: at least 40% of residents live below the poverty line

The 2014 Candidate’s Forum

August 25th, 2014

By Alison Goebel, Associate Director

OARC-CandidatesForum2014-Panel_cropped

The lunchtime panel at the 2014 Candidate’s Forum discussed transportation, economic development, infrastructure, and regionalism. Pictured from left: Teresa Lynch, Judge-Executive Gary Moore, Simon Kennedy, Beth Osborne, and William Murdock.

On August 22, 2014, the Greater Ohio Policy Center co-hosted the 2014 Candidates’ Forum, sponsored by the Ohio Association of Regional Councils. Focused on transportation, economic development, infrastructure, and regionalism, the forum included remarks and a question-and-answer session with each Gubernatorial campaign and an excellent lunchtime conversation with national panelists.

Candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Sharen Nuehardt, spoke in the morning, emphasizing the commitment she and Candidate Fitzgerald have to support local communities’ investments in transportation and infrastructure.

At lunch, the Forum brought together Simon Kennedy, associate partner at McKinsey & Company, the global management consulting firm; Teresa Lynch, principal of MassEconomics, a firm that assists communities in executing regional economic development strategies; Judge-Executive Gary Moore, president of the National Association of Regional Councils, the professional voice for regional planning organizations; and Beth Osborne, vice president at Transportation for America, a research and advocacy organization focused on advancing transportation reforms.

The panelists all emphasized the need to rethink community-making as a critical component for attracting and retaining jobs, businesses, and talent. Updated digital and physical infrastructure, connectivity among modes of transportation, and a strategic focus on what a region does best economically, were themes raised by the panelists. Some time was also spent on the role of congress in preventing strong economic development planning—without a multi-year transportation budget, local governments are unable and unwilling to make the resource-intensive investments that prepare a region for long term economic success and sustainability. Read the rest of this entry »

GOPC Co-Sponsors 2014 Candidate’s Forum

August 13th, 2014

 

OARCevent

GOPC is co-sponsoring the Ohio Association of Regional Council’s 2014 Candidates’ Forum next week on Friday, August 22 at the Hilton Columbus at Easton Town Center.

At the event, the 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates have been invited to share their platforms related to transportation, infrastructure, and economic development to the state’s top political, business, and civic leaders.

A panel of national experts will also be discussing the role of transportation, infrastructure, economic development, and regionalism in preparing Ohio for long-term success.

Click here for more information and to register to attend the Forum.

 

Leadership in the Queen City: Lessons from Cincinnati

August 11th, 2014

By Alison D. Goebel, Associate Director

As part of Leadership Ohio’s Class of 2014, I have been spending one weekend a month in a different Ohio city meeting local leaders and learning about the issues, challenges, and opportunities facing the state.  I have participated in a team-building retreat in Oberlin, learned about state government in Columbus, and explored Ohio’s role in early American history in Marietta (you can read my thoughts on our Marietta trip here).

This month’s Leadership Ohio Class was held in Cincinnati and focused on sustainability and economic development.

View from the Observation Deck of the Carew Tower in Downtown.  Over the Rhine is in the foreground and the Uptown neighborhoods of Clifton and Avondale on the hill.

View from the Observation Deck of the Carew Tower in Downtown. Over the Rhine is in the foreground and the Uptown neighborhoods of Clifton and Avondale on the hill.

I have always had soft spot for the Queen City, but the leaders we met and the projects we saw underway bowled me over.   Some lessons I learned from the weekend:

  • Sustainability Conserves Financial Resources: Cincinnati Zoo is the “greenest” zoo in the nation.  While environmental stewardship is a natural interest of the Zoo, their work is also motivated by economics.  The Zoo has experienced a net savings of over $2 million through infrastructure modernizations, such as using pervious pavement and roofs with plants.  Sitting on the top of one of Cincinnati’s many hills, the Zoo now annually diverts over 18 million gallons of water from the city’s wastewater sewers by reducing unnecessary consumption and capturing rain runoff for reuse on the grounds.
  • Transportation Options Appeal to All Sorts of Unexpected People: My husband joined me for an extra night in Cincinnati and we stayed across the river in Covington, KY, because all the rooms in downtown Cincinnati had been booked by country western fans attending a large concert at the Great American Ballpark. (An aside: on principle, we always try to keep our sales tax and bed tax dollars in Ohio, but couldn’t this particular night.)  We took a $1 trolley from Covington to Fountain Square in the heart of downtown Cincinnati.  Joining us on the Trolley were several middle aged couples who were clearly tourists and cowboy booted concertgoers who were running late for their show.  Other riders included a few workers who were getting off their restaurant or hotel shifts and a teenager.  Yes, our late night return trip to Kentucky had its share of inebriated yuppies (perhaps the epitome of ‘choice riders’ of public transit), but the Trolley also had more cowboy booted concertgoers whose farming pickup trucks were parked at our hotel.  Given transportation options, people will take them; public transportation is not an either/or choice.
  • Cross-Sector Collaboration Produces Quality Places that Attract Outside Investment: There is palpable excitement and energy around the major projects underway in the Queen City, namely the ongoing revitalization of the central business district around Fountain Square, and the rebirth of The Banks, Over the Rhine, and the Uptown neighborhoods.
Cincinnati Street Car rails. I speak as an individual, not as a GOPC staffer, when I say I am really excited about the Streetcar.

Cincinnati Street Car rails. I speak as an individual, not as a GOPC staffer, when I say I am really excited about the Streetcar.

Free concert at Fountain Square on Saturday night.  Several hundred people danced to the music while the bars and restaurants surrounding the Square were packed with locals and tourists enjoying the weekend.

Free concert at Fountain Square on Saturday night. Several hundred people danced to the music while the bars and restaurants surrounding the Square were packed with locals and tourists enjoying the weekend.

I met one local leader who now runs a venture capital firm in Cincinnati—he was from Manhattan originally and had been smitten by the city 6 years ago.  Part of his current job is to attract other entrepreneurs and small business owners to locate and stay in Cincinnati.  It sounds like it’s working.

None of the projects underway in Cincinnati—physical or business development—could happen at the scale that they are without significant coordination and collaboration among the private, public, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors.  Cincinnati is still a recovering legacy city and continues to face significant challenges.  But the vision the City has for itself and the steadfast way it is executing this vision demonstrates the outsized gains a community can make when all major institutions are “rowing in the same direction.”

Like many legacy cities, Cincinnati has faced and continues to face serious challenges.  However, my trip to Cincinnati convinced me that the initiatives underway are strengthening the city’s role in restoring prosperity to the region and are significantly contributing to the state’s overall economic future.

 

Reinventing Mansfield

August 4th, 2014

Guest post by Jennifer Kime

Concert

The revitalization challenges in downtown Mansfield are not unlike those of other mid-sized Legacy Cities where the struggle for right-sizing and redevelopment has been a harsh reality for decades.  While we have watched population, median income and property values plummet; we have only grown stronger in our resilience and commitment to a better future for our community. The process of reinventing our economic strategies here is unique in that it joins together commercial districts and neighborhoods where the programs and projects work together for the mutual benefit of the regional population, of which Mansfield is the urban center.

This community wide approach has allowed us greater flexibility and has enabled us to blossom in our revitalization years ahead of what we thought was possible. Because of our community’s size and lack of economic advantages available to larger cities, we began losing businesses and industry well before it was notable on the national scale. In fact, by the time the mortgage crisis hit, our business and retail environment had already been struggling for years, couple that with the manufacturing loss that we sustained with the closing of our GM plant and the loss of total income and resources to our community was nothing short of devastating. To many, it seemed impossible that we could come back from that loss and transition our economic fabric into a community with a downtown that is not only surviving, but is authentic, lively and thriving.

While the overall approach is multi-tiered, some of that success has been due to intense and relentless marketing and promotions, including entertainment programming aimed at showcasing the restoration of our built environment. The tipping point of community redevelopment is arguably the point at which the general public begins to believe that change is not only possible, but it is happening. The only way to change the stubborn, ingrained negative perceptions that flourish within the population of rust belt communities is to show them first hand. Through a combination of property tours (vacant, for rent, rented), shop hops, neighborhood block parties, car shows, farmers markets and free concerts, we bring thousands of people downtown each month. Those activities have spurred development interest from several new property developers, business owners, employees and mostly, the public, who are now coming to downtown for the first time to shop and dine.

While promotions and place-making are sometimes seen as the feel good neighbors of tax credits and fiscal incentives, their impact is real and tangible. When done correctly and sustainably, they create new businesses, new jobs and they retain the very community fabric that is at stake when the supply and demand of a region are not in our favor. It’s happening right now in Mansfield, Ohio.

For more information on the impact of the programs of Downtown Mansfield, Inc., see these recent news articles:

Downtown after dark: nightlife thriving” by Chike Erokwu for the Mansfield News Journal on Aug. 3, 2014

Final Friday Concert Series a raging success, spurs economic growth” by Emily Dech for the Richland Source on July 25, 2014

About the Author:

Jennifer Kime is the Executive Director of Downtown Mansfield, Inc. Currently, Jennifer’s main focus areas are in long term planning, preservation based planning, new program and project development and community development for the downtown and near downtown neighborhoods of Mansfield, Ohio.

www.downtownmansfield.com

www.facebook.com/downtownmansfield

GOPC Travels to Youngstown

July 30th, 2014

Yesterday, GOPC’s Lavea Brachman and Marianne Eppig traveled to Youngstown to meet with some of the organizations and people working to revitalize the inner city. Since we were last there, things have been consistently improving. People are excited about the downtown. Businesses and institutions are opening their doors in gorgeous historic buildings. A renewed sense of energy and purpose abounds.

Here are some of the photos we took along the way, showing a beautiful city:

YNDC

Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) Executive Director Ian Beniston shows GOPC Executive Director Lavea Brachman around Iron Roots Urban Farm, which is adjacent to YNDC’s new facility.

YNDC

The goals of Iron Roots Urban Farm are to expand YNDC’s capability to train city residents in economically viable market gardening techniques, encourage business creation on vacant land, develop and incubate successful microenterprises.

CityScape's Map

Youngstown CityScape Executive Director Sharon Letson shows Lavea Brachman a map of Youngstown, talking about plans for the area.

Coffee Shop in Youngstown

New local businesses are opening their doors in downtown Youngstown, like this specialty coffee cafe.

We look forward to returning to Youngstown soon!

 

Presenting & Learning Tools in Portugal for Optimizing Cities

July 8th, 2014

By Lavea Brachman, Executive Director of Greater Ohio Policy Center

Lisbon, Portugal—the site of La Fabrique de la Cité’s international conference, “Tools for Optimizing the City,” where I spoke about “Transforming America’s Legacy Cities for the Next Economy: Critical Next Strategies” (slides available here)—is a European city that has experienced trends similar to those of many U.S. legacy cities: depopulation, vacancy, and sprawling development to outer ring suburbs.

Lisbon, a beautiful city situated on the Tagus River that flows directly into the Atlantic Ocean, has many natural attributes as well as historic, Gothic-style, monumental buildings dating from Portugal’s Age of Discovery in the 16th century.  Lisbon city officials are taking a proactive approach to revitalization by targeting resources in historic neighborhoods that are focused on preserving buildings and attracting new populations.  One such neighborhood is Mouraria, where the authentic Portuguese music, Fado, was said to have its origins, and where gang and drug activity had more recently taken hold.

The Mouraria neighborhood in Lisbon, where the authentic Portuguese music, Fado, is said to have its origins.

Situated in an attractive, hilly part of Lisbon, the Mouraria neighborhood is seeing the fruits of public investments. Municipal and national government grants and incentives leverage private sector investments in the Mouraria neighborhood, which is adjacent to another historic neighborhood (Alfama) and anchored by a centuries old castle (an “anchor institution,” if ever there was one…) that stands atop of one of the many hills.

Mouraria in Lisbon, Portugal

With the scourge of crime eliminated, new younger populations are moving in and commercial enterprises are occupying once vacant spaces. Older residents are able to remain in the area as well, taking advantage of rent-stabilized arrangements.

Walking down a street in Lisbon, Portugal

When asked, city officials stated that demolition plays no role in their strategy and seemed puzzled by the idea, as they are most concerned with preserving and showcasing the unique, attractive qualities that distinguish their city from others.  They fear loss of structures would destroy the fabric of future preservation efforts.

While many aspects of Lisbon differ from American cities, certainly there are some lessons to be learned from our European colleagues.

 

Lavea Brachman to Present at International Seminar

July 2nd, 2014

By Raquel Jones, GOPC Intern

Lavea Brachman, Executive Director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, will be attending and presenting at La Fabrique de la Cité’s international symposium in Lisbon, Portugal from July 2nd through July 4th.

This year, the topic of discussion will focus around the question, “What tools can be used to optimize the city?” Participants will evaluate new methods and tools that could possibly help to ease the economic, social, ecological, and energy-related concerns that currently face cities all over the world. This three-day event will host a variety of experts from around the globe who will lead discussions on related issues in hopes of sparking innovative ideas and solutions.

Brachman will be speaking on the last day of this conference on the subject of “Transforming Cities for the Next Economy.” She will use case studies of legacy cities in Ohio and throughout the U.S. to give this international audience workable models and tools for communities striving to fix many of the economic, social, and environmental problems that they face in this new age.

 

Government Growing Wild: Is Sprawl Exacerbated by Jurisdictional Fragmentation?

June 23rd, 2014

By Bryan Grady, Research Analyst at the Ohio Housing Finance Agency

An underappreciated element of what can make a location a good place to live – or not – is the regional governance structure: the number and configuration of counties, cities, townships, and special districts that comprise a metropolitan area. Across the country, there are substantial differences worth noting. I began looking at these issues when I was an intern at Greater Ohio ten years ago and now, as a doctoral candidate at Rutgers University and a research analyst at the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA), I am studying the impacts that these forces have on housing outcomes. I worked with Judd Schechtman, a land use attorney and colleague at Rutgers, on developing some preliminary findings regarding the role of fragmented local government in generating sprawl.

Maps illustrating the correlation between sprawl and government fragmentation. Darker hues represent higher values.

 

To operationalize such an amorphous topic, we employed data published in Measuring Sprawl and Its Impact, which defined sprawl as a lack of four characteristics – residential density, mixed-use development, strong economic centers, and connected streets – and computed an index that incorporated all four elements. (A newer version, based on similar methods, was published earlier this year.) With regard to measuring regional governance, we used the Metropolitan Power Diffusion Index (MPDI). In short, MPDI encapsulates both the density of governments (e.g. how many incorporated areas and districts exist for every 100,000 people) and their relative budgetary influence, with a value of 1 representing a unitary regional government and increasing values indicating more diffuse political authority. A handful of other variables were included in the work as statistical controls, including population, manufacturing employment, per capita income, and educational attainment.

A quantitative analysis across 77 regions nationwide found that fragmentation and sprawl were directly correlated with one another at a statistically significant level. This was particularly true when evaluating the residential density component of the sprawl index, as well as the economic concentration component. Why? As Judd and I wrote,

Exclusionary zoning, as practiced by small municipalities, is specifically conceived to limit residential density in order to keep home prices and tax revenues high; reduced fragmentation would seemingly reduce the incentives to maintain such policies. Similarly, every city in a fragmented metropolis attempts to leverage agglomeration effects in office space and retail to their own advantage, whereas a single municipality that dominates a region would be able to channel development into a smaller number of commercial centers.

In short, in a region where dozens of localities are left to zone with only their own constituents in mind, land use patterns that are economically and spatially suboptimal are the direct result. A more regional approach to land use planning is necessary to ensure that money and land are not wasted chasing artificially-created shortages of various types of development.

The full study is available here. If you have any questions, feel free to email Bryan Grady. Please note that any opinions herein are the author’s, not those of OHFA or the State of Ohio.

Brownfield Grants Revitalize Columbus

June 17th, 2014

By Raquel Jones, Intern

The Columbus City Council is expected to approve grant money from their Green Columbus Fund sometime this year to redevelop vacant properties in the city. The Green Columbus Fund is a reimbursement grant program with a budget of $1 million that uses financial incentives to encourage sustainable development and redevelopment. Private businesses and non-profits can apply for grants to either redevelop Brownfield sites or to build green in Columbus.

In 2011, Columbus City Council accredited the first four grants under this program, utilizing almost one-fourth of the entire fund. These grants were awarded to two LEED projects and brownfield assessment work at two sites.

Potential developers of two properties now under consideration for a portion of the grant money hope to be able to conduct site assessment work to see whether or not they should go forward with their idea to build apartments on the site. Also under examination by the Columbus City Council is the former location of an old shoe factory on Front Street where the developer of apartments hopes to use the brownfield grant for asbestos remediation and underground tank removal.