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.

 

Pic 2

Pic 3

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.


Pic 4

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

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

Ohio Cities: Stabilize the Population Outflux by Attracting & Retaining the Millennial Generation

July 23rd, 2014

By Raquel Jones, Intern, and Marianne Eppig, Manager of Research & Communications

Between the years 1970 and 2013, the city of Cleveland lost almost half of its population. In fact, most cities in the region have also witnessed a decline in population. However, this recent trend seems to have less to do with the location and more to do with the layout of these cities. The most evident reason for this rapid decline may point to the fact that young, educated Millennials favor core cities, as opposed to sprawling communities.

According to research conducted by the Pew Institute and Urban Land Institute, Millennials are driving less than previous generations. However, the Millennials are not alone in this recent trend, as the Baby Boomers are also eager to take advantage of urban amenities and walkable communities. A key component to attracting Millennials to cities is the availability and quality of transportation options. According to a recent survey, “55% of Millennials have a preference to live close to transit” (Yung). With more than half of those polled in favor of such an option, it is obvious that the demand for a multimodal city is real.

One of the most compelling arguments supporting this growing rejection of a car-dependent society points heavily at the financial strain induced by the costly upkeep of a car. With gas prices rising and car loans becoming harder to obtain, and as Millennials find themselves buried in a heap of college debt, owning a car no longer seems to be practical. For this reason, many are shifting to urban areas, where there are multiple transportation options and where almost everything that could be wanted or needed is only a short distance away.

Population of Ohio's Cities Millennial Population in Ohio Cities Millennial Percentage of Population in Ohio Cities

For the graphs above, Millennials were defined as being born between 1981 and 2000.

In Ohio, we need to do more to take advantage of these trends and to continue attracting and retaining populations that are interested in urban living in order to strengthen the economies of these cities and their surrounding regions. Some of Ohio’s cities are seeing more positive trends–attracting a greater percentage of Millennials–but in the context of ongoing population shrinkage in all of our major cities except Columbus, it is clear that Ohio’s work is not done. The state’s ability to leverage market demand for inner city living and further incentivize—and remove legislative barriers to—infill development within its cities will help determine Ohio’s future prosperity.

For more information about these national demographic trends, take a look at these articles:

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.

Lessons for Small City Revitalization: The Regeneration of Ohio’s Smaller Legacy Cities

April 29th, 2014

By Alison D Goebel, Associate Director

This morning I had the pleasure of giving the keynote address at the Annual Meeting of the Springfield Center City Association.  In my presentation, I discussed how Springfield, Ohio is faring across a number of demographic indicators and how it compares to peer cities.

Click the image above to view the presentation.

GOPC’s research finds that medium- and small-sized cities in Ohio are comparable or even out-performing some of their larger legacy city peers.  However, we know that medium and small cities face significant challenges due to their smaller populations, tax bases, and markets and so much of the presentation included strategies smaller cities can implement, which have demonstrated success in larger legacy cities across the country.

Thank you again to Springfield  Center City Association for the invitation!

Progress continues on advancing proposed Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program

November 13th, 2013

On November 12, 2013 the Greater Ohio Policy Center offered proponent testimony to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program (NIAP)Senate Bill 149 proposes to create a program that would offer a tax credit to businesses or corporations that make monetary donations to catalytic community development projects.  Providing testimony in partnership with coalition member, the Ohio CDC Association, GOPC and OCDCA explained the design specifics of the program and discussed successes other states have experienced with similar programs.

After GOPC and OCDCA testified, a representative from PNC Bank offered proponent testimony in support of the bill.  PNC has been a leading voice for the creation of this program in Ohio and has many years of experience participating in similar tax credit programs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Providing the private sector—investor—perspective, Stephanie Cipriani, Senior Vice President and Market Manager of Community Development Banking, described a range of projects PNC has invested in.  These projects include a housing development and a workforce and early education center.

Last, a nonprofit leader from Asbury Park, New Jersey described the transformation of a neighborhood in Asbury Park which was decimated by race riots and urban renewal projects in the 1970s.  With the help of New Jersey’s Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program, Paul McEvily and Interfaith Neighbors, Inc. have led the revitalization of one of New Jersey’s more disinvested neighborhoods.  McEvily’s testimony included a series of pictures of this neighborhood transformation and the impact of the private-public partnership created through New Jersey’s program, which prompted the Committee Chairman to jokingly propose a field trip to Asbury Park!

The proposed NIAP program still has at least one more hearing in the Senate and at least two more in the House before it can be voted upon by either the full House or Senate.  However, yesterday’s proponent testimonies significantly contributed to the momentum and energy around this proposed program.  Be sure to follow our twitter feed, blog, and newsletters to learn when these hearings will be scheduled.

For background information on the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program, please visit our webpage.

Help Protect Sustainable Communities Funding!

April 16th, 2012

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Initiative has helped communities in Ohio create jobs, become more economically viable and create housing and transportation options.

Now HUD needs our help protecting the Sustainable Communities Initiative. The Senate is currently drafting a budget for fiscal year 2013, and among their decisions will be how to fund HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative. Your voice can help make sure this agency continues to help individuals and communities in the coming year.

Senator Brown sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will make this important decision by Tuesday, April 17. By speaking out today, you can help the Senator and the Committee to understand how their funding decisions will impact your neighborhood, your town or even the country.

Speak out!

Use the text below on Senator Brown’s contact page: http://www.brown.senate.gov/contact

Message Topic:

Housing

Email Body:

Please support funding for HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative in FY 2013

Dear Senator,

I’m writing to urge you to support the Sustainable Communities Initiative at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the FY 2013 appropriations process. Specifically, I encourage you to restore funding for the Sustainable Communities Initiative.

I strongly support the Sustainable Communities Initiative and its work as part of the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The Partnership helps communities in Brown develop in ways that lead to long-term prosperity, and as our state emerges from the economic recession, these investments are more important than ever.

HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative incentivizes towns and cities to develop comprehensive housing and transportation plans. These plans support economically competitive development, give people transportation options and helps communities better leverage federal and private sector investments.

Again, I strongly support the Sustainable Communities Initiative and ask you to support continued funding in FY2013.

Sincerely,
[[First_Name]] [[Last_Name]]
[[Street_Address]] [[Street_Address2]]
[[City]], [[State]] [[Zip]]

Mortgage Services Settlement Strong First Step to Rebuilding Ohio Communities

February 9th, 2012

Attorney General Mike DeWine joined 48 other State Attorneys General in announcing a settlement of $25 billion with the nation’s five largest mortgage lenders and servicers over foreclosure abuses, fraud and unacceptable mortgage practices, such as  robo-signing.  DeWine estimates $335 million will come to Ohio.

Greater Ohio Policy Center applauds the Attorney General’s decision to develop a $75 million matching-grant program for abandoned and vacant property demolition.  This will be a significant tool in the face of Ohio’s estimated 100,000+ blighted and problem properties.

Demolition is a critical first step, but Ohio’s cities, towns and villages must be armed with techniques and strategies that will generate redevelopment opportunities, create healthy properties, and rebuild our neighborhoods.

On April 4th and 5th, Greater Ohio will be holding Ohio Properties Redevelopment Institute: Transforming Problem Properties into Opportunity,  This two-day interactive workshop will offer hands-on techniques and strategies for addressing vacant and abandoned property development challenges and generating redevelopment opportunities.

Featuring local practitioners, financial institutions, and state and national redevelopment experts, the sessions will include the following. (The full agenda is here.)

  • property acquisition tools
  • land banks
  • neighborhood stabilization tactics
  • revitalization strategies
  • property information systems 
  • urban redevelopment successes

This Institute will also seek input from workshop participants into policy reforms that will align policies with local community development needs, and arm local leaders with new tools for redevelopment.

With Ohio’s cities and towns at a crisis point, the Institute’s goals—training and education, coalition-building and policy advancement—are vital to productively reshape Ohio’s communities.

This Institute is part of larger multi-year Initiative Greater Ohio is leading—Healthy Properties, Rebuilding Communities—that is designed to combat vacant and abandoned properties and foster community redevelopment.

For more information on the Healthy Properties Initiative or to register for the Ohio Properties Redevelopment Institute, please visit our website.

Horse and Buggy Tax Structure Holding Ohio Back

May 24th, 2011

Do you shop where you live?

It turns out that most Ohioans do a fair amount of shopping away from their home county.  A recent study completed by Greater Ohio, shows that 70 percent of counties did not capture the amount of sales tax revenue that that would be expected if the residents of the county did all their shopping in that same county.

Why does this matter?  It demonstrates that shopping patterns are regional, but our county-based sales tax structure is not.  This system rewards a minority of counties while hamstringing the majority, which creates unbalanced service provision and tax rates across the region, contributes to sprawl by incenting the development of new retail centers on greenfields, and priorities individual counties over capitalizing on regional strengths.

Take the Columbus area as an example.  The graph below shows how sales tax revenue capture changed in Franklin and Delaware counties with the introduction of Polaris.

A closer look at the broader region shows that despite the increase in spending in Delaware County between 1992 and 2009, the total change in spending for the region changed only slightly from $129 to $138 per capita, especially relative to increases in household income for the region during that time.

This arrangement creates a situation where counties with big, new malls thrive while most other places struggle.  All the while, however, the amount of retail spending within the broader region itself remains virtually the same.  In other words, this dynamic of shopping destinations moving around the region does not increase the state’s prosperity. Instead it just redistributes spending from one place to another and leaves places without major retail destinations without many options other than to raise taxes or cut services.

To modernize the taxation system to reflect the regional way we live and shop today, Greater Ohio is currently advocating for:

  • Legislation that makes regional revenue pooling permissive
  • Legislation that makes permissive mergers, consolidation, shared services, and alternative governance structures and eliminates legal and constitutional barriers to new structures of government.
  • Creation of a Governance Reform Commission to oversee and provide technical assistance to Ohio’s local governments as they adapt to the 21st century

The complete study can be found here.