Shelter Shorts, The Week in Community Development—Sept. 7

Shelter Shorts, news from—and affecting—the community development world. This week: What driverless trucks will mean for drivers, public toilets as a human right, disappointing Democratic leadership, housing for low-income college students, and more

public toilet
Toronto public toilet-demo unit. Photo by Stefan Powell via flickr, CC BY 2.0

It’s a health issue. It’s a safety issue. It’s a dignity issue. Picture the Homeless in New York has launched a #FreetoPee campaign aimed at getting public toilets set up within the city. And from an organizing perspective they have an easier ask than many campaigns—there are actually 15 public toilets the city already owns, sitting unused in a warehouse!

It’s something we’ve long suspected, but researchers at the W.E. Upjohn Institute have crunched the numbers, and found that “economic development incentives” do not, on average, create jobs. In fact, incentives to large companies, who, as we’ve reported before, receive the lions’ share of those incentives, are associated with job reductions. Incentives to small firms are associated with modest job increases. Think what else we could use all that taxpayer money for . . . 

There are several communities in the U.S. where the Black homeownership rate exceeds that of the white American average, and the reasons aren’t nebulous. In several Chicago suburbs where the Black homeownership rate is above 80 percent, a local organization had engaged in neighborhood “testing,” in the 1990s, in which Black and white home seekers were sent out to uncover racial steering by real estate agents, then filing lawsuits against lawbreakers. In others, populations grew not as a result of such pointed activities, but families seeking majority-Black communities with good schools and a peaceful environment. These communities can surely provide lessons in achieving long-term results.

The robots are coming to take our jobs! Well, in some senses they are, yes, but Working Partnerships USA reminds us that we have choices about how we handle that. In a new report, Driverless?, the organization gives us a look at two alternative scenarios for the future of the trucking industry—both involve driverless trucks on long stretches of highway, but they differ dramatically in the quality and quantity of the remaining jobs surrounding those longer hauls. It’s up to proactive policymaking (and labor organizing) which route we go down.

From the it’s long past “first they came for” files: After forming a “denaturalization task force” and kicking legal permanent residents out of the military, the Trump administration has kicked up an effort to deny passports to Hispanic citizens, primarily but not entirely those in the border region of Texas who were delivered by midwives. Kafkaesque demands to prove the location of their birth include requests for rental agreements from the time of their birth and questions in court like “Do you remember when you were born?” Reminder as the citizenship purge escalates: If anyone is denied due process, we can all be denied due process without redress just by being arbitrarily assigned to the category that is denied due process.

This article from model d on Detroit’s Fitzgerald neighborhood covers some great examples of what several Detroit organizations are doing to revitalize vacant lots in ways that go beyond (but still include) traditional community gardens into true “third spaces” designed to be social hubs for a broad range of residents.

While popular anger has rightly focused on the attempted confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, a quieter but no less devastating betrayal occurred: Minority leader Sen. Schumer led Democrats in allowing the fast tracking of a passel of lifetime hard-right federal judge appointees. Given the way Democratic primaries are turning out, Schumer ought to be glad he’s not running this year.

We often talk about how art galleries and artist spaces can be a harbinger of gentrification, but not so much about the greater likelihood that individual artists are pushed out—along with existing residents of a neighborhood—to make way for new and expensive development. This is a list of creative ways independent artists and arts organizations in Toronto are managing to stay, find, and/or create spaces in their communities so they can continue to work (they include shipping containers).

It’s a commonly understood problem that drives large swaths of low-income school readiness programs: the idea that poor children have a “word gap,” or hear millions fewer words by school age than their better-off peers. But an attempt to replicate the original study has failed to find any evidence of that word gap. In fact, in the latest study, poor Black children from Alabama heard significantly more words than those from middle-class families from Chicago. It’s almost as if educational disparities have to do with the direct effects of poverty and resource allocation and not individual behaviors.

A bill that aims to increase affordable housing options for college students passed the California State Legislature recently. The bill, which awaits the governor’s signature, allows developers to qualify for a “density bonus” if 20 percent of their units are used for low-income students, according to The Daily Californian. “Students deserve to focus on learning instead of worrying about whether they have a place to live.” We agree. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this bill to see if it actually helps the situation. With the high cost of a post-secondary education coupled with the rising cost of housing, college students need as much help as they can get.

A New York Democratic House candidate can use campaign funds for child care, the FCC has ruled. While not everyone sees this as a positive, we do. The cost of childcare is insane; parents are paying as much for care as they would for housing costs and even college tuition. According to a recent USA Today article, child care costs are more than 20,000 a year in 22 states, and as much as $34,000 in Massachusetts. The exorbitant costs of child care are enough to keep stay-at-home and working parents from running for office, thus leaving an important voice from decision-making influence.

Congrats to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) for getting an important piece published in The New York Times about a change that could give banks the green light to start redlining again. Jess Van Tol, NCRC’s chief executive, explains how a change in the Community Reinvestment Act could have sweeping consequences for millions of people. “Most people don’t pay attention to banking rules . . . But these laws define where money flows in the richest nation on earth and where it doesn’t. And the flow of capital determines, in turn, who has access to affordable housing, to good public education, to small business loans and to financial services that aren’t abusive and predatory.” It’s worth a read and a share to your networks.

Have you heard about The Black Census Project? Its mission sounds worthwhile, and it may be a project some of our readers may want to share with people in communities they work in.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.