Shelter Shorts, The Week in Community Development—Feb. 15

News from—and affecting—the community development world. This week: Did Amazon meet its match?, Latinx homelessness, Broken Windows-clarified, Supporting victims of wage theft, One more big bank, more.

broken window
‘Broken Window and Stone.’ Photo by Michael Coghlan via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Wow, you missed the point. Broken windows policing was wildly popular for decades, and we all know some of the major problems it caused, in terms of overpolicing, use of force, and increased use of discriminatory and invasive practices like stop-and-frisk. But this piece in the New Yorker points out that the original theory has been misinterpreted—it didn’t say worse crime came from petty crime. It said disorder and petty crime came from abandoned buildings that weren’t cared for and other environmental factors. Can you imagine where we’d be today if all the resources that have gone into policing petty violations had instead been poured into restoring vacant or dilapidated property and lots, fighting slumlords, and other things that improved well being and opportunity in communities affected by “broken windows?” How amazing would that have been?

Said best by one news headline: “Amazon is ‘prime’-d to go.” There were celebrations in New York City last night, as affordable housing advocates and pro-union and immigrant rights activists among others cheered for what they consider a victory for poor and working-class city residents over unnecessary tax incentives for large corporations. Not everyone is happy—many residents in the immediate area of Amazon’s planned home in Queens polled said they supported the development because of the jobs Amazon promised would come. Mayor Bill DiBlasio cited this as a wake up call to progressives to not lose sight of the bottom line: people’s urgent need for good jobs in the city.

Does the public really benefit? We think not. New York City and state give more than $5 billion in corporate tax breaks each year, but officials hadn’t been reviewing whether those incentives actually do what they’re supposed to do: bring jobs to residents and stimulate the local economy. But now city and state officials are taking a closer look to see if some of those monies can be used elsewhere. And that’s a good thing. Studies have shown that corporate tax breaks aren’t effective. But that fact doesn’t matter to city officials across the country—in a recent study of more than 100 mayors, eight in 10 say business incentives are good policy. (By the way, it’s worth noting that small businesses generate more jobs than large business, even though big businesses get most of the tax incentives.)

The biggest bank merger in nearly a decade is close to being a done deal, as BB&T announced its intention to acquire SunTrust Bank. Experts say it will put pressure on other smaller, regional banks to consider merging in order to stay competitive. And this pressure will have somewhere to go in the new, deregulated landscape created by the Trump administration. The merged entity will become the sixth largest bank in the country, and will likely become a target of presidential candidates like Elizabeth Warren who came to prominence questioning the power of banks and championing consumer banking protection.

The CFPB has “taken off the table” an Obama-era rule protecting payday loan borrowers from excessive interest and fees. Disheartening all on its own, this rule removal will also likely spur a rash of similar attacks on payday lending caps and protections at the state level. Indiana, for example, is considering a couple of extremely anti-consumer bills that would encourage higher interest rates on more kinds of loans, and allow access to borrower’s bank accounts.

In California, Santa Clara County’s Board of Supervisors put its support of workers where its mouth was and voted to increase its funding of the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement. The 100 percent increase, from $500,000 to $1 million, will make the office, created in 2017, more effective at enforcing theft settlements and provide trainings for and individual interviews on claims of wage theft and other forms of worker abuse.

Are we really surprised? Maybe a little. Household debt is now higher than it was after the financial crisis, and it’s mostly due to auto loans. While mortgage debt has declined in recent years, credit card and student debt continues to rise.

This interactive web piece on the redevelopment of Charlottesville’s Friendship Court—a low-income housing development slated to undergo a transformation into mixed-income housing with zero displacement of its existing residents—provides incredible amount of context to the project, including full audio of the interviews the authors conducted, a 150-year timeline of the neighborhood, maps, photographs, and archived documents that paint a picture of its past as it attempts to get mixed income housing right.

Our Measures Matter. This thoughtful piece looks at “financial health” as another measurement for people working on financial inclusion projects, for example: “Isn’t it possible that financial health is primarily a reflection of a person’s socioeconomic status, not a determinant?” It’s important to stop and ask these questions to make sure we’re not running in circles instead of measuring—and creating—meaningful change.

New York state might lose a valuable network of foreclosure counseling agencies and legal support if funding to renew these housing crisis–era programs are not included in the state budget this year. Counseling agencies have been trying for a while to figure out how to handle the transition away from stimulus/crisis-level funding, while the need for their services is not abating. We wrote about some ideas for how to do this.

Brentin Mock lays out how attempts at comprehensive climate change regulation in the past have left out those most affected, and how the Green New Deal might be better. “What matters to advocates for racial and environmental justice is power—both the kind of power that heats where we live and fuels how we travel, and the kind that decides policies and enforces laws. The Green New Deal presents an opportunity for distributing both kinds of power more equitably, to improve the lives of the nation’s most vulnerable families.” It’s interesting to consider how this does, or doesn’t not, line with this argument that to get more people on board to fight climate change we need to stop talking about climate change and talk about things like health. Do AOC and the Green New Deal’s popularity subvert that argument? Or will they need to employ it as well?

Health and Banking: According to a recent study, which reviewed health and retirement data from 2000 to 2012, being banked had a positive effect on the mental health of older Hispanics when compared to those who were unbanked. Being unbanked correlated with a 17 percent higher prevalence of stress.

The way Latinx experience homelessness is different from the way other populations do—according to a new report from UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. In many ways, this population’s struggles, including language barriers at the service level and an increased level and awareness of deportation, mirror that of the wider Latinx population. The report calls for leveraging the expertise of people in the field and developing policy to address the cultural differences that influence how Latinx people become homeless, why their numbers are undercounted, and the specific supports they benefit from.

A Successful Model for Cities? There’s an interesting piece in CityLab about veteran homelessness in Houston, which has declined considerably. The city has become a model of success for finding permanent housing for homeless vets, and it began with coordinated city efforts and the mapping out of the many steps a veteran needed to take in order to get housing. (The process initially required 150 steps! It’s now a more streamlined process.) But those efforts have not worked to address homelessness among non-veterans.

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.