The Motor City’s Regulators are Hitting the Brakes on Regrowth

[Originally printed in the Wall Street Journal]


David and Sky Brown do not seem like the type of people who would be targeted by Detroit’s law enforcement. This summer the couple moved into the Motor City’s dangerous northwest area to help with revival efforts. After fixing an abandoned home, they opened a backyard pen with goats and chickens and began hosting…  [continue reading]… Read more

Immigrants Help Reverse Baltimore’s Decline

[Originally printed in Governing Magazine]


For a few years now, a handful of cities have been trying to position themselves as more immigrant-friendly communities. At a time when some states have adopted tougher immigration laws that can make them less welcoming to foreign-born residents, cities like Detroit and Dayton, Ohio, have actively been trying to attract immigrants in the hope they’ll help drive new economic growth.

One of the most aggressive is Baltimore. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s efforts began in 2011, when she set the goal of attracting 10,000 new families over the next decade.… Read more

The Immigrant’s Role in Urban Renewal

[Originally published by the American Interest]


When it comes to immigrants, Washington has long been divided about how many and which types to allow into the United States. But for one struggling city just north of the capital, there has been little ambiguity on the matter. Since 2011, Baltimore, Maryland, has been converted by mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s efforts to welcome immigrants. The results suggest that her strategy should be pursued by similarly declining cities, and acknowledged by the federal government as a local solution to a traditionally national issue.… Read more

How San Francisco’s Progressive Policies are Hurting the Poor

[Originally published by Reason Magazine]


In recent years, a contradiction has unfolded in San Francisco. On the one hand, the city continues to practice progressive economic policies. But rather than helping its poor and middle-class—as such policies are advertised as doing—these groups in San Francisco have become more unequal, downwardly mobile, and altogether priced-out. This raises the question of whether the policies themselves are contributing to the problem.

First, though, it’s worth noting the magnitude of the city’s inequality, which is problematic not so much because the rich have gotten richer, but because everyone else has gotten poorer.… Read more

The Website that could End Homelessness in Los Angeles

[Originally printed in Governing Magazine]


It isn’t easy being homeless anywhere, but it seems especially tough in Los Angeles. Despite the dizzying array of services, Los Angeles County is America’s homeless capital, with more than 52,000 unsheltered individuals sleeping on its streets nightly — many of them settling inside the dangerous downtown tent city of Skid Row.

Now, a collection of public and private groups wants to end homelessness in the region, and it wants to do it with a digital program first tested in Skid Row in 2013.… Read more

Gross National Profit: Washington’s Wealth and Waste

[Originally published by the American Magazine]


After decades of decline, the nation’s capital today is wealthy and growing. Metro Washington now has six of the nation’s ten wealthiest counties. In 2012, Falls Church became the nation’s richest city, a far cry from when it was a 1970s refuge for Vietnamese immigrants fleeing Saigon. The region’s median household income is $88,233, second in the nation behind California’s San Jose–Sunnyvale–Santa Clara metro area, which is part of Silicon Valley and has a median household income of $90,737.

But while in other cities this might be a success story, in Washington it comes with a catch.… Read more

Sky’s the Limit: The Case for Selling Air Rights

[Originally published by Pacific Standard Magazine]


MARTA, the regional transit service in Atlanta, Georgia, would not be anyone’s initial idea of a solvent government agency. Operating without state funding, it runs four rail lines and numerous buses across a sprawling, automobile-oriented region, carrying with it a reputation for tardiness and mismanagement. Just several years ago, it was running $25-30 million annual deficits but has turned around its finances under new leadership, and is expected to produce future surpluses. How? The new-found money will come partly because of changes like digitizing some services and lessening the use of outside consultants.… Read more

L.A. to Spend $213M on High-Tech Help for Homeless

[Originally published by Next City Magazine]


Perhaps no place in the U.S. has struggled more with homelessness than Los Angeles, where there’s a nightly unsheltered count of roughly 25,000. Despite laudable projects like Skid Row Housing Trust’s high-design housing for formerly homeless Angelenos, the brutal reality is that to get support, many living on the streets face navigating a maze of disconnected agencies. Now, L.A. County is hoping that expanding a new digital solution will ease that process.

Last month, a group of public and private interests, including the L.A.… Read more

The Redevelopment Racket

[Originally published by the American Magazine]


The justifications that governments give for subsidizing private developments are often dubious, but this was particularly so for a recent New Jersey deal. This summer, the state granted $82 million in tax credits to the Philadelphia 76ers to build a practice facility in Camden. Although it will create only 50 jobs and be closed to the public, officials believe that its waterfront presence will uplift the city. The credit was granted by a heavily indebted state to the team’s billionaire owner, for a city that suffers 16 percent unemployment and 42 percent poverty, and recently cut half of its police force.… Read more

FHA Policies Discourage Density

[Originally printed in Governing Magazine]


After decades of suburban flight, the city is king again. Economists view it as essential for sparking innovation and growth. Environmentalists consider it key to getting people out of their automobiles. And urbanites, many of whom suffered through decades of decline in their cities, view it as a symbol of long-anticipated revitalization.

But a key part of cities — their density — hasn’t always been encouraged by the government, particularly not at the federal level. In fact, many of today’s land use policies hail from the post-World War II era, when planners thought that decentralizing cities would generate middle-class prosperity.… Read more