Bo McCarver’s weekly news compilation, 12/14/2010

Special to the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service

The US Census Bureau is releasing studies this week addressing segregation. Preliminary reviews suggest mixed results in desegregating cities with some increasing in clustering. The data are expected to be used in realigning Congressional districts next year.

For a pdf version of the full articles, plus contextual stories in social, environmental and legal areas, contact Bo McCarver at bmccarver@austin.rr.com

To Test Housing Program, Some Are Denied Aid

By Carl Buckley         New York Times December 8, 2010

It has long been the standard practice in medical testing: Give drug treatment to one group while another, the control group, goes without.

Now, New York City is applying the same methodology to assess one of its programs to prevent homelessness. Half of the test subjects — people who are behind on rent and in danger of being evicted — are being denied assistance from the program for two years, with researchers tracking them to see if they end up homeless.

The city’s Department of Homeless Services said the study was necessary to determine whether the $23 million program, called Homebase, helped the people for whom it was intended. Homebase, begun in 2004, offers job training, counseling services and emergency money to help people stay in their homes.

But some public officials and legal aid groups have denounced the study as unethical and cruel, and have called on the city to stop the study and to grant help to all the test subjects who had been denied assistance.

Full story at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/09/nyregion/09placebo.html?_r=1&ref=global-home

Detroit’s next step to combat blight: buy and rehab vacant homes

The city will use federal funds to buy and rehab vacant homes in targeted neighborhoods, says Mayor Dave Bing. It’s part of a strategy to cope with a shrinking Detroit and to battle blight.

By Mark Guarino Christian Science Monitor December 10, 2010

Density is not a problem in Detroit. In fact, the city’s populace is spread so thinly that local leaders want people to move closer together, so that public services can be delivered more efficiently and so that neighborhoods are busily vibrant rather than eerily empty.

Detroit took a big step toward that end Thursday, announcing it would use federal funds to try to steer residents into certain neighborhoods – not yet identified – that city planners see as economically and aesthetically viable.

Full story at: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2010/1210/Detroit-s-next-step-to-combat-blight-buy-and-rehab-vacant-homes

Urban Nation

Two years into his term, President Obama is promoting silo-busting tactics in federal urban policy. Shaun Donovan’s HUD leads the transformation — even that of his agency’s core function.

By Willy Staley           The Next American City December 8, 2010

You’re probably familiar with Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign slogans, so I’ll spare you. It’s worth remembering, though, that he didn’t campaign on just financial and healthcare reform. He also made a pledge to change the way Washington treats cities.

Obama spoke to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June 2008. “To seize the possibility of this moment,” he told them, “we need to promote strong cities as the backbone of regional growth. And yet Washington remains … wedded to an outdated ‘urban’ agenda that focuses exclusively on the problems in our cities, and ignores our growing metro areas; an agenda that confuses antipoverty policy with a metropolitan strategy, and ends up hurting both.” He closed with a promise: “If you’re willing to work with me and fight with me and stand with me … then I promise you this — we will not only rebuild and renew our American cities, north and south, east and west, but you and I, together, will rebuild and renew the promise of America.” To 
what extent has Obama delivered, and 
to what extent can he deliver?

Full story at: http://americancity.org/magazine/article/urban-nation/

Black segregation in US drops to lowest in century

Associated Press December 14, 2010

WASHINGTON — America’s neighborhoods became more integrated last year than during any time in at least a century as a rising black middle class moved into fast-growing white areas in the South and West.

Still, ethnic segregation in many parts of the U.S. persisted, particularly for Hispanics.

Segregation among blacks and whites fell in roughly three-quarters of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas as the two racial groups spread more evenly between inner cities and suburbs, according to recent census data.

The findings are expected to be reinforced with fresh census data being released Tuesday on race, migration and economics. The new information is among the Census Bureau’s most detailed releases yet for neighborhoods.

Full story at: http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/12/14/2701931/black-segregation-in-us-drops.html

City Council holds public hearing on Blue Ridge Apartments zoning

By Kathleen Thurber      Midland Reporter-News December 12, 2010

As construction continues on the Blue Ridge Apartments, the Midland City Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday in what they say they hope is a first step toward finding a resolution that appeases both sides.

The 6 p.m. hearing being held in the Council Chambers officially will address a zone change request initially put forth by the developer in October. As part of that request, though, developer Ken Lokey also is asking for approval of the complex that was built in a different configuration than what the council approved in July of 2008.

“We’re hoping we will solve this issue of people looking in each other’s windows,” Mayor Wes Perry said. “I’m not sure we’re there yet.”

Among other issues with the complex, a three-story building constructed on the north side of the property was turned from the approved east-west orientation to face north-south instead. The shift resulted in balconies from both the second- and third-story directly overlooking the backyards of homes on Caldera Boulevard — which several neighbors say is not just an invasion of privacy but also a squelching of their property rights because of decreased valuations.

Full story at: http://www.mywesttexas.com/top_stories/article_b59d28d0-b2e0-5859-8061-c0ce607a4510.html

Plan for homeless housing riles some in East Austin

Proposal, along with two others, are test cases in whether such projects can be spread across the city.

By Sarah Coppola         Austin American-Statesman December 8, 2010

A rundown, low-rent apartment property in central East Austin could get a face-lift under a $9.7 million renovation plan that is riling some neighbors.

An Alabama company, Summit Housing Partners, and the nonprofit Caritas of Austin want to buy the Marshall Apartments, renovate them and keep them federally subsidized, Section 8 housing. But they would rent 20 of the 100 units — located at 1401 E. 12th St. and 1157 Salina St. — to homeless people whom Caritas would select and provide social services to on site.

Summit wants $2.5 million in city money for the project, which city staffers support and the City Council will consider Thursday.

Full story at: http://www.statesman.com/news/local/plan-for-homeless-housing-riles-some-in-east-1106035.html

Austin approves $2.5 million renovation for East Austin apartments

Despite objections of some neighbors, council sees solution to homeless plight.

By Sarah Coppola       Austin American Statesman December 9, 2010

The Austin City Council on Thursday unanimously approved an East Austin apartment renovation project that had upset some neighbors because it will include housing for homeless people.

The Alabama company Summit Housing Partners and the nonprofit Caritas of Austin plan to buy and renovate the low-rent, rundown Marshall Apartments at East 12th and Salina streets . They will keep the 100 apartments federally subsidized, Section 8 housing, but will rent 20 of them to homeless people whom Caritas will select and provide social services.

Summit and Caritas had asked for $2.5 million — $25,000 per apartment — in city bond money for the project, which council members agreed to Thursday .

Some neighbors opposed the proposal, saying that it conflicts with a long-term land-use plan to transform East 12th, that it costs too much for too little in return and that the homeless tenants could pose safety problems.

Full story at: http://www.statesman.com/news/local/austin-approves-2-5-million-renovation-for-east-1110803.html

Dallas’ anti-panhandling rule worries street vendors

By Rudolph Bush and Kim Horner       Dallas Morning News December 11, 2010

When Dallas toughened up its anti-panhandling ordinance this week to create four “solicitation-free” zones in downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, the city stirred concern among some sidewalk vendors and their advocates.

Specific worries focused on how the city will treat the men and women who sell the Street Zine newspaper, a publication focused on homeless issues, and vendors such as Robert Groden, who peddle tourists merchandise connected to the JFK assassination.

Under the new ordinance, soliciting people for money is prohibited at all times in downtown’s central business district, Deep Ellum, Victory Park and Uptown.

The ordinance was passed as a way to control panhandling. It does make specific allowances for vendors who sell something of value.

Full story at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/DN-panhandle_11met.ART.State.Edition1.27fee36.html