This week in community development: 5/23/14

Every week, Praxia Partners shares important community-building news. Check out what we’ve been reading this week.

Building communities

  • foodThe older population in America is skyrocketing, and cities will need to adjust. In the Washington Post, Richard K. Lewis writes: “Cities must adopt land use, zoning and fiscal policies that encourage and support private-sector development or redevelopment specifically tailored to meet the housing and health-care needs of seniors. Such policies must address urban location considerations to ensure that the benefits of city living — for elderly residents and the city as a whole — are realized.”
  • Rwanda has embraced mandatory community service. What could this practice do for American cities? (Stanford Social Innovation Review)
  • Lisa Sturtevant says that “good local housing policy is good economic development policy.” Affordable housing improves communities by putting more money into the local economy, as low-income families with quality affordable housing options have more money to spend on groceries, clothes, and other household necessities. When affordable housing is located thoughtfully, workers have shorter commutes and traffic congestion is eased. Incorporating public transit access into affordable housing is good for the environment and good for family budgets. And finally, stable communities increase a sense of belonging(Shelterforce’s Rooflines)
  • How can we build communities that are safe for deaf and hearing-impaired Americans? From Atlantic Cities: 

Now Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the nation’s leading institution for the deaf and hard of hearing, has produced a set of so-called DeafSpace Guidelines that address those aspects of the urban environment that inhibit communication and mobility among those who communicate with their hands. In doing so, architects and design researchers have used technology to gather information on how deaf people use public spaces and modify them to meet their needs. Campus officials say that the guidelines have already begun a dialogue that they hope will have an impact on urban development nationwide.

Economic opportunity

  • A UNICEF report finds that the US has higher rates of child poverty than most other developed nations.
  • Women who excel in high school and college and attain more credentials than male peers who are only middling academically still earn less. From Think Progress (their words, my emphasis):

The finding that even the highest achieving female students can’t close the gender wage gap is true for higher education as well. A woman who is one credential ahead of a man will always be worth less in terms of income: a woman with an associate’s degree makes less than a man with a vocational degree, a woman with a bachelor’s makes less than a man with an associate’s, and a woman with an advanced degree makes less than a man with a bachelor’s. Even among recent college graduates with the same grades, majors, and career fields, men will make more in their first jobs. While many factors go into the gender wage gap that means women who work full-time, year-round make 77 percent of what their male peers make, educational attainment clearly can’t explain it. In fact, when all factors are taken into account, about 40 percent of it remains unexplained. It’s likely discrimination is playing at least some role in that remaining portion.

When many Americans see food stamp recipients who are obese, or struggling families with flat-screen televisions, they wonder how this can happen; same thing when they see a poor kid in an expensive pair of sneakers. Brian Charles, a reporter on the poverty beat in Connecticut, talks about “death by a thousand ‘no’s’.’ As he explains it, what people don’t see when they see that kid in the Nikes is that the kid’s mom may have said no so many times that finally, when the kid wanted those sneakers, for once, that thousandth time, she said yes. Tell the story of those moms, and those kids. Explain how flat-screens are cheap but good schools and real opportunity are not. Explain the link between scarcity and obesity. And tell the stories through the experience of the real experts, the people who live them, by connecting with organizations like Witnesses to Hunger.

Environmental stewardship

  • The Environmental Protection Agency will soon institute carbon emission regulations on existing power plants. From the Washington Post article:

The EPA plan resembles proposals made by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which would allow states and companies to employ a variety of ­measures — including new ­renewable-energy and energy-efficiency projects “outside the fence,” or away from the power-plant site — to meet their carbon- reduction target. While the overall target may fall slightly short of what environmentalists have pressed for, the approach is in line with their push to make major cuts in greenhouse gases while seeking to soften the impact on consumer electricity prices.

  • Solar power plants now produce energy 24 hours a day. (Boulder Weekly)
  • Are solar roadways in our future? (Elite Daily)
  • India is turning to solar and offshore wind to meets enormous energy needs. (The Economic Times)
  • Rural Tanzanians are replacing dangerous, ineffective kerosene lamps with solar power. (Take Part)
  • Aruba and other Caribbean countries are capitalizing on their renewable energy capacity. In fact, by 2020, Aruba hopes to derive all of its energy from renewable sources. (Caribbean Journal)
  • One of the Canary Islands is set to become the first fully self-sufficient island, producing 100% of its energy needs from wind power. (Triple Pundit)

What do you think was the most important community development story this week? Share your insights and thoughts below or by email.

For news about solar power and sustainability, visit Community Renewable Energy’s blog.

About Holly

Holly Jensen is a writer and poet who has worked with nonprofits and businesses for over a decade. She also serves as editor of The Ghazal Page, an international literary journal.
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