In the spotlight

From Rejection to Legitimation: Governing the Emergence of Organized Homeless Encampments

By Stephen Przybylinski (Michigan State University) | In April 2021, the City of Portland, Oregon legalized sanctioned, self-managed houseless encampments. It did so in a very pedestrian manner, by amending its land use ordinances that regulate houseless camping in order to make encampments amenable with the city code. This is a big deal! Currently, the regulatory responses by municipalities experiencing high numbers of unsheltered houselessness is quite varied. There does seem to be support for the idea that organized encampments provide more dignified spaces of respite for unhoused people than those offered by mass shelters. Cities like Seattle and Oakland, for example, have permitted organized houseless encampments for years now. At the same time, municipal governments have targeted encampments for decades, dispersing the tent sites and taking individuals’ possessions. This punitive response continues today. In February 2023, for instance, the Culver City Council (Los Angeles) banned unhoused people from sleeping in tents in public (Solis 2023). In reality, these two approaches often operate hand-in-hand; organized encampments may simultaneously be tolerated or even permitted for some time by a municipality, while less organized sites are quickly disbanded by them. Portland’s recent land use amendment substantiates the city’s shift away from its longstanding opposition to homeless camping toward legitimating self-managed communal living. Whatever one thinks of this decision, Portland’s move to legalize self-managed encampments presents an interesting policy pathway for providing alternatives to mass shelters or rough sleeping in public spaces. Read More
  • By Jen Nelles and Jay Rickabaugh | In this colloquium, we explore the variety of actors involved in the cross-boundary cooperation that we associate with American regional governance and the evolving connections and relationships between them. We aim to produce a cutting-edge review of the state of the field of American regionalism that is accessible, thought provoking, and forward looking. In bringing together scholarship on different mechanisms for cross-boundary cooperation, and highlighting common themes, we hope to transcend some of the barriers in our field and begin to develop a comprehensive, grounded, and modern understanding of the dimensions of regional governance. The contributing scholars approach this broad question of regional activity with original quantitative data, case studies, interviews, and new arguments for theory development or research. We further hope to spark some lively debate that can generate sustained interest in the important work happening in American regions.  Read More
  • By Hadas Zur (Tel Aviv University) | Numerous studies have shown how gentrification processes promote and are supported by an increase in policing. Areas under gentrification are subject to more intensive police presence, stop-and-arrest practices, aggressive police tactics and surveillance. These claims are raised by long-term residents who suffer from and witness intensified police presence in their neighborhoods, and are also supported by empirical data on 311 calls to police and by qualitative studies with new residents who admit for demanding more police presence. However, the voices and reflections of police officers who operate in these transformative times and spaces have yet to be heard. This study focuses on the perspective of police officers working in a high-crime neighborhood undergoing gentrification in South Tel Aviv, Israel. It is based on qualitative interviews with police officers and commanders (N-15), ethnographic work with urban police and a spatial analysis of urban renewal. Read More
  • By Andrew Sullivan (University of Central Florida) | Organizations and policymakers have recently brought the definition of homelessness to the forefront, including multiple reports by the Government Accountability Office, and the Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2021 which was introduced but not passed. Much of this debate stems from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) not including households living doubled-up – i.e., sharing housing due to economic hardship, loss of housing, or a similar reason – as homeless, contrary to many other definitions of homelessness. As such, reviewing how federal agencies measure homelessness provides insight into how they define the problem of housing insecurity and what impacts measurement has on determining where services are most needed. How scholars and policymakers define homelessness alters its measurement and perceived prevalence, driving where agencies target assistance and shaping policy solutions. Read More
  • As we near the end of our tenure as editors of Urban Affairs Review, we want to thank and publicly acknowledge the people who have supported UAR through service on our editorial board between January 2014 and December 2022. We are grateful for your encouragement, advice, and willingness to spend your time helping us produce this journal. Read More
  • By Heather Khan Welsh (Eastern Michigan University), Laura Reese (Michigan State University), and Teagan Reese (Federal Emergency Management Agency) | Local policies related to immigrant attraction and settlement include efforts to attract and support immigrants for economic development purposes (entrepreneurialism and business start-up support, credentialing), smooth transitions (multi-lingual services, ESL, citizenship support), embracing diversity (multi-cultural community events), and providing assistance in accessing needed local services (housing, health care, employment support). Given the lack of consistent national policies, the variety of policy positions at the local level indeed represents a patchwork raising questions about what kinds of local governments are focusing on policies supportive of immigrants. By testing alternate explanations of local immigration policy, the research contributes to the development of theory related to policymaking in this area. Based on a national survey of municipalities across the US there is little evidence that racial threat theory limits local immigrant supportive policies, i.e., greater diversity appears to drive local immigrant attraction and support policies generally and for welcoming and entrepreneurial policies in particular. However, policy determinants differ by the type of immigrant attraction and support policy examined. Read More
  • By Tanu Kumar (Claremont Graduate University) and Matthew Stenberg (University of California, Berkeley) | The United Nations estimates more than half of the global population currently lives in cities, and 68% of the world’s population is projected to live in urban areas by 2050 (United Nations 2018). A large portion of this growing urban population lives outside of major metropolitan areas. Yet much of our knowledge about urban politics comes from studying the largest cities, and smaller cities are systematically understudied relative to their share of the population. In our article, “Why Political Scientists Should Study Smaller Cities,” we examine what an insufficient focus on small cities might lead scholars to miss. We explore many policy areas where we might expect smaller cities to be different than larger ones and we offer strategies to study smaller cities. Read More
  • By Cameron Gordon (Australian National University), Richard Flanagan (City University of New York), and Jonathan Peters (City University of New York) | The New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-CT-PA Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area is an urban colossus. It is the largest and wealthiest metropolitan area in the nation with a population over 19 million residents and a GDP of $1.9 trillion in 2019, covering an expanse of four states, 31 counties, and 782 municipal governments (Regional Plan Association 2019; U.S. Census 2020; U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. 2020). But even a region as wealthy and storied as New York has problems. It is a territory with some of the worst commuting times in the nation. Its lengthy coastlines are vulnerable to climate change hardships, and housing and other basics are increasingly unaffordable. These facts have not escaped notice from policy influencers in the region. The leading authority in this space, the Regional Plan Association (RPA), has itemized many of Greater New York’s policy woes. RPA argues for a transformation of governance with the creation of new, regional institutions such as an infrastructure bank, a coastal commission, regional school districts, and a regional census (Regional Planning Association 2019). Read More
  • By Catherine Ashcraft (University of New Hampshire) and Christina Rosan (Temple University) | In the U.S., governing our regions has always been complicated, but with climate, the need for regional solutions is amplified and more urgent. Given exciting new federal financial and technical assistance to support climate and justice actions that is becoming available through the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, we see exciting opportunities to amplify and expand existing regional governance efforts to make them more inclusive and increase regional resilience. We argue for investing in and building on emergent climate regionalism as a pragmatic pathway of least political resistance and immediacy. We see networks of regional actors who are embedded in relationships with existing, trusted, democratic institutions and have a track record of success as natural leaders of efforts to center equity and justice in climate planning toward more fundamental and structural change. In this post, to illustrate the possible pathways for emergent climate regionalism, we consider two different cases in New England, the New Hampshire Climate Adaptation Working Group (NHCAW) and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), that on paper may not seem to have what we traditionally think about as “power”. This post presents our shared findings based on research and experiences with these organizations (Rosan 2016), which includes Catherine Ashcraft being a member of NHCAW.  Read More
  • By Thomas Skuzinski (Northern Illinois University) and Carolina Velandia Hernandez (Northern Illinois University) | More than six decades ago, the eminent land use attorney and scholar Charles Haar observed that “the regional plan is again largely a didactic exercise. While the usefulness denoted by its very existence should not be minimized, it must be recognized that the effect of such regional plans in directing the application of human energies in land development is indeed small” (1957, 523).Anyone engaged in understanding and solving regional problems—the myriad problems that span beyond the scope of authority and likely functional capacity of a single local government—will recognize that these words continue to ring true today. Regional planning is widespread, pervasive, and frequent, especially in metropolitan settings. But land use regulation is “arguably the sole legal domain in which local governments are preeminent” (Camacho and Marantz 2019, 141) and has even been described as a cornerstone of American localism (Cashin 1999; Briffault 1990). The highest hanging fruit, therefore, for any regional policy agenda is a unified development ordinance that covers zoning, subdivision, and supportive capital projects and that is commensurate with the scale of regional problems. A healthy alternative would be any cross-boundary land use regulation—any attempt at shared land use regulatory power among two or more units of local government. Read More
  • By Lachezar G. Anguelov (The Evergreen State College) | As we seek a better understanding of how communities coordinate policies and projects across jurisdictional boundaries, we observe tremendous variation of solutions that coexist in any given region. Often our focus is on “visible” institutional arrangements, though many initiatives operate rather effectively in the shadows of formalization. Contributing to the conversation on regionalism approaches, this paper explores the prevalence and dynamics of complex network governance in the state of Washington. Read More
  • By Jayce Farmer (University of Nevada-Las Vegas) | The increasing pressures of climate change can pose challenges for public water utilities through the economic and environmental impacts of droughts, excessive heat, flooding, and the deterioration of water quality (EPA 2021; Dombrowsky, Bauer and Scheumann 2016; Cromwell, Smith and Raucher 2007). Such challenges have placed utility districts at the forefront of finding strategies to sustain region-wide water supplies. Therefore, these entities can have great interests in taking sustainability actions that can result in direct benefits through energy and water conservation related cost-savings (Homsy 2016). Furthermore, the fiscal and technical capacity of utility districts can also produce external sustainability related benefits that transcend local boundaries and produce positive impacts for entire regions. Read More
  • By Maria Alva (Georgetown University), Natnaell Mammo (The Lab @ DC), Ryan T. Moore (The Lab @ DC), and Sam Quinney (The Lab @ DC) | The District of Columbia piloted and evaluated a shallow rent subsidy to answer two questions: Do shallow flexible rental subsidies promote housing stability? And, can they be a vehicle to further stretch the existing housing resources to serve more people? These questions are important to growing metropolitan areas like D.C. that face severe challenges in making housing affordable and preventing homelessness. Similar to New York or San Francisco, most D.C. residents are renters, 70% of whom spend more than 30% of their gross income on rent. Approximately 1 out of every 125 residents in D.C. is in emergency shelters, in transitional housing, or is unsheltered. Housing vouchers, representing "deeper subsidies," have historically been in short supply and, necessarily, targeted at the most vulnerable households. In 2017, D.C.'s Department of Human Services (DHS) decided to test a model that could serve more residents by targeting a shallow subsidy to families experiencing housing instability but not homelessness. To this end, DHS began piloting the Flexible Rent Subsidy Program (D.C. Flex). Read More
  • Urban Affairs Review is sponsoring a $250 award given by the the Urban and Local Politics Section for the Best Paper in Urban or Regional Politics presented at the 2022 American Political Science Association conference. We encourage chairs of all Urban and Local Politics Section panels to nominate papers. We also welcome self-nominations. Papers presented on any panel associated with the conference are eligible for this award. Read More
  • By Victoria Morckel (University of Michigan-Flint) and Noah Durst (Michigan State University) | Sophisticated methods for studying changes in the physical forms of cities that are losing population (i.e. “shrinking cities”) are lacking in the literature. This research highlights the use of a newer method—ArcGIS Pro’s emerging hot spot analysis of space-time cubes from defined locations—to examine the spread of housing vacancy, a common indicator of city shrinkage. The method has existed in ESRI’s ArcGIS Pro since 2017, but has not been previously applied to the study of vacancy. This method differs from traditional hot spot methodologies in that it identifies statistically significant spatiotemporal relationships (i.e. spatial change over time). Read More
  • By Lynda Cheshire (The University of Queensland, Australia), Siqin Wang (The University of Queensland, Australia) and Yan Liu (The University of Queensland, Australia) | Human beings live in a society embedded by intricate networks and relationships with other people, including their neighbors who offer localized interactions at the day-to-day level. While it is expected that neighbors are generally friendly, helpful and respectful of each other’s privacy, in reality, there is considerable variation in the way neighbors perceive and interact with each other. This suggests that neighboring is not an unproblematic social practice, but can be wrought with tensions and conflicts that arise in the context of living in physical proximity. Neighbor annoyances over noise, pets, parking, fences or trees can undermine one’s sense of home as a place of enjoyment, privacy and autonomy, while disputes can escalate into criminal behavior involving damage to property, intimidating behavior and physical harm. Read More
  • By Loren Collingwood (University of New Mexico), Gabriel Martinez (University of New Mexico), and Kassra A.R. Oskooii (University of Delaware) | In 1982, Tucson, Arizona, birthed the sanctuary movement, with a minister of Southside Presbyterian declaring his church a sanctuary for immigrant refugees fleeing civil conflict in El Salvador and Guatemala. However, in 2019, despite being a broadly progressive city with a 2 to 1 advantage in registered Democrats, Tucson voted down a ballot initiative (Proposition 205) that would have made the city a sanctuary. While no single definition exists, sanctuary cities have two common elements: 1) an ordinance that forbids local law enforcement from inquiring into residents’ immigration status and, 2) limits on local law enforcement’s cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Read More
  • 2021 UAR Two-Year Journal Impact Factor Released in June 2022 is 2.387. Read More
  • By Traci Burch (Northwestern University) | It is clear from the news, and perhaps even from personal experience, that many citizens are mobilizing to express outrage and demand justice in the wake of officer-involved killings.  However, despite the fact that officer-involved killings are the focus of such an important social movement, very little work attempts to explain the circumstances that lead the public to protest the deaths of particular victims. In my UAR paper, I leverage my own collection of data on individuals killed by police, combined with the Collaborative Multi-racial Political Survey (CMPS) and demographic data, to show that officer-involved killings can have complex effects on protest. Read More
  • By Domingo Morel (Rutgers University), Akira Drake Rodriguez (University of Pennsylvania), Mara Sidney (Rutgers University), Nakeefa B. Garay (Rutgers University), and Adam Straub (Rutgers University) | The city of Newark, New Jersey holds an important role in the field of urban politics: its infamous uprisings/rebellions of 1967 spawned the 1968 Kerner Commission, a voluminous report that placed the blame of the emerging “urban crisis” at the feet of policymakers operating on the local, state, and federal level; on the widespread police brutality supported by these policymakers, and on the White-oriented media that provided cover for those in power. Following the uprisings, Newark remained in the shadow of other post-industrial cities that emerged from the moment of crisis stronger than ever: New York, Hoboken, Jersey City, and Philadelphia have seen recent gains in population and economic activity. But Newark also charted another important path in urban politics: beginning in 1970, the city elected the first Black mayor of a major northeastern city and has continued to elect Black mayors into the present. Read More
  • By Steven P. Erie (adapted from a presentation to the Scholia Club of San Diego on May 10, 2022) | Norton E. Long (1910-1993), through his writings, teaching, mentoring, and extensive public service, was an extraordinary public intellectual. He was committed to understanding and improving governance and the functioning of public bureaucracy in a democratic society; making the public interest and improving the human condition the core missions for civic participation and leadership; and warned of the perils of a racially-segregated metropolis and society. Read More