HUD Spotlights BRR Research in New Issue of Evidence Matters

3.13.12 | A new report just out from HUD focuses on regional resilience and the federal government’s new Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative that aims to promote resilience by helping localities build capacity and maximize the effectiveness of federal assistance.

Mayor A.C. Wharton of Memphis, one of the cities chosen to received federal support as part of the pilot project, describes close and productive working relationships between federal and local officials there who are getting things done more quickly with federal support, according to one article. Wharton said the feds are “close enough to see what we’re doing, but they are not so close that they don’t give us some slack and become a part of the problem.”

We were pleased to see work by BRR members featured prominently in this new issue of Evidence Matters, a relatively new publication out of HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research  that focuses on research shaping the Obama Administration’s policy in housing and community development.

The lead story on “Growing Toward the Future: Building Capacity for Local Economic Development” finds that local government leadership, cross sector partnerships and inclusive community participation are critical to increasing regional capacity for growth.

The story draws from research done by Network Member Edward Hill and colleagues that documents factors that make metro regions resilient to economic or natural shocks as well as work led by Network Member Todd Swanstrom that finds local community resilience was a significant factor in how well a region was able to recover from the collapse of the housing market. Here’s more:

No magic bullet exists to insulate regions from major disturbances, changes, or shocks, or to help them quickly recover. Metropolitan regions vary in their ability to resist or handle a crisis depending on the nature and severity of the misfortune; they can be strong in one aspect of resilience but not in another. Having the capacity to be resilient varies even within regions. For example, Todd Swanstrom, a professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, found uneven responses to the foreclosure crisis within a particular metropolitan area, where some suburbs hit especially hard had no organizational infrastructure to immediately help mitigate the crisis.

The article also discusses the kind of community participation and collaboration that will help build a region’s capacity to respond to growth and change, pointing to, among others, Network Chair Margaret Weir’s study of transportation policy in Los Angeles and Chicago, and Network Member Amy Liu’s et al.’s work on the public private connections and external resources that helped New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region respond to Katrina, Rita, and cope with the recent recession.

Subsequent articles in the issue focus on how to conceptualize and measure a region’s resilience. This includes discussion of Network Member Kathryn Foster’s Resilience Capacity Index. The index was developed last year to help metropolitan areas assess their own resilience by examining 12 factors related to a region’s economy, its social and demographic makeup, and its community connectivity.

A final piece on the rapid expansion of suburban poverty is also well worth a read, though the issues will be familiar to readers of this blog. The article cites Network Members Sarah Reckow and Margaret Weir’s 2011 study on philanthropy’s role in building a stronger suburban safety net for low-income suburban families. It also discusses the cross-sector collaboration helping with revilization efforts in Chicago’s south suburbs and in Chester, Pennsylvania. (Also see Barbara’s Q&A with Reckow and Weir on this blog).

You can read the full issue at HUD, and sign up to receive your free subscription here.

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