Publications by Jon Davis

Jon Davis is a writer with HiredPen which offers social media services to research institutes and nonprofits. A freelance journalist in Chicago, he has covered municipal government, transportation and development for 21 years. He also worked with the Congress for the New Urbanism on its Emergency Response & Street Design Initiative. His stories have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, New Urban News, and Planning Magazine.

Record Numbers Spend Half Their Income on Housing

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

10.8.2013 | Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing declared the housing industry’s recovery from the Great Recession began in 2012, “heralded by rising home prices and further rental market tightening.”

That may be so for the housing industry, but what about the people who inhabit, or are assumed to inhabit all those homes? After all, as the MacArthur Foundation noted, travel and tourism workers are among those in service industries struggling to find affordable housing in metropolitan areas throughout the United States. (more…)

Brookings Grades US Exports: Improving, But Still Need Work

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

10.3.2013 | Strong US exports are a major driver of the economic recovery, but there is still plenty of room for improvement, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution.

Per Brookings’ Export Nation 2013 page, which includes a handy map allowing you to track each metro’s progress (or potential):

“The top 100 metro areas alone account for 64 percent of the nation’s total exports and all but one of the top 100 metros saw an increase in exports from 2003 to 2012. While growth has been strong, the United States is more than $200 billion below the administration’s goal to double exports in five years. Only 12 of the top 100 metro areas have maintained the 15 percent annual growth rate required to double exports, suggesting that there is significant potential for the expansion of exports at the metro level.” (more…)

Resilient Regions, Resilient Globe

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

10.1.2013 | Across the planet, the human race is reorganizing itself on an epic scale. One hundred years ago, just 10 percent of the approximately 1.65 billion of us lived in cities. By 2050, when, according to population growth projections, there will be 9 billion of us, 75 percent of the world’s population will live in cities.

Here at BRR, we’ve been concentrating on regional resilience, particularly the metropolitan regions within the United States. The Rockefeller Foundation’s “100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge” takes an even broader look at urban resilience—across the planet and in the face of growing climate troubles, human demands, and that exponential urbanization. (more…)

Poverty of Opportunity

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

9.26.2013 | The US Census Bureau announced last week that, statistically speaking, the nation’s poverty rate and real median household income for 2012 were the same as the year before—stuck at 15 percent, and $51,000, respectively. Stuck and stagnant.

It’s a sign of our times that this is considered progress. Even so, the economic recovery is not reaching the middle or lower class. As Richard Fry of the Pew Research Center put it, “There is a sense that in middle-income America … they’ve been treading water for 15 years.”

There was a flurry of reaction to the news this week. Here’s a rundown.
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Federal Largesse: Not by Pork Barrel Politics Alone

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

9.24.2013 | It’s not always about pork. While pork-barrel politics is alive and well, it’s not the only force driving how (and where) federal dollars are doled out.  In an analysis of federal largess by major metropolitan area, BRR’s Sarah Rechkow finds that the density of the nonprofit sector, the state capital’s location, and percentage of people in poverty had a lot to do with how much federal grant money cities got. (more…)

Spending More on Bus Transit Helps Lower Employee Turnover—and Makes Neighborhoods More Resilient

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

9.18.2013 | Of the myriad reasons why some neighborhoods, cities, suburbs, or regions are more resilient than others, this space has considered everything from whether ZIP codes are more important than genetics to questions of renting vs. homeownership, from the link between income mobility and where you live to questions of national housing policy reform.

The Federal Reserve Board took time in April to examine the rebuilding of low-income communities and factors that make them resilient. Papers and video session highlights from the Resilience and Rebuilding for Low-Income Communities conference are now available online. (more…)

Novel Uses For Abandoned Infrastructure

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

9.17.13 | If there is a silver lining to the Great Recession—and I hate to even use that phrase since there has been nothing good about the Great Recession—it has been the accelerating trend away from sprawl.

Across the country, rising gasoline prices means commuting is swallowing even more of people’s household income. This is decimating exurbs and their attendant strip-malls and indoor shopping centers. So, too, has the growing preference of Millennials to live in cities and urbanized suburbs that offer traditional neighborhood design, transit, and diversity. (more…)

Fracking’s Effects on Ohio’s Economy … For Now

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

9.12.13 |Fracking”—the process of hydraulically cracking underground rock strata to release oil and natural gas, is a hot topic on many levels. In the Dakotas, a new gold rush is underway, with once dying towns springing to life as workers flock to the natural gas fields. The rush has been both a boon and a strain on local economies as a flood of workers creates housing shortages and other changes. States farther east are pinning their hopes on natural gas as well, as the Marcellus Shale formation harbors untapped potential (and fears). While many are banking, quite literally, on this new industry to revive economies, there are still a lot of unknowns.

In a quarterly report released last month from the Energy Policy Center at the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, Ned Hill and Kelly Kinahan provide an initial assessment of the statewide economic impacts stemming from fracking in the Utica shale formation, which underlies a large chunk of Ohio. (more…)

Redesigning a Civic Icon and Highway with Community Input

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

9.10.13 | I suppose the headline was irresistible: Chicagoans want better LSD. The historic irony is that Mayor Richard J. Daley justified his brutal crackdown during the 1968 Democratic Convention in part based on rumors that hippies and “yippies” planned to spike the city’s water supply with… LSD.

The truth is more mundane, but frankly more interesting: It’s (long past) time to rebuild the northern half of Lake Shore Drive—our city’s premiere lakefront highway—which carries, depending on the location, anywhere between 62,900 and 154,000 vehicles daily, including Chicago Transit Authority express buses, and whose infrastructure in places dates back to the 1930s. (more…)

Place Pulse: Taking the Social Resilience Temperature?

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

9.3.13 | Here’s an interesting premise: Can a click-poll asking you to choose between two city images provide a general sense of how people see, sense, and experience their urban environments?

Place Pulse at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is betting on yes.

Can it validate the “Broken Windows” theory? Perhaps.

“Cities are not just collections of demographics, but places that people experience,” the site says, explaining its purpose. “Urban environments are known to elicit strong evaluative responses, and there is evidence and theories suggesting that these responses may affect criminal and health behaviors. Yet, we lack good quantitative data on the responses elicited by urban environments. Place Pulse is an effort to help collect quantitative data of urban perception to help advance these research efforts and open new avenues of research.” (more…)