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Boston LISC Staff blog



Boston Globe Editorial Highlights Partnership to Fight Bed Bug Infestation

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August 25, 2010:

Today’s Boston Globe has an editorial entitled “Don't Let It Happen Here” which describes bed bug infestations impacting a number of major cities around the country. Boston, the Globe notes, is fortunate to not be included in the top ten cities for bed bug problems and the editorial goes on to credit, appropriately, the work of the City of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) for responding aggressively and effectively over the last eight years to bed bug problems.

The Globe editorial only obliquely references the work of community development corporations in addressing the issue. In fact eight years ago it was the work of the Allston Brighton CDC and particularly the Latinos en Accion committee that brought bed bug issues to public notice and began in partnership with Boston Inspectional Services Department to solve the problem. Allston Brighton CDC leaders like Bertha Mejia and then organizing director Juan Gonzalez, organized public meetings and gathered information to begin educating tenants and landlords about the issue. Boston’s Inspectional Services Department led the way with an active response and worked closely with the CDC to educate community residents and property owners. Representative Kevin Honan was able to secure state funding to support education efforts and the Allston Brighton CDC organized a Greater Boston Bed Bug task force that included other community development corporations, tenant advocates, and public health advocates. I was proud to support these efforts as the then executive director of the Allston Brighton CDC.

This is a great example of the neighborhood problem solving work that community development corporations do that improves the quality of life for residents. It has been and remains very difficult to raise funds to cover the costs of community organizers and housing counselors that work with community residents and come up with workable grass roots solutions. You can read the full editorial here.
 

 

Special Issue Explores the “New Green Economy” in Massachusetts

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August 23, 2010:

The summer issue of Commonwealth Magazine, published by Mass INC, was accompanied by a special issue, “Green Power.” The magazine explores the pros, cons, and all the grey areas of the “new green economy” in Massachusetts. Essentially, the special issue discusses Boston’s poor recycling record, two factions of environmentalists (one for wind power and one against), the potential development of green jobs, and the costs and benefits of the Commonwealth’s myriad green initiatives. Are the costs of promoting green jobs, encouraging energy efficient homes, creating renewable energy sources, and incentivizing green entrepreneurship worth the benefit they will create? And what is the payback time on those public investments? Most importantly, how do we holistically quantify as a dollar amount the benefit of a cleaner environment, and how do we justify forging ahead while our neighbors are not? The special issue does not propose answers to the questions it raises, but leaves them for us to consider.

Meanwhile, the New York Times published an article on Portugal’s recent shift towards renewable energy. Surprise! Portugal has struggled with the same issues that Massachusetts has! However, Portugal’s electricity will be 45% renewable in 2010 and 60% renewable in 2020. Massachusetts’ renewable energy accounts for 5% of total electricity production this year and is required to reach 15% by 2020. Perhaps we can look to Portugal as a courageous ally, a beacon of hope, or at least a test case to provide insight on how we can move forward intelligently, quickly, and surely in the years ahead.
 

 

Article Describes Work of Esther Duflo and Poverty Action Lab

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May 18, 2010: The  May 17th issue of the New Yorker has a great article describing the work of MIT economist Esther Duflo and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at MIT which she co-founded. Duflo is a 37 year old French woman who has been able to design experiments to evaluate strategies to reduce poverty or alleviate other social problems.  She has worked to apply the method of randomized control trials, common for medical research, to social interventions ranging from micro-finance to affirmative action in India for women in village leadership roles.

The article describes some of her work in India and Rwanda.  All of the research work described in the New Yorker article was undertaken in the developing world.  It would be interesting to know if the Poverty Action Lab has undertaken research on anti-poverty strategies in the United States.  Duflo has done significant work on the efficacy of micro-finance.  The research work on micro-finance was done in India with an organization called Spandana, and Duflo's conclusions were that micro-finance was not a panacea as a strategy to alleviate poverty.  Apparently the micro-finance industry reacted in a strongly negative way to Duflo's research.  It would be fascinating to know if the Poverty Action Lab has taken a look at asset building strategies like individual development accounts.

The New Yorker website has an abstract of the article here. Access to the full article is by subscription only.  You can find out more about the Poverty Action Lab at their website.

 

From Transit-Oriented Development to Development-Oriented Transit

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May 11, 2010: The current  (June 2010) issue of The Atlantic includes a "Special Report" called  "The Future of the City" with three articles.  The most interesting to me was a piece entitled "Here Comes the Neighborhood".  The author, Christopher Leinberger, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, describes the disparate impact of the real estate crash of the the current recession on ex-urban areas and more transit friendly areas. Leinberger describes how real estate values have fallen much more sharply in ex-urban locations than in walkable and transit friendly areas and asserts that these differences in demand will likely continue to be a factor even as the economic recovery takes hold. 

For Leinberger, the key to creating more dense walkable neighborhoods is new infrastructure, primarily transit infrastructure, to support that development.  He describes the increasing burden of transportation costs on families and the difficulty of paying for new transit infrastructure.  Then he proposes a solution from America's urban past, developer-financed transit.  He writes, "in the early 20th century, every town of more than 5,000 people was served by streetcars" and describes how much of that streetcar infrastructure was built by real estate developers who benefited from the increased value created by access to transit.  He then suggests that real estate developers could again help finance a new rail infrastructure for America's cities.  The full article is available here.  Having heard again and again about the budget  constraints on building new transit both here in Massachusetts and around the country, the case for developer financed transit seems well worth exploring.

 

 

 

 

Cambridge CDC Director Peter Daly Receives National Honor

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April 9, 2010:

Peter Daly, executive director of Homeowners Rehab and its affiliate Cambridge Neighborhood Apartment Housing Services in Cambridge, was honored as "Practitioner of the Year" by the National Neighborworks Association at their recent annual symposium in Bethesda, Maryland.  Peter, the longtime executive director of Homeowners Rehab, was cited for his work in the past year in both addressing the social and educational needs of residents and for his leadership in addressing the energy and environmental impacts of buildings.  

Boston LISC is proud to be a supporter of the energy work that Homeowners Rehab has undertaken.  Boston LISC's CDC Green Retrofit Initiative is helping to diffuse the practical knowledge about making affordable housing more energy efficient that Peter and his staff have developed to a larger group of CDC practitioners in the Boston area. Congratulations to Peter on this well deserved honor.

 

 

 
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