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Land Matters

Author: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

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A behind the scenes look at what makes cities tick. Whether financing infrastructure, adapting to climate change, or building more affordable housing, a big part of innovative solutions can be traced back to land.
16 Episodes
Recently reelected Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego reflects on a supercharged election season – and how, among other changes, Phoenix is becoming a more sustainable, and more urban, place. The nation’s fifth-largest metropolis is battling COVID, stepping up measures to conserve water, and providing new housing and transit options for its growing population.
With revenues down and pandemic-related expenditures up, state and local governments are facing a fiscal meltdown this fall and beyond. Experts from the Lincoln Institute talk about the options, including layoffs and cuts in services, and explain how leaving cities and states to struggle on their own might actually worsen a recession.
To make sense of the current discussion of affordable housing in cities or in suburbs, it is necessary to understand the history of discrimination that has been part and parcel of US housing policy and programs, says Lisa Rice, president of the National Fair Housing Alliance.
The coronavirus pandemic and growing outrage about racial injustice have underscored the centrality of healthy, well-located, and affordable housing in society. Author Kim Vermeer and smart growth advocate Andre Leroux assess efforts to create more housing options to address longstanding economic and racial disparities.
For Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, the coronavirus crisis began in earnest when California Governor Gavin Newsom asked to allow sick passengers to disembark from the Crown Princess cruise ship, in the West Oakland port area. And life as mayor of this Bay Area city of 435,000 has not been the same since. Schaaf oversaw a successful lockdown, placed the homeless in vacant hotel rooms, and closed sections of streets to vehicular traffic to encourage biking and walking. Now she is focused on making Oakland more sustainable and equitable than before the pandemic struck.
The coronavirus pandemic has utterly changed virtually all aspects of urban life, both now and for the foreseeable future. Cities like Detroit – before the crisis, arguably on the brink of a rebound -- now must make a wide range of adjustments in programs and initiatives in their quest for equitable regeneration. The long recovery ahead will move from near-term responses to a more holistic re-imagining of how communities function, according to two leaders at the Lincoln Institute’s Center for Community Investment.
Financing urban infrastructure and promoting decent, affordable housing were both big topics at the United Nations global cities summit, the World Urban Forum, recently held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Architect and urban planner Claudio Acioly helps explain the worldwide effort to improve conditions in fast-growing cities in the developing world, where one of four people live in slums.
The new year is a time to set goals for the future. But what happens when an entire planet tries to make a common pledge? Economist and Lincoln Institute President George W. “Mac” McCarthy takes stock of an impressive roster of global agreements, from the ozone-repairing Montreal Protocol to the Paris climate accord and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, in the spotlight at the World Urban Forum 10 in Abu Dhabi.
A classic post-industrial city on the brink of bankruptcy, Hartford, Connecticut has overhauled its zoning and turned abandoned factories into craft breweries and makers spaces. Can the city be just as creative in replacing a crumbling 1960s-era highway through downtown? Planning commissioner Sara Bronin talks about the cutting-edge urban planning practices she hopes will put the city back on the map.
Cities around the world are hard at work on traffic congestion. Boston has established multi-modal street layouts and special drop-off zones for Uber and Lyft in high-volume areas such as around Fenway Park, for example. But the task is about to get more complex, with the advent of driverless vehicles, delivery robots, and AI-enabled trackless trams -- all of which will require a more wholesale transformation of the cityscape. In this episode, the Lincoln Institute’s Heather Hannon explains how the emerging practice of scenario planning can help design the future city.
Climate change can seem like an insurmountable challenge. But many tools and policies to decarbonize the economy and build resilience are readily available, says Billy Fleming, director of The McHarg Center and one of the editors of the new Lincoln Institute book Design with Nature Now. The green and blue infrastructure systems detailed in the book are proven solutions that need only be implemented on a larger scale – in a national mobilization similar to preparing for war or sending a man to the moon.
Moves by Minneapolis

Moves by Minneapolis


Minneapolis may seem like an unlikely place for the start of a revolution. But as City Councilor Lisa Bender explains, the Midwestern city has passed some of the most progressive housing policies and zoning reforms in the country. The measures, including banning single-family-only zoning, are based on one important idea: that when local government changes the rules of the game to allow more building, the public should get something back in the form of more affordability.
Solutions in Slums

Solutions in Slums


Slums have been a feature of cities for centuries, and accelerating global urbanization has led to an unprecedented number of people living in substandard conditions. Cities have responded with a range of policies including eviction and relocation. But some suggest that cities should stop thinking of slums as a problem to be solved. In this episode, the Lincoln Institute’s Enrique Silva and Theresa Williamson, who has worked for years in Rio’s favelas, exchange ideas about how to make improvements in existing communities while promoting alternatives for future settlement. More on slums: Theresa Williamson’s lecture on community land trusts
Water Meets Land

Water Meets Land


Episode 3: Water Meets Land As the global water crisis intensifies, the Colorado River Basin is poised to become a model for how to bring together stakeholders representing agriculture, urban areas, and the natural environment. In this episode, we’ve put together highlights and takeaways from the 2019 Journalists Forum (#WaterMeetsLand) – including the importance of considering the central role of land use in the management of a dwindling resource. For more:
Yes in My Backyard

Yes in My Backyard


Those in the “Yes in My Backyard” or YIMBY movement have a simple goal: increase the supply of housing in cities across the US, and sky-high prices should come down. But they face a growing backlash from neighborhood activists fearful of gentrification and displacement. In California, a bill to fast-track more height and density near transit stations was derailed, even with a provision to require affordable homes through inclusionary housing, a land value capture mechanism. In this episode, Randy Shaw, a San Francisco-based tenants advocate and author of “Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in Urban America,” talks about the multi-pronged efforts needed to confront the affordable housing crisis in cities nationwide. For further reading, see Backyard Brouhaha in Land Lines magazine.
Let's Talk TIF

Let's Talk TIF


Tax increment financing is one of the most widely used – and least understood – public finance mechanisms in the U.S. today. David Merriman, author of the Lincoln Institute report Improving TIF for Economic Development, talks about what communities can do to avoid the pitfalls. For further reading, see also The Hidden Costs of TIF in Land Lines.
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