News & Event
By Amanda Milkovitz / Journal Staff Writer
Posted Sep 16, 2017 at 9:58 PM
Updated Sep 16, 2017 at 9:58 PM
Some 500 veterans attended the Operation Stand Down/Rhode Island outreach event at Diamond Hill State Park.
CUMBERLAND, R.I. — They served their country — some decades ago, some just recently, and some who deployed again and again.
And when they returned, some of them disappeared into the shadows of society and ended up on the streets, struggling and feeling forgotten by a public that claims to honor its veterans.
This is what three Vietnam veterans from Rhode Island — Tony DeQuattro, Robert O’Connor and Jack Ordner — saw happening to fellow servicemen and women decades ago. And, DeQuattro said Saturday, he was tired of waiting for the government to help.
So, 25 years ago, the three men held the first Operation Stand Down/Rhode Island outreach event. They set up a military-style tent city at the old Ladd School, in Exeter, and bused in homeless and at-risk veterans to spend the weekend, getting free medical and legal care, haircuts, and services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Forty veterans came to that first event.
This weekend, it was more like 500. And at Diamond Hill State Park, where the event has been held for the last 23 years, the number of volunteers and services have also expanded to help homeless veterans.
RIPTA and shuttle buses brought in veterans from all across the state. The District Court and Traffic Tribunal set up tents to help veterans deal with court costs, expungements and traffic violations, while the state Department of Motor Vehicles assisted them with reinstating licenses. Veterans could get haircuts, dental care, medical and mental health services, check if they have unclaimed property, and pick up clothing.
Gov. Gina Raimondo, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Brig. Gen. Christopher P. Callahan of the R.I. National Guard and other Rhode Island dignitaries served meals. The veterans slept on fresh bedding and cots in tents named for fallen Rhode Island servicemen and women. Rhode Island motorcycle clubs provided security; most have members who are veterans.
The setting was meant to invoke memories of their military service, when they were treated with dignity and respect. In military terms, “stand down” means safety and rest.
Over the last 25 years, the need hasn’t changed, DeQuattro said. If anything, it’s grown with each new war.
So has Operation Stand Down/Rhode Island. The nonprofit organization now helps about 2,000 homeless and at-risk veterans find housing, employment and help with veterans benefits year-round.
DeQuattro’s youngest daughter, Dee DeQuattro Rothermel, was only 4 years old when it started, and she remembers playing with other children who came with their veteran parents. She realized as she grew older that those families were probably homeless.
Now communications and development director for Operation Stand Down, DeQuattro Rothermel said the event is still a family affair. She met her husband, David Rothermel, a Marine, when he arrived at an outreach seven years ago and asked to volunteer. The couple came up with the “Boots on the Ground” memorial two years ago, as a way to honor the fallen.
“My dad is very modest, but it’s a huge thing that he started 25 years ago,” she said. “We’re proud of him. It’s an accomplishment.”
DeQuattro spoke to the gathering of veterans at a ceremony Saturday afternoon.
“I do it because God told me to,” DeQuattro told them, “and because we have to take care of our brothers and sisters.”
PROVIDENCE, RI – In an effort to provide essential housing and support for homeless veterans, U.S. Senator Jack Reed today announced that the Providence, North Providence, Pawtucket, Tiverton, Bristol, and West Warwick Housing Authorities will receive a total of $152,775 in federal funding to assist homeless veterans through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program. While the Providence and North Providence Housing Authorities have previously received HUD-VASH vouchers, the Pawtucket, Tiverton, Bristol and West Warwick Housing Authorities are all new recipients of the funding.
HUD-VASH is a collaborative program that combines HUD rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and supportive services through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Veterans accepted in the HUD-VASH program receive assistance in vouchers to rent privately-owned housing. The housing vouchers allow veterans and their families to live in market-rate rental units while the VA simultaneously provides them with case management and other services -- including health care, mental health treatment, employment assistance and substance-use counseling -- that help them stay housed.
In addition to the more than 230 veterans currently served in Rhode Island through the HUD-VASH program, the Providence and North Providence Housing Authorities will each be able to house two additional veterans experiencing homelessness, with vouchers totaling $14,395 and $14,797, respectively. The other housing authorities will receive a combined twenty vouchers, with Pawtucket Housing Authority receiving a total of $31,031; Tiverton Housing Authority receiving a total of $30,105; the Town of Bristol Housing Authority receiving a total of $29,441; and West Warwick Housing Authority receiving a total of $33,006.
“We will not leave any veteran behind and must make every effort to ensure all our veterans have access to safe, suitable housing. HUD-VASH helps keep that commitment by providing affordable housing and supportive services to veterans in need. This is an important tool to help end chronic veteran homelessness, and I am pleased the state is receiving this latest down payment to help more veterans,” said Senator Reed. “These veterans have experienced real hardships, and HUD-VASH provides a real life-line for them, from finding them a place to call home to providing hands-on counseling and case management to help them get back on their feet.”
A member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Ranking Member of the panel’s subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD), which oversees HUD-VASH funding, Senator Reed secured $40 million to support 5,100 new HUD-VASH vouchers in the fiscal year 2018 Omnibus spending bill, rejecting President Trump’s proposal to eliminate new resources for the program.
This latest round of HUD-VASH funding comes in addition to $5,796,184 in federal Continuum of Care (CoC) grants for Rhode Island homeless assistance programs that Senator Reed announced earlier this year.
Senator Reed has been a strong supporter of housing assistance and homelessness prevention initiatives throughout his years in office. In addition to his work on HUD-VASH, he also authored the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act, which was signed into law by President Obama. The HEARTH Act reauthorized the landmark McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act and simplified and consolidated three competitive HUD homelessness assistance programs into one program and allowed more funding to flow to communities that can demonstrate a commitment to accomplishing the goals of preventing and ending homelessness.
Veterans who are homeless, or at imminent risk of becoming homeless, can call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans hotline at: 1-877-4AID VET (877-424-3838). The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs founded the hotline to ensure that veterans in need have free, 24/7 access to trained counselors. The hotline is intended to assist homeless veterans and their families, VA Medical Centers, federal, state and local partners, community agencies, service providers, and others in the community.
Since 2008, more than $500 million has been allocated through the HUD-VASH program to serve more than 100,000 homeless veterans nationwide, with more than 10,000 additional veterans served as they become self-sufficient and successfully exit the program.
Posted May 25, 2018 at 12:01 AM
Updated May 25, 2018 at 12:11 AM
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Several neighborhoods in Providence, including those clustered near Downtown and Federal Hill, have experienced rent increases between 2000 and 2015 that far outpaced those seen in other sections of the city, because they are “potentially gentrifying,” according to a new report from HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University.
The report, released Friday, is titled: “You Don’t Have A Problem Until You Do: Revitalization and Gentrification in Providence, Rhode Island.” It is part of the HousingWorks’ Scholar Series on contemporary housing issues, and was adapted from a master’s thesis written by Fay Strongin, who studied city planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
While the citywide median rent jumped 26.1 percent between 2000 and 2015, “potentially gentrifying” Providence neighborhoods experienced a 47.8 percent average increase in median gross rent, nearly double the growth citywide, and nearly triple the increase seen in “non-gentrifying” neighborhoods, where rents increased by 16.2 percent, Strongin found.
The report defines gentrification as a process in which housing costs rise after new investment comes into “historically disinvested” low-income neighborhoods.
According to HousingWorks’ 2017 Housing Fact Book, the monthly cost of an average two-bedroom apartment was $1,431 on the East Side of Providence, and $1,203 for areas in Providence not including the East Side.
Strongin noted that while her study “finds evidence of gentrification in select Providence neighborhoods,” it is “of a more limited extent and pace than in strong market cities... such as New York City.”
But the city’s “anticipated growth could catalyze a rapid increase in gentrification and displacement pressures,” Strongin added. Providence’s population is expected to grow by 29 percent by 2025, and because households are getting smaller, the number of households is expected to grow by 43 percent, according to a 2016 study by HousingWorks.
The report places Providence Census Tracts in one of these categories:
— “Higher Income,” including Hope, Blackstone, most of College Hill, Wayland, Fox Point, and parts of Elmhurst and Mount Pleasant;
— “Non-gentrifying,” including South Elmwood, Manton, Silver Lake, Hartford, Charles and Wanskuck;
— “Potentially gentrifying,” including Federal Hill and parts of Downtown, Smith Hill, Valley, Olneyville, South Providence, Washington Park and Elmwood.
Strongin said that Providence “experienced a decline in population and a weak housing market” after the population reached a high of 250,000 in 1940. The city’s population fell by “nearly 100,000 people between 1940 and 1980.” As of July 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated Providence’s population at 180,393.
Though “deindustrialization and population decline contributed to high rates of vacancy and blight” in many neighborhoods, the foreclosure crisis, which hit especially hard in Providence, “contributed not only to urban blight but also to housing affordability issues, as both single family homes and multifamily rental properties were taken out of the market.”
And “at the same time, Providence has seen very low levels of new housing production,” Strongin added.
The report includes policy recommendations for a proactive “development without displacement” strategy, which include prioritizing a “ramp up in housing production,” and “ensuring that future housing development includes affordable units.”
On Twitter: @ChristineMDunn
Courtesy of Providence Journal
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
2200 Southwood Drive, Nashua, NH
We invite you to be a part of the second New England Lead Conference taking place on Wednesday, November 1, 2017 in Nashua, NH. Hosted by the New England Lead Coordinating Committee, the conference will include a variety of educational sessions focusing on lead prevention, policy, model programs, outreach, the EPA’s Renovation, Remodeling and Repair Rule (RRP), lead abatement, compliance, and the economics of lead poisoning.
Read more >
October 4, 2017 in Events, Local Interest
The Narragansett Times: Dziobek steps down as Welcome House director
By KENDRA GRAVELLE Sep 29, 2017
SOUTH KINGSTOWN—When Joseph Dziobek accepted the position of executive director of Welcome House of South County nearly three years ago, he had expected the job would make for a simple transition into retirement.
But what was intended as a part-time gig turned into much more than that for Dziobek, who this week left his post.
“It’s been a challenge,” said Dziobek, whose last day on the job was Monday. “And it’s been very satisfying—I feel very close to the people who have been a part of it.”
Dziobek, 66, took the job at Welcome House after retiring from his career as CEO of Fellowship Health Resources. He said he intended only to stay for two or three years.
October 4, 2017 in Local Interest
Final Days to Register: 2017 Housing Fact Book Release
Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Luncheon: 12:00pm - 1:30pm
Location: Rhode Island Convention Center, 1 Sabin Street, Providence RI
October 3, 2017 in Events, Local Interest
Rhode Island College: The Defamation Experience
Monday, October 30, 2017
5:00PM - Doors Open
6:00PM - Performance
SPONSORED BY: THE DIVISION OF COMMUNITY EQUITY AND DIVERSITY AND THE DIVISION OF STUDENT SUCCESS
THE PLAY * THE DELIBERATION * THE DISCUSSION
September 27, 2017 in Events, Local Interest
NLIHC: Sign Letters to Support Equitable Housing Recovery after Devastating Hurricanes
Help ensure that low income people and neighborhoods are treated fairly after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. A broad coalition of national, state, and local organizations is calling on Congress, FEMA, and HUD to ensure that the federal response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria is complete and equitable for everyone, especially families and individuals with the lowest incomes who are often the hardest hit by disasters and have the fewest resources to recover afterwards.
September 27, 2017 in Local Interest, National News
Roger Williams University: Social Justice Month Events
Thursday, Oct 19
Mary Tefft White Center
How Housing Works
4:00pm – 6:00pm
Sponsored by Housing Works RI and RWU Chief Diversity Officer
Keywords: socioeconomic status, race, jobs, housing, equity
Workshop with Brenda Clement, Director of Housing Works Rhode Island and Ame Lambert, RWU Chief Diversity Officer.
An overview of housing issues in Rhode Island and connections to the larger social justice agenda.
September 25, 2017 in Local Interest
Providence Journal: People on the move for the week of Sept. 17
Posted Sep 13, 2017 at 5:34 PM
Updated Sep 13, 2017 at 5:34 PM
Rhode Island LISC
Rhode Island Local Initiatives Support Corportation has welcomed two new employees. Jeremiah O’Grady, of Lincoln, joined LISC as program officer after spending more than 12 years at ONE Neighborhood Builders as real estate project manager and director of asset management and operations.
Liz Klinkenberg, of Warwick, was hired as communications director. She brings more than 15 years of public relations experience to her new position, including work for The Miami Herald and The Providence Journal.
The Providence American: Reed Announces $300k in Community Development Grants for NeighborWorks Affiliates
WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to promote healthy, vibrant neighborhoods across Rhode Island, U.S. Senator Jack Reed today announced an additional $300,000 in federal funding for three Rhode Island-based affiliates of NeighborWorks America (NeighborWorks). These federal funds will help NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, ONE Neighborhood Builders, and West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation to provide affordable housing opportunities, generate job growth, and enhance economic stability for working families. Earlier this year, Senator Reed also helped to secure over $750,000 in federal funding for NeighborWorks affiliates in Rhode Island, bringing total NeighborWorks investment in the state to above $1 million for fiscal year 2017.
September 21, 2017 in Federal News, Local Interest
The Providence American: Providence Unveils PVD Gives Donation Station
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza today joined members of the City Council, public safety officials, and community leaders who have been named to the PVD Gives commission for the unveiling of the City’s first Donation Station at Kennedy Plaza. The retrofitted parking meter is one of ten stations that will be installed across the city to collect funds that will support local organizations that provide housing and services to those in need.
“PVD Gives and the new Donation Stations make it easier to give back,” said Mayor Jorge Elorza. “Our collective generosity can make all the difference in the lives of those striving to get back on their feet. I encourage visitors and residents to chip in and be part of the solution.”
September 21, 2017 in Local Interest
Providence Journal: Report: New England losing 65 acres of forestland per day
By Steve LeBlanc / Associated Press
Posted Sep 19, 2017 at 11:21 AM
Updated Sep 19, 2017 at 11:21 AM
BOSTON — New England has been losing forestland to development at a rate of 65 acres per day — a loss that comes at a time when public funding for preservation of open land, both state and federal, has also been on the decline in all six states.
That’s the conclusion of a report released Tuesday by the Harvard Forest, a research institute of Harvard University.
The study found public funding for land conservation in New England dropped by half between 2008 and 2014 to $62 million per year, slightly lower than 2004 levels.
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is attempting to scale back federal efforts to enforce fair housing laws, freezing enforcement actions against local governments and businesses, including Facebook, while sidelining officials who have aggressively pursued civil rights cases.
The policy shift, detailed in interviews with 20 current and former Department of Housing and Urban Development officials and in internal agency emails, is meant to roll back the Obama administration’s attempts to reverse decades of racial, ethnic and income segregation in federally subsidized housing and development projects. The move coincides with the decision this month by Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, to strike the words “inclusive” and “free from discrimination” from HUD’s mission statement.
But Mr. Carson dismissed the idea he was abandoning the agency’s fair housing mission as “nonsense” in a memo to the department’s staff earlier this year, and reiterated that point during recent congressional hearings. A spokesman for the agency, Jereon Brown, said any programmatic changes are part of the routine recalibration undertaken from administration to administration, rather than a philosophical shift.
Advocates for the poor and career HUD officials say that Mr. Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, and his political appointees have begun weakening the department’s fair housing division at a critical moment. The agency now has its greatest leverage to right past wrongs thanks to the $28 billion in disaster recovery Community Development Block Grants that Congress has appropriated to rebuild the Gulf Coast and Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
In an email in November, a top HUD official relayed the news that the head of the Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity division, Anna Maria Farías, had ordered a hold on about a half-dozen fair housing investigations given the highest priority under Mr. Carson’s most recent predecessor, Julián Castro. The freeze would be in effect “until further notice,” the official wrote.
The investigations, known as “secretary-initiated cases” to indicate their importance, had been used in the past to set precedent and to put other localities and developers on notice.
One of the delayed investigations looked at an ordinance in Hesperia, Calif., that prevented the siting of neighborhood group homes for parolees and former offenders throughout the city’s neighborhoods. HUD investigators saw the case as an important test of the federal resolve to rehabilitate low-level offenders, who often face housing and job discrimination when they are released, leaving them in need of government assistance.
Other cases that were held up involved questions about the accessibility to the disabled of new dwellings built by a pair of large residential construction companies, Toll Brothers and Epcon Communities, in New York City and Ohio, according to a department official.
One high-profile case never made it to that stage.
HUD had opened a case in late 2016 in response to a ProPublica article that said Facebook gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls “ethnic affinities” from seeing their ads when their social media habits identified them as black, Hispanic or Asian-American.
But even before Ms. Farías was appointed, Mr. Carson’s aides ordered fair housing division officials to cancel a planned negotiating session with Facebook executives, leaving HUD to take Facebook at its word that the company’s “policies prohibit using our targeting options to discriminate.”
Then, after taking office, Ms. Farías sent a one-page letter to Facebook ordering, without explanation, the termination of a preliminary investigation into the company’s advertising practices.
Fair housing groups filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan saying that Facebook continues to discriminate against certain groups — including women, veterans with disabilities and single mothers — in the way that it allows advertisers to target audiences for their ads.
Ms. Farías, an official at HUD in the George W. Bush administration, has not initiated any high-priority cases of her own, according to agency officials. And she has made it clear that she does not intend to aggressively pursue cases that are not instituted “by my secretary,” meaning Mr. Carson, according to an official who spoke with her last year.
“For all intents and purposes, this administration is stopping the enforcement of civil rights and fair housing laws at the worst possible time,” said Gustavo Velasquez, who served as assistant secretary for fair housing during the last three years of President Barack Obama’s administration.
“It’s not just the lack of an agenda, which is what I thought we were dealing with for the first year or so, but an attempt to reverse all the advances we made through regulations and enforcement actions,” said Mr. Velasquez, who now works for the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan progressive think tank in Washington.
This is not the first time critics have accused Mr. Carson, the only African-American man in President Trump’s cabinet, of trying to stymie civil rights enforcement. Shortly after he was confirmed last year, Mr. Carson tried to reverse an Obama-era program that would make it easier for recipients of housing vouchers to use them in affluent neighborhoods.
The move was struck down by the courts, and Mr. Carson abandoned the effort.
Last week, Mr. Carson told members of the Senate Banking Committee that he planned to delay another Obama-era rule that would have required local governments to create detailed plans to integrate racially divided neighborhoods.
And a provision barring localities from using federal funding to undertake such programs was stealthily inserted into the 2018 spending plan passed last week by Congress.
Despite these moves, Mr. Brown, the HUD spokesman, said the department was merely “looking to streamline” its enforcement efforts and to focus on new, neglected areas of discrimination.
“There is no mission shift. We are, in fact, putting more emphasis in sexual harassment” complaints, Mr. Brown wrote in an email. “In addition, 60 percent of the fair housing complaints we receive are disability related, and the majority of those have to do with service animals.”
The most significant fight over fair housing under Mr. Trump is taking place in Houston, a sprawling metropolis ranked in numerous studies as one of the United States’ most segregated cities, where overt opposition to a housing development based on race and income has drawn the attention of career HUD investigators.
In January 2017, before Mr. Obama left office, HUD lawyers accusedHouston officials of violating fair housing requirements cited in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The city’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, had killed a 233-unit mixed-income, mixed-race housing development slated for an affluent white area known for its high-end shopping and excellent schools.
HUD told the city to undertake specific remedies as a condition of continued funding, including the approval of the development, known as the Fountain View Project, and the adoption of tough new zoning laws.
In a scathing letter, HUD officials accused Mr. Turner, who is African-American, of succumbing to “racially motivated local opposition,” claiming that he caved to protests by white business owners and residents.
Mr. Turner has denied the accusation, arguing that he opposed the development because only 23 apartments were set aside for low-income families. He also objected to the idea of forced integration, putting him in agreement with Mr. Carson.
“I have chosen to stay in the neighborhood where I grew up, and I will not tell children in similar communities they must live somewhere else,” said Mr. Turner, who grew up in an all-black development.
But he might have had other reasons for opposing the project. In one meeting, Mr. Turner privately admitted that he hoped his position on the project would coax white Republican state legislators to support a bill needed to restructure Houston’s ailing pension system, according to a former federal official who attended the meeting.
The mayor denied that account.
“He never told anyone he opposed the Fountain View Project to win votes for his pension overhaul,” said Mary Benton, a spokeswoman for Mr. Turner.
Still, few Democrats have done quite so well in negotiating with the Trump administration as Mr. Turner, who began pressing Mr. Carson to release the city from the order shortly after Mr. Carson was confirmed.
Ms. Farías, with Mr. Carson’s blessing, began negotiating directly with Mr. Turner and other city officials. She largely excluded the career lawyers who had already begun drafting a tougher order — one that required the city to pay the Houston Housing Authority, Fountain View’s developer, as much as $14 million if it insisted on blocking the deal, according to an official in Houston.
But Mr. Turner, who believes the case to be a distraction from his city’s rebuilding effort, prevailed.
This month, Ms. Farías signed a new, less stringent agreement that other Houston officials eager to get federal money flowing into hard-hit neighborhoods — including Representative Al Green, a Democrat and harsh Carson critic — hailed as a victory.
But a coalition of local advocacy groups and national organizations are suing to block the disbursement of $5 billion in HUD recovery money unless the city abides by civil rights-era fair housing laws.
“If this isn’t a violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, then damn it, I don’t know what is,” said John Henneberger, a director of Texas Housers, an advocacy group that filed a lawsuit last week in Federal District Court to enforce the original HUD letter.
“Fountain View was kind of the last stand,” he said. “We spent eight or nine years documenting systematic and pervasive racial discrimination in Houston — it is an open-and-shut case.”
Mr. Brown, the HUD spokesman, said the agreement required the city to “put in place new procedures for the building of affordable housing” and a study on how to increase affordable housing in the city’s Galleria district, where Fountain View was to be built.
There are other signs of change within HUD that could make it far less likely that similar cases would ever be pursued.
Ms. Farías, according to six current department officials, has told HUD managers that she intends to replace her top subordinate, Timothy Smyth, who played a central role in the Houston case. Bryan Greene, another senior manager, will be reassigned as part of the shake-up, the officials said.
Mr. Brown, in an email, said no one had been reassigned yet — but he added that it was “well within the assistant secretary’s authority after 120 days to reassign senior-level personnel.”
Morale at the division is sinking. At a meeting this month of HUD regional housing directors in Atlanta, Ms. Farías — a former vice chairwoman of the Bexar County, Tex., Republicans and a Trump campaign supporter — told one of the directors that she preferred older HUD employees because they were more likely to have had experience working for Republican administrations.
Earlier, according to two aides who requested anonymity for fear of retribution, she had told her staff that it was her intention to root out people she viewed as “Obama plants.”
Ms. Farías, through a spokesman, denied making those statements.
Courtesy of The New York Times
Alan Berube, Monday, February 5, 2018
Research has historically framed income inequality as a national issue, one best addressed through national monetary and fiscal policies that raise demand for labor and redistribute resources from the rich to the poor. Yet widening disparities across and within places in the United States, revealed in debates around wages, housing affordability, and public safety, have motivated policymakers and researchers to pay increased attention to inequality’s local dimensions.
Now, many cities’ aggressive bids for Amazon’s second headquarters are heightening anxieties that the company’s expansion could further accelerate inequality wherever it eventually lands (as many say it has in Seattle). The debate about Amazon fits into a wider set of concerns about the tech sector’s role in contributing to income inequality, via the winner-take-all dynamics of the digital economy.
Amid these currents, this piece updates previous Brookings Metro analysesto examine trends in household income inequality in the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas and their most populous central cities from 2014 to 2016. As with earlier analyses, it uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey on household income at the 95th percentile of the distribution (i.e., where only 5 percent of households earn more) and the 20th percentile of the distribution (i.e., where 20 percent of households earn less). It uses the ratio between those incomes as a principal measure of inequality in cities and metro areas. Key findings include:
Among big cities, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. exhibited the highest rates of income inequality in 2016. The top 5 percent of households in these cities earned incomes at least 18 times as high as the bottom 20 percent of households. Relatively wealthy cities including Boston, New York, and San Francisco, as well as cities struggling with high poverty such as Buffalo, Miami, New Orleans, and Providence, also registered high rates of income disparity. In general, older cities with fewer middle-class neighborhoods and larger amounts of subsidized housing tended to exhibit higher inequality. Newer, more geographically expansive cities such as Columbus, Jacksonville, and Virginia Beach, as well as those with stronger middle-class employment like Allentown and Oxnard, had among the lowest levels of income inequality.
Levels of inequality in cities reflect broader income disparities in metropolitan areas. Four of the 10 cities with the highest levels of inequality are located in one of the 10 most unequal metropolitan areas (Boston, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco). Conversely, three of the cities with the lowest levels of inequality are located in one of the 10 most equal metropolitan areas (Des Moines, Lakeland, Virginia Beach). This indicates that city inequality reflects not only local housing dynamics but also wider industrial and income patterns in the regional labor market. Notably, three regions along Utah’s Wasatch Front—Salt Lake City, Provo, and Ogden—exhibit the lowest levels of income inequality among their metropolitan peers.
More cities experienced declines in income inequality from 2014 to 2016 than saw increases. While few cities overall saw income disparities between rich and poor households change by a statistically significant margin, among those that did, declines in income inequality (eight) outnumbered increases (five). From 2014 to 2016, high-income households in 30 cities logged significant income gains, as did low-income households in 34 cities. (In only one city—Rochester—did low-income households suffer a statistically significant income decline.) The net effect reduced income disparities in Charlotte, Dallas, Jackson, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Knoxville, Louisville, and Salt Lake City, but pushed them higher in Baltimore, Detroit, Omaha, Rochester, and Washington, D.C.
In contrast to the city pattern, increases in metropolitan income inequality outnumbered declines. From 2014 to 2016, 12 metropolitan areas registered a statistically significant increase in income inequality. In most of those places, high-income households enjoyed income gains while low-income households did not. In Honolulu and San Jose, top incomes rose by an estimated $60,000 in two years’ time, but did not change significantly for low earners. Only eight metro areas achieved declines in income inequality, with lower-income households posting larger income gains (in percentage terms) than higher-income households in most of those markets. Metro areas where income disparities narrowed included many of the cities—Charlotte, Dallas, Kansas City, Knoxville, and Louisville—where income inequality declined, as well as Boston, New Haven, and Salt Lake City.
Some cities posted stunning increases in top incomes from 2014 to 2016. The most astonishing changes in the mid-2010s occurred among high-income households in a few cities characterized by booming technology economies. In just two years, incomes for 95th percentile households in San Francisco rose nearly $120,000. (Median home sales prices, meanwhile, increased by $250,000.) Austin and Seattle posted increases of nearly $65,000 for high-income households, while high household incomes in San Jose rose by more than $50,000. Raleigh topped all cities for 20th percentile income growth at $7,200, which was large in percentage terms (30 percent) but a far cry in absolute terms from the $35,000 increase the city posted at the 95th percentile level.
Income trends at the top of the distribution in cities and metro areas had little relationship to trends at the bottom of the distribution from 2014 to 2016. In cities and metro areas where high-income households posted the greatest gains, low-income households didn’t fare any better or worse than those in other cities. For instance, although 20th percentile incomes in Austin, San Francisco, and Seattle rose by significant margins, they failed to increase significantly in other cities where 95th percentile incomes boomed, such as Baltimore, Denver, San Jose, and Washington, D.C. At the same time, incomes at the lower end of the distribution grew significantly in several cities—Boston, Charlotte, Louisville, Salt Lake City—where top incomes did not.
For those concerned about the effects of high inequality in the United States generally, and in our large urban centers specifically, these city and metropolitan income trends from 2014 to 2016 present some quandaries.
On the one hand, the trends indicate that ameliorating inequality is possible. In several places, low-income households achieved faster income gains than high-income households.
On the other hand, even as a tighter labor market began to drive up wages in the mid-2010s, the relative gap between the rich and poor still widened in a number of cities and metro areas. And even in places where low- and high-income households made comparable progress in percentage terms, the absolute income difference between rich and poor often grew substantially. The inequality ratio did not change in San Francisco, but the distance between its 20th and 95th percentile incomes grew by an estimated $114,000.
Moreover, at least in the short run, city and metropolitan income trends do not suggest the existence of a rising tide lifting all boats, but rather separate ebbs and flows for households at different extremes of the distribution. Even if, as Enrico Moretti and other researchers suggest, local innovation economies generate greater opportunities for workers in less-skilled industries, those opportunities may not materialize overnight, and low-income workers and families could get priced out of a city in the meantime.
While this analysis is too brief to identify the underlying economic or policy factors that may explain those disparities, Brookings Metro’s forthcomingMetro Monitor update will shed further light on how and why economic inclusion is changing in metropolitan areas. Regardless, the distinctively local dynamics of inequality in our major urban areas reaffirm the importance of local leadership for understanding and improving access to economic opportunity for lower-income households in ways that reduce disparities over the longer term.
Cecile Murray provided valuable research assistance for this analysis.
Courtesy of Brookings
Journal Staff Writer
Posted Jul 10, 2018 at 10:19 PMUpdated Jul 10, 2018 at 11:43 PM
Topics discussed by the candidates in Wards 1 and 12 included public schools, a proposed high-rise tower on Dyer Street and a plan to move bus stops from Kennedy Plaza to a site near Providence Station.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Speaking at a Downtown Neighborhood Association meeting Tuesday night, four Democratic candidates running for Providence City Council to represent Wards 1 and 12 shared similar views on many pressing issues and answered questions from the audience about education.
Topics included public schools, a proposed high-rise tower on Dyer Street and a plan to move bus stops from Kennedy Plaza to a site near Providence Station.
In attendance were Ward 1 Councilman Seth Yurdin and his opponent, Justice Gaines, an organizer with Rhode Island Jobs with Justice, as well as Ward 12 Councilman Terrence Hassett and his opponent, Katherine Kerwin, director of communications at the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence.
The candidates were unanimously opposed to the luxury apartment tower that has been proposed by developer Jason Fane to be built on former Route 195 land. They cited concerns about its design, its height and the lack of demand for more high-end apartments downtown.
They also all expressed reservations about a Rhode Island Public Transit Authority proposal to move a portion of Kennedy Plaza bus traffic to a site near Providence Station.
Residents of Avalon at Center Place and Waterplace, who would be living in front of the new transportation hub, would have to deal with increased traffic in an already congested area, Kerwin said.
Gaines and Yurdin said moving the hub would disadvantage those who rely on public transportation.
Hassett said it would be more productive to look at structural improvements that could be made at Kennedy Plaza.
When asked what major issues were facing their wards, the candidates mentioned the deteriorating condition of Providence public schools as well as affordable housing.
Audience members asked the candidates various questions related to education, including whether they supported charter schools and what they as council members could do about the segregation of students by race and class in Providence’s public schools.
Hassett said he felt that charter schools were productive and useful, but that he wouldn’t want them replacing the public school system. Kerwin described charter schools as a “necessary evil” in Providence currently, but said she would rather see the city investing enough in public schools to make charter schools obsolete.
Gaines also said that investing in public schools should be a priority, and Yurdin said he was opposed to charter schools, except in limited circumstances, such as the Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts, which offers a unique program.
The candidates also said that an overall investment in improving public schools would help solve issues of segregation in the student population.
“Even though Classical High School and Central High School are next to each other, they’re segregated by class,” Gaines said. “They share a courtyard and yet one has wealthier students and one has poorer students. What type of city are we living in where we’re segregating our schools in that manner, and both of those schools are falling apart?”
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