Weekly Urban News Update
December 13, 2019
In This Update: 
Many Renters Who Face Eviction in the U.S. Owe Less than $600
Reducing Homelessness is a Challenge, But Not Impossible
Kabul Struggles to Restore City Services with an Outdated Census and after Decades of Conflict
African Cities Turn to New Technology to Address Water Shortages
"Chalk Back" Helps Women in Nairobi Fight Street Harassment
Which City is the Most Surveilled City?
In the News and Around the Web
This Week in Photos
Many Renters Who Face Eviction in the U.S. Owe Less than $600
Researchers have found that many renters who face eviction in the United States owe less than $600 to their landlord. In one case in Providence, Rhode Island, $127 was owed. Emily Badger at The New York Times writes that: "Such relatively small sums suggest that, for all of the intractable problems of poverty and affordable housing driving the nation's eviction crisis, a little intervention could help many people." Housing legislation introduced in Congress this year has proposed court translators, more legal aid, mediation, and even emergency rent assistance. Badger writes that such strategies, while not comprehensive, at least "imply that even if eviction is a necessary remedy for landlords, perhaps there could be less of it."

Read more here.
Reducing Homelessness is a Challenge, But Not Impossible
At The Guardian, Jon Henley makes the case that despite the rise of homelessness around the world, city-level solutions do exist. He points to the "Built for Zero" project in the United States that focuses on reducing homelessness by counting down individual by individual to zero. Built for Zero's Jennifer Jaeger explains: "Every person who is homeless in our community that we are aware of goes on our by-name list...We'll sit down with the list and say: Ok, John Smith is number one. Who's working with him? How do we get him housed as fast as we can?" Similarly, Trieste, Italy and Helsinki, Finland have made tangible efforts to address homelessness. Trieste has emphasized addressing mental health, while Helsinki's Housing First Policy has made it the only European Union country to decrease homelessness.

Read more here
Kabul Struggles to Improve City Services with Outdated Census After Conflict
Decades of conflict and an outdated census has made it difficult for Kabul, Afghanistan to manage urban growth and city services. Rebuilding Kabul was prioritized after 2001, but the mayor explains without a current census: "All we have are estimates that make planning for sanitation, water, housing, and public transport a huge challenge." The last census in 1979 placed the population at 500,000 and it is currently estimated to have reached 5 million.  Now, with the help of UN-Habitat, Kabul is registering dwellings, drawing neighborhood boundaries, and digitizing records. Antony Lamba, of UN-Habitat, says that this also improves government-citizen relationship. Professor Pietro Calogero agrees, noting that the government's ability to providing efficient city services such as street paving and protections from evictions are often seen as signs that "the government is serving the people."

Read more here.
African Cities Turn to New Technology to Address Water Shortages
An Islamic Development Bank this week examined how African cities can use new technology to address growing water shortages. In Africa, one in three people lack access to a clean, reliable water source. In Dakar, Senegal, which hosted the summit, only 2/3 of urban households are connected to a water network and only 1/3 are connected to a sewage system. Solutions presented included tech innovations, such as Kwizera company's Water Access Rwanda project which turns broken hand pumps into solar-powered kiosks that pipes water to homes. The kiosks now serve 57,000 people daily. At the summit,  Senegal government advisor Abdoulaye Sene also emphasized the pressing nature of water shortage in Africa, asserting: "Now governments are more and more in a state of doing things out of urgency, not because they were planned."

Read more  here .
"Chalk Back" Helps Women in Nairobi Fight Street Harassment
In Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya, a street campaign is helping women fight back against sexual harassment. "Chalk Back," enables women to voice their experiences of street harassment by writing it down on a board outside or the ground with chalk or markers. Street harassment is a problem in cities around the world that damages women and girls socially and economically by discouraging them from participating in public life. But, women frequently decline to report incidents. Chalk Back's participants hope the campaign will start conversations about harassment in the city, especially for younger girls for whom "fighting back may be harder."

Read more here.
Which City is the Most Surveilled City in the World? 
Chongqing, China, home to 15.3 million people and 2.58 million security cameras, is the most surveilled city in the world. China says the cameras are instrumental to guarantee safety, but some experts caution facial recognition technology violates internationally guaranteed rights to privacy. Human Rights Watch Senior Researcher Maya Wang explains: "These systems are being developed and implemented without meaningful privacy protections." But, globally the number of cities increasing surveillance cameras is growing. Singapore aims to install 100,000 facial-recognition cameras on lampposts, Chicago police have requested 30,000 additional cameras, and Moscow wants to have 174,000 by the end of 2019.

Read more here.
In the News and Around the Web
  • The Bangalore Mannequins Directing Traffic: In Bangalore, mannequins dressed as traffic police have been placed on street corners to deter traffic violations.
  • Museums in Paris Will Train Refugees: Museums in Paris will train refugees in art interpretation to strengthen ties between refugees and locals. 
  • Bloomberg Media Buys CityLab:  Bloomberg Media will buy CityLab, a website focused on urban planning and city living, from The Atlantic
This Week in Photos
  • The Bhopal Disaster Victims Thirty-Five Years On: Thirty-five years after the Bhopal disaster, 150,000 still suffer from chronic medical conditions.
  • Mythical Creatures in MedellinMedellin, Colombia held its annual Parade of Myths and Legends
  • Global Protests Denounce Violence Against Women:  Cities around the world observed International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women at the end of November.

The Medellin Myths and Legends Parade  (Photo Credit: BBC)


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