Weekly Urban News Update
July 12 2019
In This Update: 
Chinese and Qatari Investors Will Build Affordable Housing in Kenya
Madrid Reverses a Driving Ban
New York City's New Rental Protections Won't Solve Everything
In Japan, Elderly Men and Women are Signing Up to Courier for Uber Eats
The Politics of Trash in Wuhan, China
Bringing Color Back to Raqqa's Parks after ISIS
The Street Study Corners in Mumbai
How Did Bonn Become so Sustainable?
In the News and Around the Web
Chinese and Qatari Investors Will Build Affordable Housing in Kenya
Chinese and Qatari investors will build 300,000 affordable housing units in Kenya. Housing is one of the major pillars of Kenya's Big Four Agenda, as it moves along the path to become a middle income country.  Kenya has pledged to create 500,000 affordable housing units by 2022. In addition to housing, the other three pillars of the Big Four Agenda are  food security, manufacturing and job creation, and affordable universal healthcare. Affordable housing is a particular challenge for Kenya given that 56% of its population lives in slums.  The government has yet to make public the name of the two Qatari firms ant the Chinese multinational investors, but Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary James Macharia asserts that their intervention will "go a long way towards achieving the Big Four Agenda target of building 500,000 affordable housing units." 

Read more here.
Madrid Reverses a Driving Ban
Madrid residents are protesting a temporary reversal of a city policy that banned high-emissions vehicles in designated downtown areas. The low-emissions zone, created in November, aimed to improve air quality for residents and visitors.  Many of the reversal's opponents believe the move will de-prioritize environmental issues, in addition to exacerbating political instability in the city. The ban's reversal comes from the newly elected right-wing government led by Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida  that has pledged to undo the legacy of the left-wing mayor Manuela Carmena. Martinez-Almeida argues that the low-emissions zone has increased congestion on the peripheral roads of the city and hurt downtown businesses. In addition to possibly increasing Madrid's air pollution levels that have dropped in recent months, environmental experts argue that Spain may now be subject to European Union fines for failing to meet their emissions-reducing targets.

Read more here.
New York City's New Rental Protections Won't Solve Everything
New York City's new rental protections intend to close loopholes that allow landlords to bypass tenant protections and deregulate rent-stabilized apartments. Some lawmakers enthuse about this as "the strongest tenant protections" in the history of the city, but Cem S. Kayatekin at The Conversation argues this does not address the core housing issue: that "residents and real estate are two unequal and opposing forces," in the city. Kayatekin asserts that with 30% of the city's budget generated from property taxes, especially from extremely-high value real estate, local policymakers continue to offer incentives to real estate developments that cater to the super wealthy, which only exacerbates liveability conditions for New York's poor and working class residents.

Read more here.
In Japan, Elderly Men and Women Sign Up to Courier for Uber Eats
Elderly Japanese men and women are signing up to work for Uber Eats, Uber's takeout delivery service . Ride-sharing is illegal in Japan, so these "grandmothers" are transporting delivery by bicycle, scooter, and even on foot. Bloomberg News describes it as: "Think grandma in running shoes delivering ramen noodles."  Currently Uber Eats spans 10 Japanese cities, and covers a network of more than 10,000 restaurants and 15,000 couriers. Uber hopes that the increasing popularity and expansion of Uber Eats will help erode Japan's opposition to ride-sharing.  CEO Dara Khosrowshahi says: "Eats has been a huge success for us in Japan. It is going to be a very effective introduction to the Uber brand," noting that "The elderly are actually signing up to be Eats couriers."

Read more here .
The Politics of Trash in Wuhan, China
Last week, thousands of residents of Wuhan, China protested the Wuhan government's plan to replace a landfill site with a new energy-producing trash incinerator. City authorities claim the incinerator is more environmentally friendly, but residents of Wuhan fear the plant will emit toxic fumes over homes and schools. The tension between city authorities and residents is representative of a growing problem in rapidly developing and urbanizing countries: the wealthier a city becomes, the more garbage it produces, along with the expectation that the government will safely and efficiently dispose of it. The problem about garbage, says Alex Kliment at GZERO, is inherently political: "Citizens don't have the means to make it [garbage] go away by themselves. Garbage disposal requires complex systems to organize and oversee the collection, transport, and disposal of waste- and everyone can see and smell the result when government fails to get the job done."

Read more here.
Bringing Color Back to Raqqa's Parks and Public Spaces After ISIS
In Voice of America's Extremism Watch, Sirwan Kajjo reports on the activist groups rebuilding parks, playgrounds, and public squares in Raqqa, Syria, two years after its liberation from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The three month-long battle between the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and ISIS left the city's infrastructure destroyed, including public squares and parks. Under ISIS, these same public spaces served as sites ISIS used to publicly execute dissidents. One activist Ahed al-Hendi says rebuilding the parks aim to turn the former IS capital into a bright and colorful city: "Under IS rule, only one color was prevalent and allowed and that was black. The colors we use now while repairing these parks represent diversity and tolerance...What we are trying to do is to turn all these zones that once symbolized death into places that celebrate life to the fullest."

Read more here.
The Street Study Corners in Mumbai
In Mumbai, street corners have become popular study locations for students. Far from being noisy places, these street corners serve as a refuge of quiet from the loud, cramped apartments in which many students reside. At Atlas Obscura, Reshmi Chakraborty explains that "study corners," are a product of Mumbai's biggest problem: lack of space. With 60% of the city living in low-income housing and costly library memberships, many high school and college students rely on such spaces.  One law student says: "This is my second home...it's a necessity for students like us who come from small homes."

Read more here.
How Did Bonn Become So Sustainable?
Bonn, Germany, the former capital of West Germany, is considered a global leader for climate change and sustainability efforts. When Berlin, rather than Bonn, was chosen as the capital of the newly reunified Germany in 1991, some policymakers worried Bonn would lose all of its importance. Former German Ambassador Harald Gans, explains this led to a commitment to support Bonn as "an international hub, a city for international organizations." This meant that the Berlin Bonn agreement left a number of government industries in Bonn, including those that oversee environment and economic cooperation and development. The commitment was bolstered by the 1995 U.N. decision to make Bonn the headquarters for its climate change secretariat. 

Read more here.
In the News and Around the Web
  • United Nations High Level Political Forum 2019: The 2019 U.N. High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development began on Tuesday, July 9th, and will continue until the 19th. Sustainable Development Goals 4, 8, 10, 13, 16, and 17 are up for review.
  • U.S. Women's Economic Empowerment InitiativeThe U.S. announced the first round of funding for its women's economic empowerment initiative.
  • San Francisco Pod ShareA new start-up called Pod Share addresses affordable housing in San Francisco by offering the opportunity to rent a bunk bed in a communal living space for $1200 a month.
  • Boston Suburb Bans Facial Recognition Technology: Somerville, Massachusetts is the second American city to ban facial recognition technology.
A rebuilt park in Raqqa, Syria (Photo credit: Voice of America)


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