Weekly Urban News Update
June 21, 2019
In This Update: 
Did Tokyo Reach its Peak?
World Economic Forum Highlights Cities Tacking Affordable Housing Crisis
International Widows Day Calls Attention to Harmful Practices Against Widows
Swedish Researchers Design Low-Cost Air Pollution Sensors
In Chennai, Water Shortage Forces Hotels and Companies to Ration Water
An Environmentally-Friendly Cable Car Connects Citizens in Bogota
Seattle Has a Bike Gender Gap
World Refugee Day: Spotlight on Urban Refugees
IHC Global Spotlight Event
In the News and Around the Web
Did Tokyo Reach its "Peak"?
Tokyo may be the first megacity to reach its "peak," suggests Chris Michael at The Guardian. Its population is flat lining, at the same time that unemployment is low, transit is safe and effective, and affordable housing at the city center has mitigating effects on gentrification. 94.7% of the Japanese population lives in cities, but experts anticipate its urban population will decrease from 128  million in 2010 to 87 million in 2060 as the population ages and birthrates decline. Its current economic and social stability suggests Tokyo can act as positive example for other cities as the world urbanizes and population growth slows. Others, like social anthropologist Tom Gill, are more reticent to declare its success final: "This equilibrium seems to me a temporary and passing moment...How this will play out is unknown, and it will be worth watching this space. But celebrating this moment as an enviable period of balance seems a bit myopic."

Read more here.
World Economic Forum Highlights Cities Tackling Affordable Housing Crisis
The World Economic Forum launched a new report on how to make affordable housing in cities a reality. The report identified factors that enable or impede the development of affordable housing and recommends a systematic approach to solving the crisis. WEF also identified successful city programs around the world to improve affordable housing. Examples include Los Angeles legislation to repurpose vacant motels into permanent suportive housing for the homeless, a London initiative to support construction productivity by strengthening coordination between training providers and construction employers, and new social housing eligibility requirements in Dupnitsa, Bulgaria.

Read about the report here.
International Widows Day Calls Attention To Harmful Practices Against Widows
On Sunday, June 23rd, the United Nations will observe International Widows Day to draw attention to the 258 million widows worldwide living in extreme poverty. At Pass Blue, Eleanor Nwadinobi and Meera Khanna explain that International Widows Day is a call for global action to support policies, programs, and resources to end all kinds of violence against widows and promote their dignity. Many widows, especially those living in extreme poverty, face maltreatment at the hands of their marital families and communities following the death of their spouse. One of the major areas in which widows suffer is the disenfranchisement of their property rights with property that is legally theirs being taken from them by male relatives and so denying them safety, security, and economic standing.  IHC Global has previously presented  on these issues and supports increased attention to ending these harmful and discriminatory customs and practices. 

Read their call to action here.
Swedish Researchers Design Low-Cost Air Pollution Sensor for Cities
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have designed small, low-cost monitoring equipment to detect nitrogen dioxide pollution in real-time.  Its small size will allow it to better integrate into other urban infrastructure in the same way as traffic lights or speed cameras. It is especially useful for  hard-to-monitor places, such as along a major railway tunnel, on streetlights, or on the roof of a shopping mall. Nitrogen dioxide pollution can cause a multitude of health issues such has heart and lung problems and contribute to ground-level ozone as well.

Read more here.
In Chennai, Water Shortage Forces Hotels and Companies to Ration Water
Chennai, India continues to lose groundwater, as some warn it will run out by 2020. Chennai's hotels and major companies are now feeling the effects as they make efforts to decrease their water usage. One hotel supervisor explains why his hotel is rationing water for guests: "It's not just us, all the hotels run the risk of shutting down because there's hardly enough water." The major companies in Chennai, sometimes called the "Detroit of South Asia" for its flourishing automobile industry, are also cutting back water usage in company lunchrooms, restrooms, and gyms.

Read more here.
An Environmentally-Friendly Cable Car Connects Citizens in Bogota
In Bogota, a new environmentally-friendly cable car is connecting socially and economically marginalized residents on the outskirts to the city center. TransMiCable, which opened in December, transports approximately 20,000 passengers from the Ciudad Bolivar neighborhood every day.The cable car has cut traffic congestion, air pollution, and planet-warming emissions, while also convincing its riders, who felt long neglected by their government and deprived of its services, to "believe once again in institutions." Yanet Mantilla, head of the governments Institute of Urban Development explains: "People from Ciudad Bolivar were very isolated. Today they feel involved and part of the city."

Read more here.
Seattle's Bike Gender Gap 
In Seattle, three times as many men bike to work than women. Seattle Times Columnist Gene Balk recently asked her readers about this bike gender gap and why women were not riding as much as men. Some concerns offered by women readers about cycling including safety, hygiene and grooming at work, and harassment. One reader noted:  "All genders receive harassment from drivers with some frequency, but feminine presenting co-workers get more harassment and worse harassment." 

Read more here.
Spotlight On: The Urban Refugee Crisis
Yesterday, the United Nations and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) commemorated World Refugee Day. Urban refugees and migrants in general have become a shared challenge among cities worldwide. Below, we highlight some of the key news and past research around this issue.

Cities #withRefugees
UNHCR thanked mayors of 175 cities across 50 countries that have signed a global statement of welcome and inclusiveness as a part of UNHCR's Cities #withrefugees initiative. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filipo Grandi says: "Cities are at the forefront of pioneering new approaches in terms of receiving, including and offering opportunities to refugees. I have great admiration for those mayors, for those local authorities, and the people of those cities that are standing in favor of solidarity."

Read more here.

UNHCR Reports Most Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons Live in Cities
On Wednesday, UNHCR released its 2018 Global Trends Report on refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP). The report paid special attention to cities: 61% of refugees and 80% of IDP live in urban settings. The report emphasized that humanitarian responses to the refugee crisis must reflect the important differences in housing, infrastructure, services delivery, and socio-economic fabric of urban and rural settings. 

Read the report here.

For Further Reading on Urban Refugees and IDP:
  • Bringing an Urban Lens to the Forced Displacement ChallengeForced displacement is increasingly an urban crisis, says a 2018 World Bank Report. This means humanitarian and development approaches must bring an urban lens to the refugee challenge.
  • The Role of Cities in the Global Refugee CrisisAt City Lab, Robbert Muggah explains the key role cities must play in mitigating the refugee crisis.
  • The Hidden Nature of Urban Displacement: Because urban refugees live among their host communities, they are often the most difficult to locate, according to the World Bank.
IHC Global Spotlight Event:
The State of the Nation's Housing 2019 Release

Tuesday, June 25th

Although household growth is returning to a more normal pace, this year's State of the Nation's Housing   report shows that housing production still falls short of what is needed, which is keeping pressure on house prices and ren ts and eroding affordability. While demographic trends alone should support a vibr ant housing market over the coming decade, realizing this potential depends heavily on whether the market can provide a broader and more affo rdable range of housing options for tomorrow's households. This event is a conversation between Raphael Bostic, President and CEO of Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Chris Herbert, Managing Director of Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity, Amy Scott, Senior Correspondent for Housing, Marketplace; and Carol Tome, Chief Financial Officer, The Home Depot.

Find information about how to watch here.
In the News and Around the Web
  • With More Storms and Rising Seas, which US Cities Should be Saved First?: The New York Times asks how federal funding should be distributed to mitigate the effects of climate change in American cities.
  • Commuter Sells Seat on Crowded Tokyo Train: A Japanese commuter sells his seat on an overcrowded Tokyo train.
  • Open Global Rights Features Smart City Just CityOpenGlobalRights featured IHC Global's Smart City Just City in English and translated in Spanish.
Pictured: a crowded Tokyo train. One commuter recently sold a seat for $19 USD. 
Photo credit: Alamy, The Guardian

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