Weekly Urban News Update
December 8th, 2017
In This Update

Rust belt cities- those that lie near the great lakes in the United States- are on the path of development, after decades of decline. But development in these cities is leaving some of their worse-for-wear neighborhoods behind. IHC Global's strategic partner and reciprocal member Next City's Danya Sherman sat down with Buffalo resident and affordable housing activist Maxine Murphy, and discussed how she and the organization she is president of, the People United for Sustainable Housing Buffalo (PUSH Buffalo), are fighting back against gentrification, displacement and rising housing prices.
Read the full interview here.

A raging wildfire is tearing through Los Angeles county, forcing mass evacuations and endangering millions of lives. It is not the first time that the major metropolis has erupted in flames, and it won't be the last. And climate change may be making the Southern California wildfires worse, a trend that could have a serious impact on the lives of the more than 10 million people that live in the Los Angeles metropolitan area and beyond. According to the Atlantic, "seven out of California's 10 largest modern wildfires have occurred in the last 14 years," (at least since recording began in 1932). This worrying statistic can be attributed to the increasingly inconsistent rainfall in the region, which has led to dryer vegetation that serves as perfect kindling for the Santa Ana winds that carry the fires. Climate change has had a significant hand in altering expected weather patterns, and cities as vulnerable as Los Angeles are struggling to adapt to the catastrophic changes. Furthermore, as urbanization grows and the edges of cities encroach more into wild spaces, wildfires have a greater risk of spreading to those areas and causing property damage and destruction. A 2002 report by FEMA found that 38 percent of new home construction in the western United States was adjacent to or intermixed with "wildland-urban interfaces", or WUIs--areas where housing and vegetation intermix. Many of the worst fires in California this year have originated in these areas (see map here).

For this reason, it is essential that land-use planning go hand-in-hand with efforts to combat climate change. L.A. is one of the U.S. cities leading the local government charge to adopt the Paris Climate Agreement, and as this week's events show, it is more important than ever to work both towards mitigating the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and towards adapting and planning for the effects that climate change is already having in urban areas.
Read the full article here. Read a Los Angeles resident's account here.

A few months ago, air pollution in Delhi was five times what the EPA's air quality index considers unhealthy; the air was so thick that people could hardly see through it, and so toxic that people couldn't go outside. This extreme example of the dangers of pollution should not detract from the negative impact that everyday pollution has on people in India, but it might be the key to getting people to pay attention to how much energy they use, and how much it contributes to pollution. According to a new study from the University of California, Los Angeles, providing people with information about the health effects of energy use is significantly more effective in motivating people to cut energy costs than simply providing information on the cost-cutting benefits of conservation. It may seem like a no-brainer, but people often do not grasp the true damage that daily occurances- like exposure to pollution caused by energy use- have on health. Providing the right information on health risks through the right channels, so that it can be disseminated to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, is necessary to make an impact on conservation.

Read a summary of the study  here.
D  Urbanization & Slums: Infectious Diseases in the Built Environment

The Forum on Microbial Threats, in collaboration with the Board on Life Sciences, will host a 1 and a half-day workshop examining "Urbanization and Slums: New Transmission Pathways of Infectious Diseases in the Built Environment." This workshop will feature discussions on the social, physical, environmental, and political drivers of infectious disease transmission in an increasingly urban and interconnected world; effective interventions and policies to achieve sustainable, health-promoting urban built environments; and strategies to close the research gap and scale up successful practices.  Invited speakers and discussants will contribute perspectives from government, academia, private, and nonprofit sectors at the global, national, and local levels.

When:  December 12, 1:00 PM - 5:30 PM EST
December 13, 8:30 AM - 3:30 PM EST
Where:  National Academies Keck Center
500 5th St. NW
Washington, DC 20001

Learn more about the event  here.
Feature IHC Global Urban Feature: Migration
Beijing's eviction of migrants is bad for everyone, including Beijing.

The Issue
For years now, Beijing has been flourishing as a megacity with the help of its millions of laborers, many of them migrants. But it hasn't been a mutually beneficial relationship. While some migrant workers are successful, white-collar young professionals, most face considerable challenges living and working in Beijing. Many migrant workers spend a major portion of their days commuting to and from work; some live underground in repurposed nuclear shelters left over from the Cold War, while others live in crowded, makeshift apartments on the outskirts of the city. But despite their differences, these migrant workers have at least one thing in common: their presence in Beijing is becoming increasingly unwelcome. 

After a fire in a low-income apartment building killed 19 people in November, the government in Beijing launched a 40-day "Safety Evacuation Campaign" to clear out tenants from buildings deemed unsafe. While the government claims that the evictions are being carried out in the name of safety, many are skeptical and feel that the safety concerns are being used as an excuse for the government to drive out migrant workers. Indeed, m igrant workers have lately been caught in the tide of the government's ambitious plan to cap the megacity's population at 23 million--only about a million more than it is right now--and to redistribute people and resources into the impoverished villages surrounding Beijing, merging Beijing and neighboring areas of Tianjin city and Hebei Province into a single 'mega-region.'  However, the "Safety Evacuation Campaign" that has been carried out over the past few weeks has seen sweeping evictions and demolitions of informal housing, forcing out residents who have lived in the city for years with little notice and no alternative accommodations.

What We See
The situation in China is both unique and complex. Because of China's hukou system, whereby Chinese citizens are considered residents of the town or city they were born in, and must get special permission to reside and work in other cities, many  migrants who have not obtained this special permission are considered to be second-class citizens and have no right or access to urban amenities, including education and healthcare.  

While building safety is a serious matter--indeed, buildings in cities from London to Oakland have been the scene of deadly fires in recent years due to safety hazards--the way that the Beijing government has gone about its Safety Evacuation Campaign--and the fact that heavily migrant neighborhoods have been the prime targets of evictions-- calls it motives into serious question. It is essential that efforts to streamline safety and upgrade housing put residents' well-being and livelihoods at the center of plans. Over the past weeks, thousands of residents of Beijing--most of them migrants, have been forced out into freezing temperatures with not more than a day's notice, and could only watch as their homes and places of work have been demolished.

Safety and inclusion are two of the key targets of Sustainable Development Goal 11, and it is crucial that these two are pursued together by cities. Efforts to enhance safety in cities should not make cities less inclusive, just as efforts to make cities inclusive should not make them less safe. While undocumented immigrants or migrants pose political challenges in many countries around the world, IHC Global believes that conflating immigrant status with inhumane living conditions is mistaken, and advocates for inclusive solutions to informal and unsafe housing, and transparent and fair inclusion strategies for new-comers to urban areas.

  Read more here here , and here .
To learn more about IHC Global's Key Policy Topics, which are both barriers and gateways to better, more equitable urban development, click here
News In the news and around the web
  • A packed-to-bursting Addis Ababa is going through a massive redesign.
  • The new GOP tax bill's plan to eliminate State and Local Tax Deduction could do more harm than good for cities.
  • What is the significance of capital cities, and how are they chosen?
  • Reminder: registration for the World Urban Forum closes on December 15th.
In case you missed it:
  • Did you miss IHC Global's Twitter chat on urban safety with the World Urban Campaign? See our discussion- and join the conversation- here.
  • IHC Global co-hosted with the Woodrow Wilson Center a policy roundtable lunch with the Wilson Center on Tuesday. Featuring speakers from HUD and the State Department and participants from USAID, World Bank, civil society, and private sector in this informal session, attendees discussed the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, plans for the World Urban Forum, and more.

 One of Jeffrey Milstein's shots from above New York City.
     Source: Jeffrey Milstein
safetyTake our Making Cities Safe survey
IHC Global has created a survey to increase understanding and share knowledge around issues of safety in cities-looking specifically at safety in the home, on public transport, in formal and informal workplace settings, and in common spaces such as sanitary facilities. Results from this survey will provide input into a policy report addressing how SDG 11, Target 7, Indicator 2-which focuses specifically on making urban spaces safe--can be met.

Help us gain a better understanding of urban safety; take our survey  here!
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