Does Your Code Provide Homelessness Solutions?

Police officers“Sometimes it’s easy to walk by because we know we can’t change someone’s whole life in a single afternoon. But what we fail to realize is that simple kindness can go a long way toward encouraging someone who is stuck in a desolate place.” ― Mike Yankoski

Homelessness has been prevalent in our region for some time, but in recent years there has been a clear increase in the number of homeless. This can be readily observed, and has been confirmed in various reports and statistical measurements. For example, the 2016 One Night Count in King County showed 4,505 homeless people, a 19 percent increase over 2015.

There are a lot of policy options for alleviating homelessness and the lack of affordable housing. MRSC has just released its Homelessness and Housing Toolkit for Cities, which contains 18 examples of tools and actions that have been used in response to homelessness and the lack of affordable housing. However, in some jurisdictions, existing codes can present unintended barriers to providing remedies for homelessness. This blog will summarize a few common issues that can arise.

Is Your Zoning Code Clear With Respect to Use and Process?

Many jurisdictions have adopted regulations governing temporary homeless encampments, which are intended to provide emergency housing for relatively short periods of time. However, some regulations are not as clear with respect to other types of uses that address homelessness.

Do your regulations define what constitutes a permanent shelter, as opposed to one that moves to a different location every 90 days? Do your regulations define what constitutes transitional housing? Day centers are important since many overnight shelters are not open during the daytime. Do your regulations define a use that includes day centers?

Continue reading at MRSC Local Government Success

Originally written by Oskar Rey

Homelessness & Housing Toolkit Provides Best Practices, Real-World Examples for Washington Cities

Homeless person with sign reading "Help"MRSC and the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) have recently partnered to produce the Homelessness & Housing Toolkit for Cities in order to document methods being employed by cities and counties to address the concurrent issues of homelessness and housing affordability.

Despite a 10-year pledge to end homelessness in Washington by 2015, that deadline has come and gone.  Instead, Washington is 1 of only 13 states that saw an increase in its homeless population in 2016, up by 7.3% from 2015, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. Coupled with a crisis in housing affordability for low-wage workers and working families in many parts of the state, cities are seeking and—in many instances—finding solutions.

This joint MRSC/AWC publication, the Homelessness & Housing Toolkit for Cities, provides Washington local government officials with 18 real-world examples of strategies that have worked to address both issues by providing housing where it is most needed.

Continue reading at MRSC Local Government Success

Originally written by Lynn Nordby

Youth Council making strides in creating activities, options for teens

Youth Council MeetingLess than half a year after its inception the Arlington Youth Council is already creating activities for youth, such as art competitions, and supporting more options for local teens.

Seven local teens formed the council last September and have been working toward their main mission of providing more recreation and activities for teens in the community.

“The drug awareness is kind of why we’re doing all these different events, to give teens more options instead of resorting to drugs,” said Arlington Youth Council member Alec Villa.

With some of their funds they’ve purchased a giant “human foosball” inflatable, where people can step inside and actively participate in a large version of the tabletop soccer game.

The inflatable, which can be put up and taken down at different locations easily, can help add something that interests teens to local parks and summer events.

“We decided that would be a fun idea,” said Arlington Youth Council member Cole Cramer. “We can put it at different events for outdoor fun.”

The council also plans to launch a street art contest in early March with help from the Arlington Arts Council.

Continue reading at North County Outlook

Originally written by Christopher Andersson

San Jose Tackles Challenge of Digital Equity

City SkylineAs the Capital of Silicon Valley, San José is the “center of the universe” for innovation and disruptive technologies powered by the Internet economy.

The San José metro area is the most connected region in the United States according to the 2015 American Communities Survey. That same year, Bloomberg cited San José as America’s richest city, based on its high median income.

San José, however, is very much a tale of two cities with significant inequality for income and connectedness.

San José’s income inequality gap is one of the largest in the nation, ranking 22nd out of 19,500 cities in 2015. This gap continues to widen according to a December 2016 report issued by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Despite San José being the Capital of Silicon Valley, more than 12% of our households have no household internet access; in the richest city in the United States, more than 40% of our residents with incomes under $20,000 have no household internet access. This represents 100,000 people, a significant digital divide that cannot be overlooked, and one the City of San José is actively taking steps to reduce.

The key driver that influences the digital divide is affordability. Given San José’s income inequality, not only have people become lost in the statistics — they have lost practical opportunities to participate in this intensely connected world for learning, jobs, public and commercial services, and civic engagement.

Continue reading at Meeting of the Minds

Originally written by Dolan Beckel

27 Actions Cities Can Take to Realize the Benefits of Shared-Use Mobility

Bike Share StationFrom the launch of electric bikesharing systems to the rise of new carpooling concepts and microtransit services like Bridj and Chariot, cities today are facing the biggest disruption to the transportation sector since the automobile replaced the horse-drawn carriage.

While these new forms of shared-use mobility can offer wide-ranging benefits – such as increasing access to transportation, reducing reliance on private autos and cutting congestion and carbon emissions – they also present a challenge for local governments, which must regulate in a quickly changing environment and do their best to ensure the public good is upheld without stifling innovation.

A great deal has changed in the last year, as cities have begun to work more closely with the private sector to develop new solutions. In just the last month, for instance, Florida’s Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority rolled out a plan to subsidize first/last mile Uber trips to its transit stops, while Portland’s TriMet transit system announced that riders will soon be able to hail a Lyft ride or reserve a Car2go vehicle using its new mobile ticketing app.

Despite this progress, however, many cities have still found themselves playing catch-up as new shared modes proliferate, and have struggled to balance divergent goals including:

  • Maximizing access
  • Preserving safety
  • Ensuring support for public transit networks
  • Managing traffic
  • Allocating parking and other uses of curb space
  • Ensuring all communities are served
  • Providing clear and consistent guidelines for a quickly evolving industry

While a handful of cities like Seattle and Los Angeles have begun work to develop their own comprehensive mobility plans, the focus on catch-up in most regions has meant few cities have developed a long-term vision for a public-private mobility world. And even fewer have had a chance to reorganize or build new capacity, resulting in confusion over who is best suited to oversee these new modes of transportation.

Continue reading at Meeting of the Minds

Originally written by Sharon Feigon

Call it the Urban Extension

Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert
Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert is optimistic about the city’s revitalization plans. Photo Matt Hagen

The massive Oso landslide killed 43 people, caused extensive flooding, and destroyed a key highway north of Everett in 2014, pushing the communities of Arlington and Darrington to their breaking point.

For months, grieving residents and community leaders remained so immersed in the search and recovery demands that nearly everything else had to be put on hold. That’s why, when they were invited to participate in a national competition that could funnel up to $3 million or more toward desperately needed economic revitalization efforts, Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert was practically on the verge of tears, again.

“It was this rare opportunity but we had no one left,” Tolbert recalls, explaining economic revitalization has been a top priority for the once-thriving logging communities trying to forge their place in Puget Sound’s ever-expanding urban reach. “It couldn’t have come at a worse time. Our capacity was tapped.”

At Washington State University offices in Seattle, Everett, and Pullman, though, an idea was taking shape. The University already was assisting with various recovery efforts, and it sent a team from WSU Extension to help with the competition as well.

What followed was a joint Arlington and Darrington entry that has survived two elimination rounds, already brought in more than $150,000 in grants, and is among just eight of the more than 350 original entries still in contention for the top prize.

“I never, ever had any inclination of the resources that were available at my fingertips,” says Tolbert.

Continue reading at Washington State Magazine

Originally written by David Wasson

How to Close a Gender Gap: Let Employees Control Their Schedules

Mother working on computer while daughter plays
Photo by: Angel Valentin for The New York Times

The main reason for the gender gaps at work — why women are paid less, why they’re less likely to reach the top levels of companies, and why they’re more likely to stop working after having children — is employers’ expectation that people spend long hours at their desks, research has shown.

It’s especially difficult for women because they have disproportionate responsibility for caregiving.

Flexibility regarding the time and place that work gets done would go a long way toward closing the gaps, economists say. Yet when people ask for it, especially parents, they can be penalized in pay and promotions. Social scientists call it the flexibility stigma, and it’s the reason that even when companies offer such policies, they’re not widely used.

A new job search company, Werk, is trying to address the problem by negotiating for flexibility with employers before posting jobs, so employees don’t have to.

Another option gives workers the freedom to adjust their schedules, no questions asked, because of unpredictable obligations, like a sleepless night with a toddler or a trip to the emergency room with an older parent.

“Nobody wants to be the female in the department who says, ‘My kid threw up on me this morning; I can’t come in,’ ” said Annie Dean, who worked as a lawyer before starting Werk with Anna Auerbach, a former consultant. “Eighty percent of companies say they offer flexibility, but it’s a black market topic. You raise it and you’re not taken seriously.”

Continue reading at The New York Times

Originally written by Claire Cain Miller