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Latest Home Listing Report Ranks Most Expensive and Affordable Cities to Buy a Home

November 14, 2014 Comments off

Latest Home Listing Report Ranks Most Expensive and Affordable Cities to Buy a Home
Source: Coldwell Banker

For the second time in three years, Los Altos, Calif. ranks as the most expensive real estate market in the country, where that size home averages $1,963,100. That’s six times the national average! With the tech boom getting hotter each year, it’s no surprise that Los Altos continues to be one of the most coveted places to live. In fact, California’s Silicon Valley is home to seven of the 10 most expensive cities in this year’s report.

On the other end of the spectrum, Cleveland, Ohio ranks as the most affordable city in the country at $64,993. The Midwestern town, which is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is experiencing its own resurgence of growth.

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2014 Municipal Equality Index

November 14, 2014 Comments off

2014 Municipal Equality Index
Source: Human Rights Campaign

The Municipal Equality Index (MEI) examines the laws, policies, and services of municipalities and rates them on the basis of their inclusivity of LGBT people who live and work there.

The 2014 MEI rates a total of 353 cities from every state in the nation, which is an increase of more than 60 cities rated in 2013.

Urban Computing: Concepts, Methodologies, and Applications

November 10, 2014 Comments off

Urban Computing: Concepts, Methodologies, and Applications
Source: Microsoft Research

Urbanization’s rapid progress has modernized many people’s lives, and also engendered big issues, such as traffic congestion, energy consumption, and pollution. Urban computing aims to tackle these issues by using the data that has been generated in cities, e.g., traffic flow, human mobility and geographical data. Urban computing connects urban sensing, data management, data analytics, and service providing into a recurrent process for an unobtrusive and continuous improvement of people’s lives, city operation systems, and the environment. Urban computing is an interdisciplinary field where computer sciences meet conventional city-related fields, like transportation, civil engineering, environment, economy, ecology, and sociology, in the context of urban spaces. This article first introduces the concept of urban computing, discussing its general framework and key challenges from the perspective of computer sciences. Secondly, we classify the applications of urban computing into seven categories, consisting of urban planning, transportation, the environment, energy, social, economy, and public safety & security, presenting representative scenarios in each category. Thirdly, we summarize the typical technologies that are needed in urban computing into four folds, which are about urban sensing, urban data management, knowledge fusion across heterogeneous data, and urban data visualization. Finally, we outlook the future of urban computing, suggesting a few research topics that are somehow missing in the community.

U.S. Workers’ Diverging Locations: Policy and Inequality Implications

November 7, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Workers’ Diverging Locations: Policy and Inequality Implications (PDF)
Source: Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research

Over the past three decades, the earnings of workers with a college education have substantially increased relative to those with less education. In 1980, the average college graduate earned 38% more than the average high school graduate. By 2000, the college-high school graduate wage gap increased to 57%, and by 2011 it rose to 73%.1 At the same time, workers have become increasingly spatially segregated by education. Cities that initially had a large share of college graduates in 1980 increasingly attracted larger shares of college educated workers from 1980 to 2000, while cities with relatively less educated populations in 1980 gained few college grads over the following 20 years. The increasingly “highly educated cities” also experienced higher wage growth for both low- and high-skill workers and substantially larger increases in housing costs. The economic trajectories of these increasing high skill cities are diverging from those with fewer college graduates (Moretti, 2013).

CRS — Cities Try, and Fail (So Far), to Prevent Federal Marijuana Enforcement, CRS Legal Sidebar (October 24, 2014)

November 6, 2014 Comments off

Cities Try, and Fail (So Far), to Prevent Federal Marijuana Enforcement, CRS Legal Sidebar (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of federal marijuana enforcement appear to have been exaggerated. While federal authorities have created a perceived safe harbor for the operation of marijuana businesses in states that have legalized the drug, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is still punishing violations of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) when a business’s activities threaten certain core federal interests, such as preventing the distribution of marijuana to children and combating the involvement of criminal enterprise. One tool the DOJ has used to close down offending dispensaries, grow facilities, and retail shops is civil forfeiture—a legal process by which the government may seize and liquidate a wide array of property “used or intended to be used to facilitate a violation of the CSA.” Once a decision to initiate a forfeiture proceeding has been made, there appears to be very little that states or localities, that actively support the operation of marijuana businesses, can do to prevent federal authorities from enforcing federal law.

Urban Poverty in Asia

October 28, 2014 Comments off

Urban Poverty in Asia
Source: Asian Development Bank

The phenomenon of urban poverty in Asia is pervasive, severe, and largely unacknowledged. In several Asian countries, the numbers of the urban poor have risen over the 1990–2008 period, lending strength to the proposition that as Asian economies become more urbanized, they may face increasing urban poverty with some urban scholars labeling it as “urbanization of poverty.”

Unlike rural poverty, urban poverty is complex and multidimensional—extending beyond the deficiency of income or consumption, where its many dimensions relate to the vulnerability of the poor on account of their inadequate access to land and housing, physical infrastructure and services, economic and livelihood sources, health and education facilities, social security networks, and voice and empowerment.

In most of developing Asia, urbanization has been accompanied by slums and shelter deprivation, informality, worsening of the living conditions, and increasing risks due to climate change and exclusionary urban forms. According to the UN-HABITAT, Asia has 60% of the world’s total slum population, and many more live in slum-like conditions in areas that are officially designated as nonslums. Working poverty and informality are high in Asian cities and towns. Recent years have witnessed, almost universally, increasing urban inequalities and stagnating consumption shares of lower-percentile households, with Hong Kong, China registering one of the highest Gini-coefficients observed in any other part of the developing and developed world.

Tackling the world’s affordable housing challenge

October 27, 2014 Comments off

Tackling the world’s affordable housing challenge
Source: McKinsey & Company

Decent, affordable housing is fundamental to the health and well-being of people and to the smooth functioning of economies. Yet around the world, in developing and advanced economies alike, cities are struggling to meet that need. If current trends in urbanization and income growth persist, by 2025 the number of urban households that live in substandard housing—or are so financially stretched by housing costs that they forego other essentials, such as healthcare—could grow to 440 million, from 330 million. This could mean that the global affordable housing gap would affect one in three urban dwellers, about 1.6 billion people.

A new McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, A blueprint for addressing the global affordable housing challenge, defines the affordability gap as the difference between the cost of an acceptable standard housing unit (which varies by location) and what households can afford to pay using no more than 30 percent of income. The analysis draws on MGI’s Cityscope database of 2,400 metropolitan areas, as well as case studies from around the world. It finds that the affordable housing gap now stands at $650 billion a year and that the problem will only grow as urban populations expand: current trends suggest that there could be 106 million more low-income urban households by 2025, for example. To replace today’s inadequate housing and build the additional units needed by 2025 would require $9 trillion to $11 trillion in construction spending alone. With land, the total cost could be $16 trillion. Of this, we estimate that $1 trillion to $3 trillion may have to come from public funding.

However, four approaches used in concert could reduce the cost of affordable housing by 20 to 50 percent and substantially narrow the affordable housing gap by 2025. These largely market-oriented solutions—lowering the cost of land, construction, operations and maintenance, and financing—could make housing affordable for households earning 50 to 80 percent of median income.

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