Thursday, January 31, 2008

Professional Projects Section

As some may have noticed already, I have added some papers and my resume to a sidebar entitled Professional Projects. Please feel free to read these papers!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Where I am Now

Last week I posted on what I was doing this past semester (a big reason why I had a grand total of three posts over four months). With my Masters Project finished, my coursework at Michigan is pretty much finished up. I am taking one class on urban and regional theory, which is pretty interesting.

I am spending most of my time working. I work two jobs right now, and put together they come pretty close to 40 hours a week. I continue to work at the Institute for Social Research two days a week, a position that will finish up come May. This January I started working at the University's Planning Office, where I am working three days a week until early May, and will be likely working full-time afterwards. I enjoy my new job, and find that a bunch of the things that I learned in graduate school are starting to be used on a daily basis.

I am also doing things outside of work and school. I am serving on a couple of church committees, spend a couple of hours per week comforting cats at the humane society, and am working on preparing the Ann Arbor Democratic Party for the 2008 election. Fun stuff, and I'll be sad to see it end should we move from Ann Arbor.

Keep your eyes on the TV tonight. I'm predicting a Romney victory tonight, but it will be very close with McCain a few points off.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Where I Was

This past semester was extremely busy for me, as I was working on a Masters' project that focused on vacant houses on the east side of Detroit. The neighborhood in Detroit that we did a closer analysis of the housing stock has been especially devastated by the sub-prime mortgage crisis; in a neighborhood with 4,000 houses, over 1,000 have been abandoned since 2005, with the majority of owners losing their houses to mortgage or tax foreclosure.

Part of responsibilities for this project included taking photographs of houses for our report. It seemed that the weather was superb every time I went out to do work in the neighborhood or take some photos, even in late November. I love walking urban neighborhoods, and I spent a couple of afternoon photographing and inventorying houses. It was amazing that houses, such as the one pictured above, which once were sold for almost $90,000 have been abandoned, and are now considered worthless. Many houses in the neighborhood, if not abandoned, are available for sale, and the prices are so incredibly low, making you realize the desperation of both the sellers and banks to get these houses of their hands.

The report, which was finished up in late December, discusses strategies, both neighborhood-based and longer-term, that communities can use to encourage the reoccupation of vacant houses. If you think that this is a problem reserved for Detroit, you are wrong. Abandoned housing is a problem in many cities (big or small), and is also becoming a enormous challenge for suburbs. As this New York Times article notes, even the most affluent suburbs such as Shaker Heights in metropolitan Cleveland are not immune to vacant houses.

This was a sobering project to work on. However, I also learned a great deal about the remarkable strength of neighborhoods; residents to both sides of the house pictured above were leaders in efforts to get this house torn down so that a new residence could be built. In a state where the state government is incapable (both Democratic and Republican legislature share the blame) of creating any effective policy, whether providing a long-term structurally sound budget or effective land-use planning, and local governments are starved for revenue, it is heartwarming to see neighborhood action in places such as in the east side of Detroit.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Back in Action

After being gone from blogging for too long, I'm finally in the position of having some free time for writing. So, expect some posts soon.