Scaling Down from the Neighborhood in Urban Planning Research and Practice: The Potential Benefits of a Micro-Scale Focus

Rebecca J. Walter, Marie Tillyer, Alex Ramiller, Arthur Acolin
Journal of Planning Education and Research

The neighborhood has been the dominant spatial unit in urban planning since the early 20th century, but criticisms of the neighborhood unit include disagreements about defining boundaries, methodological challenges in capturing neighborhood effects, and negative impacts on communities. With advancements in data management, and public data available at smaller units (street block or property), quantitative analyses are possible at the micro-scale. This commentary draws on crime research and prevention to illustrate the benefits of micro-scale approaches to quantitative analyses in the field of urban planning, arguing that the devolution to smaller scales may be a vehicle for efficient resource allocation.

Displacement Through Development?
Property Turnover and Eviction Risk in Seattle

Alex Ramiller
Urban Studies

Examining the relationship between evictions and property turnover through Neil Smith’s theories of gentrification and uneven geographical development, this article considers the argument that eviction provides a mechanism for property owners to facilitate displacement prior to property redevelopment and neighbourhood change. Models of property-level turnover in the city of Seattle reveal that evictions are more likely to occur at properties that are sold in the same year, properties where planned demolition or remodelling activity is imminent and buildings that have been recently constructed. Increased likelihood of eviction is also associated with a greater volume of remodelling and demolition permit applications filed in the surrounding neighbourhood, suggesting that evictions may be more likely to occur at the early stages of development-driven neighbourhood change.

Moving to Shared Equity:
Locational Outcomes for Households in Shared Equity Programs

Alex Ramiller, Arthur Acolin, Rebecca J. Walter, Ruoniu Wang
Housing Studies

The impact of U.S. housing policy on household locational outcomes has primarily been studied in the context of rental housing assistance programs, but the impact of alternative homeownership models is less fully explored. In this study, we assess residential trajectories for households that have participated in shared-equity homeownership (SEH) programs such as Community Land Trusts and Limited Equity Housing Cooperatives. We find that while entering SEH may entail moving to lower-opportunity neighborhoods, participation in SEH programs increases the long-term economic and socio-spatial mobility of participating households by enabling them to access a broader array of neighborhood contexts in their subsequent move.

Segmented Information, Segregated Outcomes:
Housing Affordability and Neighborhood Representation on a Voucher-Focused Online Housing Platform and Three Mainstream Alternatives

Chris Hess, Rebecca J. Walter, Ian Kennedy, Arthur Acolin, Alex Ramiller, Kyle Crowder
Housing Policy Debate

Online platforms have become an integral component of the housing search process in the United States, but recent studies have demonstrated that these platforms offer uneven representation of different neighborhoods. We use listings covering the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas to assess how GoSection8, a platform uniquely focused on affordable housing and voucher-assisted households, compares with the “mainstream” alternatives of Craigslist,, and Zillow. We find that GoSection8 and mainstream alternatives capture spatially segmented information about housing markets, with GoSection8 ads representing units that are more affordable but also more constrained to higher-pov- erty neighborhoods where assisted households are already concentrated.

Transitioning to Homeownership:
Asset Building for Low- and Moderate-Income Households

Arthur Acolin, Alex Ramiller, Rebecca J. Walter, Samantha Thompson, Ruoniu Wang
Housing Policy Debate

This article assesses the asset building of households that take part in shared-equity homeownership (SEH) models by matching participants in SEH programs to households with similar characteristics from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) over the 1997–2017 period. The findings indicate that in real terms, median SEH homeowners accumulated about $1,700 in housing wealth annually or around $10,000 during their holding period. This amount is lower than the $2,100 median annual gain in home equity experienced by similar PSID owners but statistically and economically significantly larger than the $16 in annual gain experienced by similar PSID renters.

Toward a Cross-Platform Framework:
Assessing the Comprehensiveness of Online Rental Listings

Ana Costa et al.

As rental housing ads have transitioned to digital spaces, a growing body of literature has utilized web scraping to analyze listing practices and variations in rental market dynamics. Using a mixed-methods approach to study listings across various platforms in five metropolitan areas, this article demonstrates considerable variation in both the types of rental units advertised and the features provided across those platforms. Analyses indicate that online listing platforms target different audiences and offer distinct information on units within those market segments, resulting in markedly different estimates of local rental costs and unit size distribution depending on the platform.

Establishing the Green Neighbourhood:
Approaches to Neighbourhood-Scale Sustainability Certification in Portland, Oregon

Alex Ramiller
Local Environment

This article explores two neighbourhood-scale sustainability certification frameworks: LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) and the EcoDistricts Protocol. Analysis of these frameworks in the context of two centrally-located neighbourhoods in Portland, Oregon, reveals substantial contrasts between the two frameworks in terms of the relative flexibility of their sustainability metrics, the time frame over which decisions regarding sustainable development are made, and community involvement in the process of pursuing specific objectives. Furthermore, it suggests that greater flexibility in the application of standards, continuous governance, and greater community involvement lead to more dynamic and holistic forms of sustainability that evolve as both local community needs and broader understandings of sustainability change over time.

Making Radical Change Real:
Danish Sustainability, Adaptability, and the Reimagination of Architectural Utopia

Alex Ramiller, Patrick Schmidt
Utopian Studies

The article explores the possibility of architectural utopianism embedded in discourses of sustainability through the two leading Danish architecture firms, the Bjarke Ingels Group and 3XN. We critique Bjarke Ingels Group's invocation of utopianism while finding in 3XN the hallmarks of architectural utopiaiism. This inquiry points out just how demanding and elusive sustainabitity is but, in so doing, reinforces why sustainability is fertile ground for the return of the utopian imagination to the architectural field.

Scale Limits to Sustainability:
Transdisciplinary Evidence from Three Danish Cases

Alex Ramiller, Patrick Schmidt
Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions

Scale has risen to greater prominence in the study of sustainable transitions, as efforts to understand the diffusion of innovation seeks to take account of place-specific effects. This article explores three case studies in Denmark: the municipality and island of Samsø, Copenhagen, and the Danish nation as a whole. The rise of these locales as global leaders in environmentalism obscures unsolved problems and under-emphasized caveats that in some instances appear intractable. Individually, these cases raise a number of factors representing insights from different disciplinary concerns; together, the cases suggest that scale effects impose more severe constraints and even limits on the development of sustainability transitions.