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Your December Useful Community Plus
December 08, 2022

This month: Community Pandemic Recovery Issues Explored

Visit us at the Useful Community Development Website.

Happy Winter Holidays! Good news: if it's going into summer where you live, you still might be able to offer ice skating. This photo actually is from April in New York.

What's up at this point in pandemic recovery? We have observations from a community standpoint, based solely on where the four of us who write for the website live. Ponder these to identify which topics your neighborhood needs to discuss at its next meeting. (Along the way, we can't resist a few links to helpful pages of our website. Sorry--other people's good ideas are in the next article.)

***Many restaurants and retailers are almost back to their pre-pandemic numbers. If this is not true where you live, why not?

***Travel, including international and holiday travel, has recovered almost to the previous level. If your economy is tourist-oriented and it still feels dead, you need to investigate why.

***Meetings are not back; the lazy online approach is still too frequent, considering that as humans, we communicate in many nonverbal ways and that there is nuance in facial expression and body language that often isn't captured on computer cameras.

***Children are far behind in school, also because online education only goes so far, likely for some of the same reasons that online meetings are inferior to face-to-face ones.

***The economy is volatile, and there is worldwide inflation; economic dislocation is visible and may be quite disruptive, and not in a good way, in some towns.

***Homelessness is up; after a period of slow decline, we are now seeing increases in the U.S. It's time to discover exactly why that is happening in your community. For that, you need to collect stories from individuals.

***Crime is up, sometimes sharply. It's time to rein in a general feeling of lawlessness that prevailed in some places during the pandemic, and it's critical to bolster community mental health in any way possible.

***Demand for office space may now be semi-permanently reduced, just like the demand for retail space has been altered long-term by the prevalence, convenience, and adoption of online shopping. You may need to explore adaptive reuse opportunities. On that page, there is a long list.

***Housing cost inflation is prevalent. Questions to ask at the national level may be why we allowed large investors to buy on a speculative basis anyway; is economy of scale in housing worth it? Our answer is no. Why don't we build more housing supply? Can we impose rent controls? Have well-meaning environmental and land use controls, and elected officials reacting to NIMBYism depressed the supply of housing? (Instead of NIMBY, not in my backyard, consider yes in my backyard. Every time we suggest that, some of you are angry though.)

Meanwhile, while we were rightly focusing on a pandemic and a war in Ukraine, climate change deniers have been declining in credibility even further. At the community level, flood prevention and wildfire prevention may require a more urgent response in your particular place.

We answered what we suspect might be a common question: how to push a city to fix sidewalks.

We also did a significant revision of our neighborhood demographics page, recognizing that the Census Bureau and other government agencies are changing both the nature of the data they provide and methods of accessing it very rapidly. We'll try to keep up for you.

Here's a timely page of helpful and sometimes fun tools for navigating potentially argumentative holiday chit-chat with those who may have different views and life experiences. (Oops, isn't that everybody else?)

This December 12 free Urban Institute webinar about building your local "ecosystem" for community and economic development sound good. If you hang out on our website at all, you'll know we consider all community systems to be interlinked.

We found the executive summary of this report on community wealth building in Northern Ireland to be appropriate for the U.S. and probably elsewhere in Europe too. Community wealth building advocates want to see employee or community ownership of enterprises.

Communities facing sea level rise will want to join us in tracing a New York city project trying oyster beds and other methods to protect valuable real estate and infrastructure.

If you are not familiar with the Frameworks Institute, see this publication about ways to talk about poverty and race as an example of their work on how to talk about public issues.

Watch this link for an early 2023 application for a Citizens' Institute on Rural Design workshop. Sign up at the bottom of the page to get email updates. If your community is rural and get uglier by the year, you may want to participate.

If your community is discussing removing any sections of interstate highway, read this inspiring article about the discussion in Savannah, Georgia.

Lastly, in a more futuristic vein, it might be fun to read a thought-provoking piece about literally recycling buildings, based on Japanese homes that can be reassembled relatively easily.

Feel free to reply with comments. To ask a question, use that public-facing community development questions page on the website. We'll be back on a Thursday in January. Happy New Year!

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