Initiatives

Penn IUR undertakes projects and research initiatives, develops partnerships, and hosts conferences that aim to develop and expand knowledge of the urban landscape. Our initiatives focus on three critical topic areas: building the sustainable and inclusive 21st-century city; innovative urban development strategies; and the role of anchor institutions in urban places.

Global Urban Commons

The Global Urban Commons (the Commons), is a publicly-accessible, global directory of university-based urban research centers.The Commons, which includes more than 200 urban-research focused organizations from around the world, is a platform to build awareness about the breadth and depth of global urban research. The site is unique in that it reaches across disciplines, supports common research agendas, and fosters opportunities for collaboration between urbanists based at research centers around the world.

HUD Sustainability Indicators Project

Penn IUR, with funding from the Ford Foundation, worked with a team of Penn’s city planning doctoral students to develop the Sustainable Communities Indicator Catalog (SCIC) a web-based tool that enables communities to benchmark and track their progress toward sustainability. Penn IUR consulted extensively with experts and stakeholders to inform the development of this tool.

National Anchor Institution Task Force

Penn IUR’s Co-Directors Genie Birch and Susan Wachter, along with Penn IUR Faculty Fellow Ira Harkavy, Director of Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships, are among the co-founders of the National Anchor Institution Task Force.

Penn IUR Case Studies on Anchor Institutions

Anchor institutions are economic engines for cities and regions, acting as real estate developers, employers, purchasers of goods, magnets for complementary businesses, community-builders, and developers of human capital.

Penn IUR Roundtable on Anchor Institutions

Penn IUR Roundtable on Anchor Institutions (PRAI) is a leadership “think tank” that convenes leaders from anchor institutions, their respective civic collaborators (academic, government, and foundation partners), and technical experts for an intense full day of roundtable discussions. These Anchor Teams work with Penn IUR to develop a case study that outlines a compelling local challenge.

New Ideas in Urban Research: Research Questions and Findings from Penn IUR’s Emerging Scholars

Penn IUR Emerging Scholars

Penn IUR is invested in supporting and encouraging a new generation of urban scholars who are identifying and pursuing key questions related to urbanization. For this month’s issue of Urban Link, we interviewed some of our most recent PhDs to get a feel for the issues that they consider important or that they are currently pursuing in their research.

The New Urban Crisis

Richard Florida

Richard Florida writes that Donald Trump’s thinking about cities is a product of the old urban crisis of the 1960s and ‘70s - the staggeringly high rates of crime and poverty, economic and social dysfunction, and fiscal collapse that he witnessed in his native New York in the early years of his career. But, his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton is a product of the backlash against what I have come to call the New Urban Crisis of burgeoning economic inequality--the widening divides between rich and poor; the staggering unaffordability of housing in our leading cities, tech hubs, and knowledge-centers like New York, LA, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, and Washington DC.

Improving the Evidence Base for Access to Quality Pre-K

John Fantuzzo, Katie Barghaus, & Whitney LeBoeuf

Early childhood education has captured the nation’s attention and holds a rare spot in the center of the political aisle. This is not surprising given that a quality Pre-K experience can save the public at least three dollars for every dollar spent, particularly for children who live in poverty and experience numerous risks to their educational success. In Philadelphia, the poorest of the ten largest cities in America, Mayor Kenney established the Commission on Universal Pre-K to expand access to quality Pre-K in the city, with the ultimate goal of universal access for all three- and four-year-old children. This introduced one of the most important decisions in Kenney’s early term as Mayor—how to expand quality Pre-K given limited funds and thousands of children in need. As researchers, the critical question for us became how to provide useful information to Kenney’s Commission in a timely manner so they can allocate funds to serve the most vulnerable children first.

U.S.-Japan Grassroots Exchange Program, 2016

Laura Barron

Penn IUR published the Year 2 report for the US-Japan Grassroots Exchange program.

Housing and Opportunity

Arthur Acolin and Susan Wachter

Housing and Opportunity is a policy brief by Arthur Acolin and Susan Wachter.

Housing and Opportunity

Arthur Acolin and Susan Wachter

For much of U.S. history, moving to markets with better jobs has been a primary means for low-income workers to rise out of poverty and access opportunity. Recently, however, there has been a decrease in the rate with which workers have relocated to markets with better work opportunities. Average annual mobility has declined from nearly 20 between 1948 and 1980 to only about 10 percent in 2015 (U.S. Census 2016), which may be signaling a fundamental shift in the ability for workers to relocate to regions with greater job opportunities.

Expert Voices 2017: America’s Urban Infrastructure

Penn IUR

In his inauguration speech, President Trump characterized America's infrastructure as having “fallen into disrepair and decay” and promised to “build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways.” Similarly, over the course of the presidential campaign, Trump vowed to develop "the next generation" of American infrastructure and "send new skyscrapers soaring." We asked more than a dozen urban experts: In your view, what should the United States do about urban infrastructure?

Principles of Housing Finance Reform: The Imperative of Rebuilding the System

Susan M. Wachter and Joseph Tracy

In the fall of 2008, the world watched in horror as the U.S. housing finance system shattered, triggering a global financial panic and ultimately the Great Recession. Now, nearly a decade later, the long and slow recovery has reached a critical moment.

Governing the Fragmented Metropolis

Christina D. Rosan

Christina D. Rosan observes that policy-makers and scholars have long agreed that we need metropolitan governance, but they have debated the best approach.

Principles of Housing Finance Reform

Susan M. Wachter and Joseph Tracy

Reflections on Habitat III: A Hopeful Future for Sustainable Urban Development

Habitat III Delegation

The University of Pennsylvania sent a 24-member delegation to Habitat III. Among them were Penn IUR Advisory Board member Paul Farmer, faculty members: Stefan Al (City and Regional Planning), William Burke-White (Richard Perry Professor of Law and Director, Perry World House); Mark Alan Hughes (City and Regional Planning, Director, Kleinman Center); Wendell Pritchett (Presidential Professor of Law); Eduardo Rojas (Historic Preservation, School of Design); Daniel Aldana Cohen (Sociology, School of Arts and Sciences); and nine doctoral students from the Graduate Group in City and Regional Planning. Below are reflections from the delegation about their experiences and the challenges ahead.

Atlas for the End of the World

Richard Weller

Richard Weller writes about the importance for mapping that links people and conservation in the "Atlas for the End of the World".

Reinventing Our Communities: Transforming Our Economies

William Lambe, Theresa Singleton, and Susan Wachter

Opportunity and Housing Access

Arthur Acolin and Susan Wachter

Working Paper on The Development of Energy Smart Communities in the APEC Region

Penn IUR

Penn IUR – through work sponsored by the Taiwan National Development Council – conducted this research summary to examine the growth of low-carbon and energy smart communities in the APEC region and assess their success.

Habitat III: The Quest for Sustainable Urban Development

Eugenie L. Birch and Jane C.W. Vincent

This article is jointly authored by Eugenie L. Birch, Lawrence C. Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research and Education, Department of City and Regional Planning, and Co-Director, Penn Institute for Urban Research, University of Pennsylvania; and Jane C.W. Vincent, Regional Administrator, Region III, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It was originally published in the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's journal, Cascade, No. 93, Fall 2016. The original article is available on the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's website. The article addresses Habitat III as an opportunity to think and act with a collective voice in the effort to create and sustain cities of opportunity.

Lessons Learned for Transforming Urban Public Education

By Matthew P. Steinberg and Rand Quinn

Over the past 15 years, new education policies have led to a host of reforms throughout the country, spanning everything from standardized accountability testing and class size reduction to school choice and merit pay, to name just a few. Which of these reforms have actually worked to improve the lives of students in the nation’s urban schools—and which have failed to live up to expectations despite the best of intentions?

Pension Liabilities: A Call for Transparency

Robert P. Inman and Susan M. Wachter

Robert P. Inman and Susan M. Wachter write that while cities have as a group strengthened their economies and fortunes considerably since then, there is one area where weakness is still a major concern: the preparation for paying promised pension liabilities.

City and Suburbs - Has There Been a Regime Change?

Arthur Acolin, Richard Voith, and Susan Wachter

Owning or Renting in the US: Shifting Dynamics of the Housing Market

Susan Wachter and Arthur Acolin

The current persistent and large decline in the number of owner households is almost unprecedented. Why has this occurred? What is driving the economy of renting?

Owning or Renting in the US: Shifting Dynamics of the Housing Market

Susan M. Wachter and Arthur Acolin

Susan Wachter and Arthur Acolin synthesize the research from their recent publications regarding the decline of home ownership in the United States.

Educating Commercial Real Estate Brokers on Green Leasing / Energy Efficiency

Susan Wachter

This project was sponsored by the Consortium for Building Energy Innovation (CBEI), a program of the Department of Energy. CBEI was a five-year program tasked with bridging the technology, market dynamics, policy, and human behavior in order to reduce energy used by the commercial buildings sector.

Slums: How Informal Real Estate Markets Work

Eugenie L. Birch, Shahana Chattaraj, and Susan M. Wachter

Large numbers of people in urbanizing regions in the developing world live and work in unplanned settlements that grow through incremental processes of squatting and self-building.

Rehousing Mumbai: Formalizing Slum Land Markets Through Redevelopment

Vinit Mukhija

Planners and economists usually consider land encumbered by slums to be less efficient, with inadequate physical infrastructure services, and fragmented land ownership.

University-led Innovation Initiatives: Lessons from PRAI 2015

Cara Griffin, Eugenie Birch, and Laura Barron

Innovation on university campuses impacts plays a critical role in community development, but the development of innovation also depends on the university's approach.

Urban Universities and Innovation

Laurie Actman and Eugenie Birch

In this issue of Urban Link, we explore the relationship between urban anchor institutions—in particular higher education institutions— and innovation.

Shared Prosperity in America’s Communities

Susan M. Wachter and Lei Ding

Shared Prosperity in America's Communities, in the City in the 21st Century Book Series, authored by Susan M. Wachter and Lei Ding, examines this place-based disparity of opportunity and suggests what can be done to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are widely shared.

Urban and Suburban Poverty: The Changing Geography of Disadvantage

Elizabeth Kneebone

Elizabeth Kneebone writes about the changing geography of disadvantage and the suburbanization of poverty.

Public Pensions and City Solvency

Susan M. Wachter

Underfunded pension liabilities threaten the fiscal stability of many cities. While Detroit's bankruptcy has dominated the headlines, the problem is widespread.

Expert Voices 2016: Urban Policy and the Presidential Election

Penn IUR Faculty Fellows and Scholars

With all eyes focused on the presidential race, now is the time to discuss the great challenges that our nation faces. The candidates have a unique opportunity to address the issues that affect the lives of their fellow Americans, but what are those issues and how should they think about them? What major urban policy issues should the candidates address? We posed this question to our Penn IUR Faculty Fellows and Scholars. In the following eleven essays, they explore the urban policies that deserve the candidates' attention.

Penn IUR Research Digest: Housing Finance Reform

Susan Wachter and Joseph Tracy, Editors

Abstracts were adapted from chapters of an upcoming book edited by Susan Wachter and Joseph Tracy, "Housing Finance Reform:
Principles of Stability."

Philadelphia’s Triumphs, Challenges and Opportunities

Ethan Conner-Ross, Richard Voith, and Susan Wachter

Ethan Conner-Ross, Richard Voith, and Susan Wachter describe the evolution of Philadelphia over the past few decades, including its triumphs, challenges and current opportunities.

Philadelphia’s Triumphs, Challenges and Opportunities

Ethan Conner-Ross, Richard Voith and Susan Wachter

The second half of the 20th century was largely characterized by an exodus out of the great cities of the industrial age, and the consequent growth of the suburbs.

U.S.-Japan Grassroots Exchange Program, 2015

Penn IUR

Penn IUR reports on natural disaster recovery and the role of community-based planning.

Tracking and Explaining Neighborhood Socio-Economic Change in U.S. Metropolitan Areas, 1990 - 2010

John D. Landis

John D. Landis writes that in understanding neighborhood change urban planners should be worried about neighborhood decline, not gentrification.

The Reality of Neighborhood Change: Planners Should Worry About Decline

John D. Landis

Penn IUR Faculty Fellow John D. Landis writes that city living is back and planners should be more concerned about urban decline than about gentrification.

Penn IUR 2014-15 Annual Report: Building on a Decade of Growth

Penn IUR

Penn IUR celebrates 10 years in this year's annual report.

My Testimony to Congress: How We Can Improve College Access and Completion For Low-Income Students

Laura W. Perna

Laura W. Perna writes about improving college access and success for low-income and first-generation students.

Urban Greening: A Solution to Blight and Toxic Stress?

Eugenia South

Penn IUR Emerging Scholar Eugenia South writes about the how urban blight is making residents sick through increased vacancy, sanitation, and safety.

Low Carbon Model Towns in the APEC Region

Eugenie Birch, Alon Abramson, Albert Han, Joseph Yu Su, and Chen Chen Tongji

Penn IUR looks at the growth of low-carbon and energy smart communities in the APEC region and attempts to assess their success.

Interventions for Urban Youth: Can Summer Jobs and Mentorship Really Affect Violent Crime Rates?

Sara Heller

Penn IUR Faculty Fellow Sara Heller writes about the role that targeted policy interventions can play in improving the lives of urban minority youth.

From Science Parks to Innovation Districts

Eugenie Birch

Penn IUR Co-Director Genie Birch writes about the growth of innovation across university campuses.

How Real Estate Developers Think

Peter Hendee Brown

Penn IUR Scholar Peter Hendee Brown writes about real estate development business in Chicago, Miami, Portland (Oregon), and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Geospatial Technologies for a Healthier, More Sustainable, and Increasingly Urban Earth

Eugenie Birch and Susan Wachter

Penn IUR Co-Directors Genie Birch and Susan Wachter reflect how Earth can survive, and even thrive, as the global population nears nine billion/

Happy Earth Day Everyone!

Richard J. Weller

Penn IUR Faculty Fellow Richard Weller reflects on the first Earth Day in 1970.

Feeding Urban Communities: A Look at Disparities in Food Access and Nutritional Consumption

Jessie Handbury

Penn IUR Emerging Scholar Jesse Handbury writes about how large nutritional disparities exist across different socioeconomic groups in the United States.

The World’s Largest Urban Demolition

Stefan Al

Stefan Al writes about Dachong, in China, where in 2011 bulldozers destroyed over 10 million square feet of village housing and evicted more than 70,000 residents.

Penn IUR Newsletter, Spring 2015

Penn IUR

Penn IUR Newsletter, Spring 2015 offers a recap of the fall semester's activities and looks forward to upcoming events in Spring 2015.

Expert Voices 2015: Will the Battle for Sustainability be Won or Lost in Cities?

Penn IUR Faculty Fellows and Scholars

While 54 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas today, that number is projected to jump to 66 percent by 2050. How can our cities keep pace?

Race, Poverty, and Change in America: The Persistent Dilemmas of Equity and Equality

Vivian L. Gadsden

Penn IUR Faculty Fellow Vivian L. Gadsden writes about the themes of race, poverty and change in America are as relevant as ever, as our nation grapples with the recent tragedies in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York.

Some Reflections on Urban Public Art Today

Ken Lum

Ken Lum reflects on how though art in the broader sense has always possessed a public dimension due to its requirement of an audience, public art was not formalized as a category of discourse until the mid-nineteenth century.

Visualizing Philadelphia’s Neighborhood Change Process

Ken Steif

The same investors who once abandoned Philadelphia are now clamoring to get back in – and although new investment marks a reversal of fortunes for the City, it appears only a handful of neighborhoods have attracted this newfound attention.

Sustainable Development Goals Should Aim to Make Cities Inclusive, Resilient, Safe and Livable

Eugenie L. Birch

Will the UN recognize the transformative power of cities as they construct the 2016 SDGs?

Penn IUR Newsletter, Fall 2014

Penn IUR

Penn IUR's Fall 2014 Newsletter summarizes our work over the past semester and gives a preview of upcoming events and programs.

Penn IUR 2013-14 Annual Report: Building Shared Prosperity

Penn IUR

Penn IUR's 2013-14 Annual Report is titled "Building Shared Prosperity." It reflects Penn IUR's programming, research and publications over the previous year.

Teacher Evaluation Reform: Building Research to Inform Policy

Matthew P. Steinberg

Penn IUR Faculty Fellow Matthew Steinberg writes about teacher evaluation reform and the importance of building research to inform policy.

The Return of America’s Cities: Economic Rebound and the Future of America’s Urban Centers

Richard Voith and Susan Wachter

Cities are back. For the first time in decades and for three consecutive years, cities in the United States are growing faster than their surrounding suburbs.

The Power of Eds & Meds: Urban Universities Investing in Neighborhood Revitalization and Innovation

Meagan M. Ehlenz and Eugénie L. Birch with Brian Agness

Explore six universities investing in revitalization and innovation beyond their campus boundaries.

Feeding Cities: Food Security in a Rapidly Urbanizing World

Eugenie Birch and Alexander Keating

This report stems from the Feeding Cities: Food Security in a Rapidly Urbanizing World conference held at the University of Pennsylvania March 13–15, 2013.

Sustainable Urbanization: Place Matters

Penn IUR

This report addresses the "Sustainable Urbanization: Place Matters" summit hosted by Penn IUR in March 2014.

Urban Ecosystem Services and Decision Making: A Green Philadelphia

Dianna M. Hogan, Carl D. Shapiro, Susan M. Wachter and David N. Karp

This report summarizes the discussions and findings of a a one-day symposium titled Urban Ecosystem Services and Decision-Making: A Green Philadelphia, held on May 23, 2013.

Improving Opportunities for Social Mobility in the United States

Raj Chetty

The United States is often hailed as the “land of opportunity,” but opportunities for upward income mobility in the U.S. are actually lower than in other countries.

Miami Transformed: Rebuilding America One Neighborhood, One City at a Time

Manny Diaz

Manny Diaz, former Miami mayor, writes about the need to restore pragmatism in politics through a renewed investment in our cities.

The Economist: “Transforming Cities” Edition

The Economist & Penn IUR

This special edition of "The Economist" magazine was prepared for the "Transforming Cities" meeting at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center.

Expulsions

Saskia Sassen

Historical Vitality of Cities

Edward Glaeser

Cities are, fundamentally, the people within them. It is people who envision and implement change. Thus, the route to urban vitality lies in adopting policies that help people to thrive and to innovate;

Expert Voices 2014: Penn IUR Celebrates 10 Years

Penn IUR Faculty Fellows and Scholars

What is the role of the city in sustainable growth in the twenty-first century? 

Immigration as Urban Revitalization

Michael B. Katz

Most of the abundant new literature on recent immigration concentrates on the traditional immigrant ports-of-entry and on new and emerging immigrant gateways.

Civic Arbitrage: Unlocking the Value of Urban Assets

Mark Alan Hughes

In 1950, Philadelphia reached its maximum population of just over 2 million residents. In the decades before 1950, Philadelphia invested heavily in an infrastructure needed to support a city that would continue to grow.

Benchmarking: Using Data to Make Buildings More Energy Efficient

David Hsu

Buildings—particularly large commercial buildings and multi-family residential buildings—are a significant source of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Safe and Healthy Places Are Made, Not Born

Charles Branas

Charles Branas writes that interest in health and safety programs that focus on improving the places people live, work, and play has grown over the past decade.

How Philanthropy Responds to Critical Issues of Food Security in a Rapidly Urbanizing World

Heather Grady

In 2013, the Rockefeller Foundation’s one-hundredth year, we have been deeply analyzing the issues and strengths that defined our first century.

Transforming Cities: Visions of a Better Future

Penn IUR, Rockefeller Foundation

Arts and Culture Institutions as Urban Anchors: Livingston Case Studies in Urban Development

Eugénie L. Birch, Cara Griffin, Amanda Johnson, Jonathon Stover

Urbanization and Veterinary Medicine

Joan Hendricks and Gilbert S. Kahn

As cities grow and urban populations expand, people are becoming increasingly disconnected from their sources of food.

Addressing the Education-Workforce Mismatch: Preparing Students for Success in Today’s Economy

Laura Perna

All too often, young people in our country enter the job market without the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in today’s workforce.

Opinion Leaders Weigh in on 2013’s Biggest Urban Issues and Innovations

Penn IUR Faculty Fellows and Scholars

In 2013, as cities around the world expand, and as urban populations grow, we will face new challenges.

Revitalizing American Cities

Susan M. Wachter and Kimberly A. Zeuli

Small and mid-sized cities played a key role in the Industrial Revolution in the United States as hubs for the shipping, warehousing, and distribution of manufactured products.

Policy, Planning, and People Promoting Justice in Urban Development

Naomi Carmon and Susan S. Fainstein

The contributors of Policy, Planning, and People argue for the promotion of social equity and quality of life by designing and evaluating urban policies and plans.

Locked In, Locked Out: Gated Communities in a Puerto Rican City

Zaire Zenit Dinzey-Flores

In November 1993, the largest public housing project in the Puerto Rican city of Ponce—the second largest public housing authority in the U.S. federal system—became a gated community.

Ed Bacon: Planning, Politics and the Building of Modern Philadelphia

Gregory L. Heller

As Americans abandoned city centers to pursue visions of suburbia, architect and urban planner Edmund Bacon turned his sights on shaping urban America.

Design After Decline: How America Rebuilds Shrinking Cities

Brent D. Ryan

Almost fifty years ago, America's industrial cities—Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Baltimore, and others—began shedding people and jobs.

The Barnes Foundation and the Future of Benjamin Franklin Parkway

David Brownlee and Greg Scruggs

When the Barnes opened on May 19, 2012, art lovers rejoiced that one of the world’s foremost collections of modern works was back on display.

Learning from Hurricane Sandy

Eugenie L. Birch and Susan M. Wachter

A mere six years ago, when a major metropolitan area was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, the nation witnessed and was embarrassed by the pictures of dysfunction that ensued.

An Assessment of How Cities Create and Transfer Knowledge: A Landscape Study

Eugenie L. Birch, Susan M. Wachter, Alexander M. Keating

Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs in Metropolitan America

Laura W. Perna

Education, long the key to opportunity in the United States, has become simply essential to earning a decent living.

The City After Abandonment

Margaret Dewar and June Manning Thomas

A number of U.S. cities, former manufacturing centers of the Northeast and Midwest, have suffered such dramatic losses in population and employment.

Miami Transformed

Manny Diaz

Six-year-old Manuel Diaz and his mother first arrived at Miami's airport in 1961 with little more than a dime for a phone call to their relatives in the Little Havana neighborhood.

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