Wednesday, June 28, 2006

It has been a while

Well again, the time between posting is quite lengthy, however my internet situation has yet to improve, and with my work hours being quite filled up with my projects it is hard to find the time to update this while I am there.

Things are continuing to go well here. Yesterday I was able to be one of two people representing the Fed to attend a report launching at the House of Lords on young people with disabilities. It was interesting, but I was hoping for a bit more discussion and less formalities. It was presided over by the Countess of Wessex, a member of the royal family, so I was able to see a royal while I was here. I have a copy of the report and I am looking forward to reading it, in a nerdy political science kind of way. Something else that is kind of interesting is an article I saw in the New York Times about the New York Public Housing Board. It talked about an increase of rent and then discussed some of the problems that they are facing. It referred to an organization that advocated for tenants rights in New York's Public Housing, which of those that have known me for the past couple of years would know that it is a passion of mine. When I went to the website for the organization I began to read about their various campaigns and successes. What I found interesting was a campaign which enabled residents to purchase the public housing property of the landlord was seeking market pricing instead of section 8 rent. They did something similar in the UK back in the late 1980, called the "right to buy" act, which has caused more problems that was ever expected. The reason is because it dramatically reduced the numbers of affordable housing stock, when the numbers of those who needed affordable housing was increasing due to population increase. The similarity between the situation in New York and London is that recently a report by NYU has concluded that there is an inadequate number of affordable housing stock in New York for those in low-middle income households, such as new teachers. Also, New York City has similar polulation density problems, because you can now only go so far out of NYC before it becomes unnaffordable to live their due to transportation costs. I just thought that it was a prime example of how this experience will assist with going back to the States. Well that is all I really have time for. I will try to update it with more smaller messages during my lunch breaks so that I can keep everyone up to date.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Update on what is going on

Well, I would have liked to update this earlier, but my internet has been on the fritz lately. Something really exciting is that on Thursday some of my colleagues invited me to join them in a run to raise money to help the homeless. It was really awesome. There was about 3000 people there in bright red shirts. It was only 5km, but it was right in central London, which was really neat. I thought my time wasn't that bad as well, considering I haven't run in a long time. I did it in 28 minutes, which was nice.

The projects have been going well. I have been asked to give a presentation on the information I am gathering on city regions, but that wont be for a long time. I have also been invited to go with some coworkers to an event at the House of Lords. There is going to be a debate on housing services for the disabled. I think that will be a really good experience. I have also been invited to attend a debate at the London School of Economics on population density next week. I am really looking forward for that one. I think both are exciting. It is really interesting experiencing the discussion around housing and being right in it. The Fed is involved really in almost every dialogue around housing, and here housing is a top issue political. I am really liking it, and I think looking at housing as a human rights issue would be a definite improvement to the American system. It will be hard going back, knowing that in the States, there isn't the level of support for it as there is here. Oh well, that is why we go back, to change things. Well I am off to Hamstead Heath Park up on the hill. It is supposed to be absolutely gorgeous, and it is only a 15 minute walk from where I am staying. I hope everything is going well for all of you in the States. Until next time. Cheers

Monday, June 05, 2006

Week Two

Well I am now entering my second week in London. The projects that I have been working on have gone very well. I have definitely learned quite a bit about how housing is perceived in the UK. For instance, if you are homeless, the British government guarantees you some form of housing through law. Housing is a right, not a priveledge. I really respect that. Which leads me to the latest project. I have been asked to go through regional reports and research what each region is doing on homelessness. It is a wonderful opportunity to see how different parts of the UK are addressing this issue.

Another project that I am now working on is something that we have been discussing in the states, especially in the Center for Small Towns, for some time. Just recently the Government (a capitol G is used when describing the Federal level government) released a report identifying nine main "city regions". A city region is an area with at least one major city acting as the economic hub for a regions surrounding it. The region by no means follows political boundaries, it is the area of influence that the particular city has. It would be like Morris and the surrounding communities, except with a much larger city. I am hesitant to use major US cities as an example because of the whole urban sprawl thing. English cities do not nearly have the urban sprawl like the US (UK cities are on average 4-5 times more dense than US cities) because of the value the English society has placed on land. The result is that in every "city region" you have a very large city in close proximity with small rural communities. So back to the project. The Government identified these areas and want urban planning to focus on the concept of "city regions" instead of particular political boundaries. I have been asked to look at what the effects are of this approach, so that the Fed can take a stance on the issue. So far what I have come up with is, it is good because they are thinking about the sphere of influence a city can have on the surrounding areas, but it can be bad if policy then only focuses on those major cities, and ignores the rural communities. In other words, they can't just rely on the major cities to provide for the rural communities. So that is another latest project, which is very exciting.

I know it sounds like I am doing quite a bit of varying projects, but the timelines are spread out so far, that there should be no problem getting all of them done.

As for everything else, I am doing wonderful. When I am not at work, I have been going for very long walks around London, which has allowed me to see many more places than just the tourist places, although I have seen them as well. Every once and a while my colleagues take me out for dinner, which is nice. I really enjoy who I am working with. They are all very passionate about what they do, and I love it. It is a very close-nit group and they have definitely made sure that I feel welcome in their group.

That is a quick summary of what I have been doing. I will try to post more often. I have been busy lately so that is why I didn't put anything up for a while. But, I am off to work. Until next time.


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Research in London

I thought that it would be neat to explain what kind of research I will be doing while I am here. I will be doing research in two capacities. The first is through the Fed. The most recent project that I am working on is a Market Poll of residents in housing associations (which in the UK are social housing groups) to find out how residents would like and could be more involved in the decision making process around the housing association. A Market Poll, is a where you target a specific representation of the population. We are hoping to achieve a representative sample of the tenants of the housing association in Leeds, a city in northern UK, using quotas to limit certain groups of people, and then educating those selected through focus groups, followed by a survey about the Housing Associations. It is definitely a process. Kind of exciting, this project was created by the parliament, and the Fed took it. Next weekend, I am going to Leeds with members of the Fed to actually conduct the survey, which will be really fun.

Another project that I will be working on for the next couple of weeks is the HARPS project. HARPS is a housing association network set up by the Fed. It needs a massive overhaul because for the past eight months the Fed has been bogged down and unable to update or adjust it as needed. So I have been asked to assist with updating, and then polling the members of HARPS to assess what they want on it to help them improve social housing.

The second capacity that I will be doing research is through the UROP. Just recently(like 2 days ago) I received funding through the UROP for my project that I submitted so long ago. What I am planning on doing is establishing a connections between incidents of social unrest in geographically isolated ethnic communities in East London and Birmingham, both largely industrial areas, and targeted unemployment during the early part of the 1980's. This is exciting, because I will be able to travel out there to see these communities and see a different part of England. I will start conducting secondary source research this weekend and go through next week. The project is scheduled to start until July but I thought I could get a head start. So that is a bit of what I will be doing while I am over here. I will update as new projects come up or the status of the current ones.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The First Week of London

I have finally created my posting blog for my trip over here in the UK. So much has happened since I arrived. The flight was interesting and long. Although AirCanada offers more meals than I have ever experienced on a flight, the rest of the flight lacked. I had three screaming children behind me and an airsick woman next to me during the long part of the flight. Rather unpleasant. After I landed, Shiela, the lady I am staying with, had me picked up by a car at a very affordable rate, I then proceeded towards my new home in the Swiss Cottage part of London. It is quite the area, with large Victorian mansions that have been converted into large flats. The apartment I am staying it is very nice, and I hope to get pictures up on the blog before long.

The organization I am working with, The National Housing Federation, or the "Fed" as they call it, is the lobbying organization and policy research organization for social housing, housing for the disadvantaged. I have been placed in the research team and am going to have the chance to actually conduct research for a project over the next couple of weeks. The organization has already far surpassed all of my expectations, and I have the upmost confidence that it was the right placement for me to gain experience in social housing. It has definitely reinvigorated me to work in this kind of organization in the future, and pursue my interests in housing research and advocacy.

I haven't really had a chance to see anything other than work, the apartment, and a small cafe where I can get a cup of coffee everyday because I wanted to get started on working at the Fed as soon as possible. Hopefully I will be able to soo much more this weekend, because it is a Bank Holiday Weekend, so I have Monday off. I am hoping to get to Greenwich and the British Museum, which are free and wonderfully I here. I bought a pay as you go cell phone today, so if anyone needs to get ahold of me they can call my cell at 07726331706. You have to dial 44 first if you are calling from the states because it is international. Well I best be off to get some things done. Until then, cheers