January 26, 2018
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In new survey, America’s mayors cite affordable housing as a main concern

Three inspiring stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

A majority of mayors said the cost of housing is the most common reason people move out of their cities. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Every Friday, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions individuals and organizations are creating in their communities. Want to share a story from your hometown? Email us at info@therenewalproject.com.


Mayors weigh in: America’s cities have been staging a comeback in recent years, with many downtown areas attracting a new wave of educated Millennials. With this influx of residents comes a demand for housing. In the latest Menino Survey of Mayors, released this week by the Boston University Initiative on Cities, a little over half (51 percent) of U.S. mayors surveyed cite housing costs as the most common reason that people move out of their city. Only 13 percent of the 115 mayors surveyed believe that their city’s current housing stock meets the needs of their constituents. With 39 states represented, mayors in the West were most likely to report (45 percent) a significant “mismatch” between available housing and the needs of their residents, the report, supported by Citi Community Development and The Rockefeller Foundation, said. As we have reported, several communities from San Francisco to Burlington, Vermont, are committed to solving their own challenges to housing those in most need.


Denver Day Works … works: In November 2016, the city of Denver launched a day-labor program called Denver Day Works, to give the homeless and unemployed landscaping and public works jobs three days a week. In its first year, all but ten of the 284 program enrollees worked for more than one day, and 110 found full-time work. Now, city leaders are planning on expanding the program, increasing the its budget, adding a fourth and fifth day to the program later in the year, and expanding the range of jobs offered to accommodate more potential employees, including the disabled. “When you take a good person [who’s] down, broken, discouraged, and you give them an opportunity to be proud of their self—to stand up and do something for their self—that’s one of the greatest gifts anybody can give to anybody,” said Jeffrey Maes, a beneficiary of the program, at a conference where city leaders announced an expansion of the program. This case provides an interesting lesson in how solutions spread from city to city: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock instituted the program after reading a news report about a similar initiative in Albuquerque.


Expunging felony records in California: When recreational marijuana became legal in California at the beginning of the year, another sweeping legal change also came into be: those with marijuana-related offenses on their criminal record could now file to have those offenses reduced or removed from their records. “It really kind of affected me,” Rayshon Williams, a California resident who had been arrested in the past for marijuana-related offenses, told Vice News. His record made it difficult for him to apply for work. “The whole time, they’re not gonna hire you because they see that ‘F’ on your record.” Now, almost a million Californians are eligible to have similar offenses expunged, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

Mikhail Klimentov and Margaret Myers

Mikhail Klimentov is a contributor to The Renewal Project. Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project.