Boston is making good on its promise to create more “innovation units” to address local affordable housing shortages. The city’s Housing Innovation Lab has unveiled the Urban Housing Unit, or uHu, a 385-square-foot living complex that will serve as an example of the type of low-cost tiny apartments that could one day be distributed throughout the city. The uHu, which contains a place for sleeping, bathing, storage, and entertaining, will be taken on the road to different Boston neighborhoods over the next few months to gauge interest and garner support.
The city of Los Angeles has recently hired its first “Creative Catalyst Artist in Residence” to work with the Department of Transportation on outside-the-box solutions to help achieve the department’s goal of no traffic fatalities by 2025. The city’s Department of Cultural Affairs created the program to embed artists within different city departments to develop innovative ways to engage residents and to meet goals. The current artist, who will receive a $20,000 stipend for one year, has already started recording oral histories with longtime department workers to foster institutional memory.
Kennesaw State University, part of the University of Georgia system, has opened a dedicated apartment on campus for the temporary housing of homeless students and those at risk of losing housing. Under the plan, students needing assistance are allowed to stay in the unit for up to 14 days while the university works to find them permanent affordable housing. Officials note that there are currently between five and seven enrolled students who will immediately benefit from this emergency housing. Kennesaw University is also the first in the state to have dedicated staff tasked with addressing the needs of this population.
To tackle the “first-mile/last-mile” issues that often inhibit public transportation usage, Centennial, Colorado, has partnered with the ride-sharing app Lyft to help people get to and from its Regional Transportation District train station. The Denver suburb will offer subsidized Lyft rides through a six-month pilot program to users already in the current Call-n-Ride service area. Officials say the program will also help with overcrowding at the train station's over-capacity parking lot. Ride-sharing competitor Uber has partnered with other cities on similar initiatives.
In part to close the gender pay gap, Massachusetts has become the first state to forbid prospective employers from asking about a job candidate’s pay history. At the final stage of the hiring process, employers will often peg salary offers to someone’s previous salary, perpetuating systemic unequal pay practices that may have been carried through the candidate’s employment past. The law will likewise bar companies from prohibiting workers from discussing their respective compensation with each other, and require equal pay for jobs that are of comparable character. The legislation’s sponsors hope that the law becomes a model for other states.
Detroit is looking for ways to help developers and designers avoid unnecessary regulatory obstacles in order to quickly rebuild and repurpose neglected areas using specially designated “pink zones.” Funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, pink zones will allow public officials and businesses to experiment with economic development initiatives without going through the formal, expensive, and time-consuming rezoning process. The city’s Planning Department is recruiting multidisciplinary teams to create ideas for mixed-use activity at three commercial sites in Detroit, which will then be compared against the current regulatory environment to see which hurdles can be eliminated. Detroit hopes to pilot the pink zones by next summer and that the project will serve as a model for other cities.