The JUA’s New Push for Critical Review Articles in Urban Studies

The output of research papers continues to accelerate for many reasons: new topics (such as the many dimensions of climate change, including adaptation), new methods (including big data), and of course the emergence of new urban systems, notably in China and India. In this intellectual marketplace, where more researchers are being serviced by more journals, it is paradoxically more difficult for individuals to remain informed about developments in their field or in adjacent specialties.

For these reasons, while continuing to focus on analytical papers, Journal of Urban Affiars (JUA) is encouraging submission of more synoptic manuscripts which can contribute to the urban discourse by drawing readers’ attention to the range of published material across the disciplines. Some of these papers will take a fairly traditional approach (often used for instance in early chapters of graduate publications), where the author summarizes what is agreed upon and what is under reappraisal in a field. Others will draw on more formal methods, especially those that assess trends in publication via analysis of keywords and/or citations which we can collectively term scientometrics. Holding yet more potential is in meta-analysis, which is common in STEM fields but less usual in the social sciences, although it has the potential to summarize areas where there is a great deal of empirical work, albeit in very different urban contexts and appearing in a range of disciplines, generating nuanced results (examples could include work on food deserts or the urban heat island).

The journal will referee these manuscripts with the same level of scrutiny that it gives to other papers, although it may use somewhat different criteria than with an empirical piece. Review essays may be longer than analytical papers, although comprehensive coverage of a topic is not a substitute for effective writing. Not every topic may be a successful competitor for space in the journal, and so potential authors are strongly encouraged to send a brief outline of their interests to for feedback.   

W(h)ither the Community in Community Land Trusts?

By James DeFilippis, Brian Stromberg & Olivia R. Williams

Community Land Trusts (CLTs) have grown dramatically in both number and size in the last twenty years. A product of civil rights activists, the CLT first emerged as a mechanism explicitly for community control of land and development. In this form, the CLT was a vehicle to use land ownership to contribute to – in their own words – “the much-needed social and economic reconstruction of America” (Swann et al., 1972, p. xvi). Eventually, the CLT model was adopted by the urban community development movement/industry. It became a tool to deal with the myriad problems facing low income urban communities: environmental injustices (in Sawmill CLT in Albuquerque, NM); disinvestment (in Dudley Street in Boston, MA); losses of affordable housing because of gentrification (in Burlington, VT).

The authors are all longtime supporters of the CLT model and we have been excited by the expanded use of CLTs.  We are concerned, however, that this growth has diluted the meanings, uses, and aspirations for CLTs.  The CLT model is flexible and, in theory, can be utilized in any way that local zoning and land use regulations allow for. In practice, however, the CLT model has increasingly been used solely as an affordable housing tool in places where real estate prices are rapidly increasing.  In short, rather than being part of the “social and economic reconstruction of America,” it has become policy tool prized more for its capacity for subsidy retention than anything else.

We see a variety of different types of evidence of this dilution of the CLT model’s intention.  First, an analysis of CLT mission statements shows that more CLT organizations focus on affordable housing rather than community control; fewer than one-third even mention the word “community” in their mission statements.  Second, interviews with CLT staff members and executive directors also emphasized this focus on affordable housing, sometimes alongside a clear subjugation or outright rejection of the idea of community control. Third, as the numbers of CLTs have grown, so too have the sizes of CLTs.  In a 2015 survey of CLTs, only 10 percent of them reported their service as being one neighborhood or community; the vast majority cover entire cities or counties, with some even larger. With service areas this large, the CLTs lose some—if not most—of their ability to be highly participatory and responsive to neighborhood-scale needs.  Finally, CLTs are increasingly emerging from local elites, rather than any kind of community organization or mobilization.  In cities as different as Chicago, IL; Irvine, CA; Rochester, MN; and Flagstaff, AZ, local elites (either in the government or in philanthropy) have created CLTs solely to do affordable housing construction.  There is no particular emphasis on community control, or even community engagement, in any of these CLTs.  These examples epitomize the CLT when the model is used as just a tool in the housing toolkit.

We argue that there are two primary reasons why this lack of community control (or even community engagement) matters.  First, by narrowing the uses of CLTs solely to affordable housing we lose the flexibility of the model and make non-housing uses much more difficult to pursue.  When, for instance, a CLT in St. Paul, MN decided – based on the desires of members of its community – to pursue a commercial project to maintain black-owned retail in the community, it confronted a CLT infrastructure utterly unable to handle this pursuit.  Second, removing the goal of community control from CLTs reinforces the political marginality of low income communities and reproduces the idea that services and improvements come from the outside, rather than emanating from within those communities.  Poor communities in the US have very few institutional avenues for political empowerment and control; losing CLTs as one of those avenues would be a significant loss.

As advocates for a more equitable society and increased access to affordable housing, we are excited to see more CLTs appearing. However, we can’t help but wonder if they could be and do so much more than what they are currently doing.  We have a potentially politically transformative model in the CLT; let’s not reduce it to just another tool in the technocratic toolkit.

James DeFilippis is a Professor in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.

The article, W(h)ither the community in community land trusts? By James DeFilippis, Brian Stromberg & Olivia R. Williams, appears in Volume 40, Issue 6 of JUA and is currently available for free access, for a limited time. 


Swann, R. S., Gottschalk, S., Hansch, E. S., & Webster, E. (1972). The community land trust: A guide to a new model for land tenure in America.

Book Review Preview: Trajectories of Conflict

Trajectories of Conflict and Peace: Jerusalem and Belfast Since 1994, by Scott Bollens, New York, NY, Routledge Press, 2018

By Anne Shlay

Scott Bollens tackles two stubborn conflicts – one between Jews and Palestinians in Jerusalem and the other between Catholics and Protestants in Belfast.  We encounter space, nationalism, ethnicity, urban and national politics and policy, the underpinnings of peace and conflict, and trajectories for both cities.

Belfast’s conflict between Catholics and Protestants has been long standing. Jerusalem’s conflicts are recent. Despite biblical claims to the contrary, Israel as a state did not exist until 1947.   What is Northern Ireland is not in question.  What is Israel, not just Jerusalem, is contested.

Bollens describes the various mechanisms that Israel has used to hold onto Jerusalem. He argues that Jerusalem (through national policy) uses planning to allocate land for Jewish growth and development while rendering illegal any Palestinian housing construction.

Bollens shows how the separation barrier/wall is used overtly and covertly to eliminate Palestinians from Jerusalem.  Palestinian neighborhoods are literally walled out of Jerusalem.

Bollens looks at Belfast 20 years after the agreement to end violent struggles between Northern Ireland’s Protestants and Catholics.  This was an internal civil war as well as a revolution against Britain.  Suddenly, poof, the overt conflict had ended.

Well not really.  Bollens addresses the building of peace.  He shows that peace has not brought with it social and spatial integration but has brought continued segregation and exclusion.  Catholics and Protestants may be willing to share power, but they refuse to live together.

The commonalities between Jerusalem and Belfast are difficult to discern.  Belfast’s situation illustrates how political negotiation may eventually restructure urban life.  The denouement of conflict over Jerusalem often seems impossible and this book, more optimistic than most, does not make a claim that the conflict will end.

Trajectories of Conflict and Peace is useful for students of urban conflict as well as urban practitioners and policy makers.  Belfast provides reason for hope. Jerusalem has a long way to go.

Anne B. Shlay

Anne B. Shlay is a Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University.

Our Year Three: Change and Continuity at the JUA

By Igor Vojnovic

We begin our third year with changes to the JUA’s main editorial team. Deirdre Oakley accepted a new role as editor-in-chief of City & Community, so she has stepped down from her position as the JUA’s community development, housing, and urban affairs managing editor. Congratulations Deirdre! Given her role and impact with the JUA over these past three years, we are sad to see her go but certain she will have great success with City & Community. They are very lucky to have you, Deirdre! All the best with your new adventures!

To fill Deirdre Oakley’s shoes, we have been very fortunate to get Deirdre Pfeiffer, from the School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning at Arizona State University. Deirdre Pfeiffer is our new community development, housing, and urban affairs managing editor. In addition, Andrew Kirby, from the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, is joining the team as the JUA’s managing and review editor. His brief includes reviewing manuscripts with scientometric content and papers that provide critical synoptic coverage of thematic urban research, emergent national urban systems, and global linkages.

Cultural Entrepreneurship in U.S. Cities (2018 UAA Best Conference Paper)

By Haifeng Qian

I have studied entrepreneurship in cities for about a decade. Although not a very risk-taking person myself, I always admire the courage of entrepreneurs to startup their own businesses in an increasingly fast-changing market. It is a risky career choice, as most startup companies cannot survive the first five years. As an urban economics scholar, I became fascinated with entrepreneurship because risk-taking entrepreneurs contribute to urban development through various mechanisms: they create jobs; their profit-seeking efforts drive the market towards greater efficiency; and they often introduce new products or new ways of production. Like many others who are impressed with the entrepreneurial, technology-based economy in Silicon Valley, I am mostly interested in the last mechanism here, that is, the innovative process led by entrepreneurs. In my earlier research, I have widely explored urban factors that contribute to high technology entrepreneurship, and typically found the importance of technological knowledge bases, human capital, agglomeration economies, and horizontal industry organization (i.e., with a large presence of small businesses).

Almost two years ago, Shiqin Liu, a graduate student at the University of Iowa’s Urban and Regional Planning program (where I have been teaching since 2014) who had just completed my economic development class and was considering applying for a Ph.D. program, told me she would like to do some research with me. She had an interest in the creative/cultural economy, a topic covered in my class. I said I have this nice dataset on business startups by industry and by geography from the Census Bureau, so why don’t we do a spatial analysis on cultural entrepreneurship in U.S. cities. That was how this research started. We presented our preliminary results at the 2017 UAA conference in Minneapolis. Following that, we completed the paper and submitted it to the Journal of Urban Affairs. We are certainly happy that this research eventually won the UAA Best Conference Paper Award and was accepted for publication in JUA. It is a nice achievement for my co-author Shiqin Liu, who is currently a first-year doctoral student at Northeastern University.

This research is unique in that, to our best knowledge, it is the first study that systematically examines urban factors associated with cultural entrepreneurship. Earlier related studies, including quite a few done by myself, focused commonly on regional variations in general or high technology entrepreneurship. Cultural entrepreneurship is an interesting topic, because both the cultural economy and entrepreneurship require lots of creativity, and therefore the combination of the two, i.e., cultural entrepreneurship, is expected to be the most creative component of the creative economy. Policy makers who want to adopt the creative economy strategy will benefit from such a study identifying urban environmental factors associated with the startup activity in the cultural/creative sector.

In our paper, we present the spatial variations of startup activity in the cultural industries (normalized by total metropolitan employment) during 2010-2012 across all metropolitan areas in the lower 48 states and D.C. The distribution pattern is actually similar to what was shown in my earlier studies on high technology entrepreneurship, implying the spillovers of entrepreneurial activity across sectors in the same region. The hotspots (i.e., clustering of cities with high-level of cultural entrepreneurship) are mostly found in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Utah, and the cold spots (i.e., clustering of cities with low-level of cultural entrepreneurship) are in the Midwest.

We also run multivariate regression analysis to identify regional factors associated with cultural entrepreneurship in metropolitan areas. A large portion of the findings are consistent with what I found in my earlier studies on high technology entrepreneurship. For instance, population density, clustering of cultural businesses, (design) knowledge, human capital, and urban amenities positively predict cultural entrepreneurship in U.S. cities. These results provide some rationale for considering the cultural economy as part of the broadly-defined knowledge economy. Interesting and different from earlier studies is the role of racial/ethnic diversity. We found a positive association between the share of Hispanic population and cultural entrepreneurship, and a negative association between the share of Asian population and cultural entrepreneurship. Existing literature we cited in our paper suggests opposite results in the context of high technology entrepreneurship.

We discuss policy recommendations based on the positive associations of clustering, human capital, and urban amenities with cultural entrepreneurship found in our regression results. We highlight local economic development practitioners’ roles in building social networks among different stakeholders in the cultural economy (so as to strengthen regional cultural clusters), addressing the needs by artists and other cultural talent, and improving urban amenities (while paying attention to inclusiveness and diversity). Overall, it makes sense to combine two economic development strategies: a cultural economy-based development strategy and a place-based, amenities-improving development strategy. After all, cultural products and services are not only part of the regional economic output but also represent one major component of urban amenities.

Haifeng Qian, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the School of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Iowa. The article, “Cultural entrepreneurship in U.S. cities,” is currently available online ahead of print.


Social Impact Bonds: Are They Too Good to Be True?

By Mildred E. Warner and Allison E. Tse

Imagine a world in which multinational investment firms teamed up with city governments to provide the public goods that we need most—education for our children, housing for the homeless, or a new start for the formerly incarcerated. This is the dream of advocates for a new kind of public financing, social impact bonds (SIBs). While not a bond in the conventional sense, SIBs are a performance-based contract used to secure private investment for important social programs. If the programs deliver on pre-determined goals, then the public sector pays the investor a return.

Social Impact Bonds represent a promise and a risk. The promise is to attract new private investment for social programs that work, expanding services and saving society money in the long run.  The risk is that by monetizing welfare gains, they turn our most vulnerable (children, elderly, homeless, formerly incarcerated) into investment targets for private finance. Our recent article in the Journal of Urban Affairs, The Razor’s Edge: Social Impact Bonds and the Financialization of Early Childhood Services,” highlights the razor-thin margin of societal benefits that SIBs might produce. The requirements of short-term, financial returns to investors and quantifiable outcome metrics can make SIBs narrow, inflexible, and short-sighted. But our research also shows they can be designed to achieve broader impact, if attention is given to long-term, sustainable public funding.

As SIBs proliferate around the world, so too does evidence that questions their effectiveness. A new documentary, The Invisible Heart, attempts to untangle the complicated bundle of risks and rewards that SIBs encompass. The film examines SIBs from design to implementation, through the eyes of clients and service providers, as well as government leaders, venture capitalists, philanthropists, labor leaders, and academics, many of whom question the impact of profit incentives on the delivery of social services.

“As a filmmaker who has spent many years looking at difficult social issues, I am encouraged by the SIB model’s focus on prevention, and its ability to highlight not just the social but also the financial value of early intervention,” says award-winning Director/Producer Nadine Pequeneza. “But my optimism is tempered by the dangers of introducing a profit incentive driven by ‘success’ outcomes.”

Profit incentives may create new ways to pay for social welfare, but they also shift public values toward private ends.  Inviting powerful investors into public services for the most voiceless, vulnerable members of society may mean inviting a Trojan Horse through the front door—a Trojan Horse that only supports profitable social services and narrows our conceptions of what social welfare should mean. This danger should caution SIB designers.  Lessons from SIBs in the early childhood sector, however, demonstrate how strong state actors and coordinated networks of social advocates can work together to scale up policy change and secure broader public investment for the future, especially in politically conservative states.

SIBs must overcome their internal risks to achieve broader social impact. The details of context, contract negotiation, and program design determine on which side of the razor’s edge SIBs fall—whether they use the market to broaden investment or merely to extract resources from an already overburdened public sector. Both the article and the film offer critical insights for providers, policymakers and concerned citizens when considering whether to walk the razor’s edge of financializing social services through SIBs.

The article is available as open access at

The film is available for educational and community screenings. For more information, visit


Barcelona’s Struggle with Tourism — Possibly Your Hometown’s Struggle Tomorrow?

By Antonio Paolo Russo

‘Overtourism’, ‘antitourism’, ‘tourismophobia’ are everywhere on the media these days and peep up in small talk at any friends and relatives’ gathering. Of course, in the academia we are quite familiar with the concept and evidence of tourism growth changing places and eventually affecting them. And we’ve been reading about residents’ perceptions and discontent with the tourismification of their habitats for ages. Now it gives a certain pleasure to observe that, eventually, even our neighbours, in-laws and political acquaintances got it.  And a certain anguish in the fact that despite all our efforts, presentations, and consultancy works, many communities are acknowledging tourism growth as a big issue when it’s probably too late, too complex, too expensive to do something about it.

Tourism’s negative impacts are not anymore analysed and made sense of only in small aboriginal communities, pristine coastal environment, or a handful of celebrated heritage towns. These were exceptional cases for scientific research, but hardly a matter for concern to laypersons across the (mostly western) world, who would still appreciate a 3% increase in tourism arrivals in their hometown announced by the local media without bothering too much about the associated inconveniences – noise at night in the most touristed areas, difficult parking at leak seasons and local shops closing down to make space for global franchises.

Yet today a far greater amount of places, and especially cities, are pointing the finger at tourism; and a far larger strata of the resident population is ready to voice its discomfort with a phenomenon that has invaded almost any aspect of their daily life. Not just the usual radical grumblers, it’s the white middle classes who discovered tourism as a problem – sometimes forgetting that they have voted for pro-tourism administrations for decades. So what happened?

Well, for one thing, tourists have not stopped growing in numbers and enjoying visiting even the most worn-off attraction sites. Tourism is so enmeshed in global flows of work and sociality that this is hardly surprising. The late John Urry and his followers have written extensively about ‘mobile lives’ and how this is shaking down established concepts of places as fixed entities and of citizenship as geographically bounded. I remember some seven years ago at a seminar, Urry anticipating much of the current debate (as usual in his career) and preparing the ground for next one: a future in which we won’t afford to travel so cheaply, and mobility will become the characterising dimension of social class.

Secondly, as again many authors warn about, tourists (and mobile populations in general) are not just increasingly interested in the everyday, in MacCannell’s backstage, but they actually dwell in it. Houses have become a tourist asset, and established notions of hotels as bubbles offering extraordinary comfort to travellers but also rationally separating and specialising space ‘for tourists’ from residents’ livelihoods have gone bust. The landing on cities of Airbnb and other ‘sharing economy’ platforms, after a first period of fascination around the fairy-tale of the ‘we help you get to the end of the month’, has crashed the housing rental markets for residents in any first- and second-league destination, and has become a fundamental tool for the speculative operations of real estate companies.

These factors explain why today so many people feel directly affected by tourism, and are ready to challenge the almost inevitable status of their city as ‘tourist place’.

Barcelona is one such cases, possibly the one where the conditions for a perfect storm have cooked up for decades: an impoverished middle class after the crisis of the 2000s, a weak society in the most central and ‘tourismified’ historical districts, a promotional model for tourism strongly in the hands of the private sector and a feeble position of the municipal administration as last-resort planner for further growth. In Barcelona, the object of our paper, the change in the public perception on tourism has – as we argue – fed an important shift in the discourse about tourism especially in policy circles, which we see as the key determinant of the political change that led Ada Colau to become Mayor in 2015.

I have lived most of my young life in Venice, one of those places about which books have been written and models have been created to make sense of place disruptions around tourism. And I have lived several years in Barcelona seeing the same beast rising, although no early warning could shake local politicians from the conviction that ‘Barcelona is different’. In our paper, Alessandro Scarnato and I tell the informed tale of Barcelona tourism becoming a place of contestation (of tourism). We take sides – we are both academics and activists – and we try to suggest that the peculiar events that led to a new political agenda on tourism, nuance a change in urban regime which might not remain a unique case. This type of research fights against the news all the time – for instance what we write about the enduring support to Colau’s government measures might not be so certain in the light of the recent political turmoil in Catalonia. Nevertheless, we hope that our analysis and reflections will help to feed further the research agenda on the fate of cities (and citizens) in the age of tourism mobilities.

Antonio Paolo Russo is tenured assistant professor with the Faculty of Tourism and Geography, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona. Dr. Russo is author of more than 50 publications in academic journals and books on research topics that range from tourism studies to cultural and urban economics. He has been involved as member of research groups and as an independent advisor in various research projects with local and regional governments, and international institutions such as the EU, the Council of Europe, the BID and UNESCO. His JUA article, “Barcelona in common”: A new urban regime for the 21st-century tourist city?, appears in the current issue and is available with free access for a limited time.