As I finalized my decision to attend graduate school this coming fall, I’ve found my research for my paper to be increasingly more interesting. As a future student of urban planning, my research thus far has only jumpstarted my fledgling interest in community development, and offered me the opportunity to further understand the inner workings of the political decisions made a legislative level that eventually impact the daily lives of those living in and around lower-income communities.
At first tackling the research required by my paper proved to be daunting, and definitely needed a narrowing of my topic. There were so many issues relating community development and Congressional action that have so many facets and each deserved to be explored individually in their own right. Concerns surrounding employment, education, and even economic sanctions all directly affect the development of an individual community. After some thought and advice from my mentor, as well as the feedback other Fellows provided in our peer sessions, I chose to focus primarily on the lower-income housing options available in Philadelphia. This was a metropolitan area in the Rust Belt that had suffered from the deindustrialization following the 1980s, and would provide ample resources to explore the effects of legislative action passed by Congress. I decided to tackle the housing options because it was an area that I previously knew very little about, but interested me greatly, as housing is truly fundamental to building a safe and thriving neighborhood community.
Though I chose to focus my paper specifically on Philadelphia, I was especially interested to explore the background and history of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which handles the majority of the legislation that had a direct impact on the smaller housing-based organizations within the city. Today, the HUD has been tied closely with acts passed by the Obama Administration, such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (2009), which follows in the steps of similar pieces of legislation such as The Housing and Community Development Act in 1974. Throughout my research, I found numerous testimonies and statistics that all lauded the passage of these acts, and could not praise the positive effects of legislation enacted by HUD, but found many dissenting opinions as well. I’d like to explore the critiques more fully, as they were not restrained simply to party lines, as I had initially expected. Rather, the dissatisfaction with HUD’s decision making sprouted from a variety of economic and cultural backgrounds, whether from a dissatisfied funding recipient or an upper class taxpayer.
Overall, I have found my research extremely interesting so far, and am excited to receive more feedback from the other Fellows at next week’s spring conference.