To quote planner Brent Toderian, “the best transportation plan is a great land-use plan.” My work in transportation has brought me ever-closer to the realm of housing policy, as accessibility to affordable housing becomes a pressing issue across the world’s (ostensibly) most livable cities.
The Wealth of First Nations: Successes and Challenges of On-Reserve Economic Development in Canada
As part of my coursework on housing and community economic development, I co-authored a research paper that examined factors contributing to--and hindering--economic growth for First Nations across Canada. Through stakeholder interviews, we unearthed the jurisdictional “chaos" that surrounds Indigenous housing policy in Canada, with both the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada providing piecemeal support and limited policy coherence.
Our research found that no one-size-fits-all solution exists to addressing housing quality and quantity, but that clarifying jurisdictional oversight of housing policies and empowering local communities is key to building self-governance capacity and improving the quality of life of those living on-reserve.
Zoning Ordinance Amendment: Parking Requirements in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Through graduate coursework at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, I was introduced to the nexus of urban planning and law. Professor Jerold Kayden told us: “To plan is human. To implement, divine.” His course taught me a valuable lesson on implementation of planning, namely the importance for planners to be able to speak the language of lawyers.
For my term paper, I was asked to write a zoning ordinance amendment for the City of Cambridge. In consultation with city staff, I proposed a change that would adjust parking requirements to be commensurate with reduced car ownership and usage while accommodating demand. While the amendment has yet to be adopted, it taught me how to read, write, and embrace the legalese that typifies city bylaws.
Advocacy: Graduate Student Apartments NOW
In an effort to address severe the housing shortage for graduate students in Cambridge, Massachusetts--and cognizant of the associated displacement of local communities--I joined a grassroots student movement to advocate for investment in on-campus graduate housing for MIT students. Inspired by the leadership of my classmates, I testified in front of Cambridge City Council and provided data analysis in support of policy proposals (such as identifying under-utilized surface parking lots as candidates for conversion to housing parcels).
I was proud to support the tireless efforts of my classmates who were successful in advocating MIT to add 950 new beds for graduate students.