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Top Picks: Ending Homelessness, ‘Aging in Place’ Impacts, Enhancing Walkability

December 4, 2017  by  Byron Katsuyama
Category:  Cycling and Walking Homelessness

Top Picks: Ending Homelessness, ‘Aging in Place’ Impacts, Enhancing Walkability

Each week I scan the web for interesting and useful news, blog posts, articles, and reports from a variety of local government-related sources, and post them to the In Focus section of MRSC’s homepage. Here are some of the most noteworthy 'top picks' from my most recent scans.

Cross-Sector Collaboration to Address Homelessness

As I noted in one of my previous blogs, The Gorillas in the Room, homelessness is one of those complex societal problems that cuts across jurisdictional lines, which makes it important for local governments to partner with each other and to develop public-private partnerships in order to respond most effectively.

In fact, it turns out that cross-sector collaboration plays a critical role in successful community efforts to deal with the problem of homelessness. A new report from the IBM Center for the Business of Government, Effective Leadership in Network Collaboration: Lessons Learned from Continuum of Care Homeless Programs, examines the role of network collaboration in the context of Continuum of Care homeless programs and offers several insights and recommendations that can assist local government officials who are working with networks of public and private organizations to respond to the needs of homeless individuals and families in their communities.

For more information on this topic, see MRSC’s webpage on Homelessness and, particularly, our Homelessness and Housing Toolkit for Cities, which highlights a number of strategies that involve collaboration with other local governments as well as public-private partnerships.

Seniors Want to Age in Place: Are Cities Ready?

A recent article published in City Lab, Urban Americans Want to Age in Their Neighborhoods, reminds us that “the vast majority of older Americans—more than 70% of those over 50, according to a 2014 AARP survey—plan to ‘age in place,’ or stay in their homes or communities.” The critical question posed by the article: are cities ready to meet the needs of those seniors who plan to stay in their homes as they age?

It’s a good question, one that all communities must be prepared to answer. Seniors who choose to age in place will need a variety of services, including healthcare, transportation, recreation, walkable neighborhoods, companionship, security, and more. In fact, given the significance of this trend, I am officially adding it to my 'Gorillas in the Room' list of challenging, local government issues.

Mobility issues are likely to present one of the more difficult challenges for communities as more seniors begin to age in place in neighborhoods that may not be particularly transit or walking friendly. I have a feeling that transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft, which in some ways are becoming more like public transit, may end up being part of the solution for senior mobility in the future.

Seniors who are aging in place will also require special consideration in local emergency preparedness plans. Recent events in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico have underscored the special care needs and vulnerabilities of seniors when natural disasters strike.

As the numbers of seniors who are aging in place grows, communities must also be aware of the growing health threat posed by the effects of social isolation and loneliness. The health impacts of loneliness can be as harmful as obesity and smoking for the elderly.

Making Walkability Happen

A few years ago, when I was a member of the Kirkland Planning Commission, we talked a lot about the desirability of having a “walkable” community, particularly when we were updating our neighborhood plans.

One of ways that Kirkland and other cities have been successful in enhancing walkability has been through the development of vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood centers that combine residential and multiple commercial uses. In fact, Kirkland is on track to have several neighborhood centers where mixed-use developments will provide focal points and walkable destinations for many area residents. One example is the Kirkland Urban project, currently under construction near downtown Kirkland, which will combine office, retail, entertainment, and residential uses.

In some cities, historical development patterns have made it easier to encourage walkability. A recent article in Governing, How Much Can Cities Do About Walkability?, describes one neighborhood in New Haven, Conn., where a historical mix of commercial and residential buildings predating the enactment of restrictive zoning ordinances offers a unique opportunity for the community to extend the concept and enhance an already walkable neighborhood. Could it be that these older, mixed-use neighborhoods actually had it right in the first place?

Portland’s neighborhood retail hubs offer another good example of how a strategy based upon the development of neighborhood, mixed-use centers can enhance walkability.

Whatever path we take, it’s clear that before we can have more walkable communities, we must first provide more destinations that are within a reasonable walking distance from the places where people live. Saying yes to more mixed-use developments in new or existing neighborhood centers can be an effective strategy for making walkability happen in many communities.

Questions? Comments?

If you have questions about these or other local government issues, please use our Ask MRSC form or call us at (206) 625-1300 or (800) 933-6772. If you have comments about this blog post, please comment below or email Byron at

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Byron Katsuyama

Byron began work at the Center as a Research Assistant in July 1978. He holds a B.A. degree in Political Science from the University of Washington and an M.P.A. from the University of Washington's Evan’s School of Public Policy and Governance. After completing his M.P.A., Byron joined MRSC's consulting staff as a Public Policy and Management Consultant concentrating on municipal administration and policy analysis. Byron is responsible for research in such areas as emerging local government issues, best practices, strategic planning, performance measurement, and local government management. In addition to his consulting duties, Byron also maintains the "Focus" section of MRSC's website and is editor of our "In Focus" and "Ask MRSC" e-newsletters. He also coordinates our HR, Planning, Finance, Government Performance, and Council/Commission Advisors. In his own community of Kirkland, Byron also served for eight years as a member of the city's planning commission. Byron is a member of the Washington City/County Management Association (WCMA) and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

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