Also: We started a podcast, and Sidewalk Labs gets pushback in Toronto.

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What We’re Following

Do the work: It’s easy to feel cynical about the state of the public housing in the United States. Each day we see news about maintenance backlogs, declining federal funds, and increasingly unaffordable cities. But for every shocking story about moldy apartments, there are thousands of unheralded successes—families staying together, down payments made, and homelessness avoided. Sometimes, the way to make life better for your most vulnerable neighbors might just be to volunteer. That’s what Christian Milneil did when he saw that the housing authority in Portland, Maine, was spending thousands each year to maintain a little-used parking lot in his neighborhood instead of building more housing.

Seven years ago, Milneil signed up as a commissioner, and in 2017, the agency opened its first new apartment since the 1970s on that very same lot. Some of the biggest challenges facing local public housing agencies are a result of not having the time, staff, or financial resources to get things done. “If you’re interested in the practical details of building a more welcoming and more egalitarian city, it’s hard to beat the experience of public housing board service,” Milneil writes. Read his perspective on CityLab: Is Housing in Your City Getting Unaffordable? Here’s How You Can Help

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

Critics Vow to Block Sidewalk Labs’ Controversial Smart City in Toronto

In an echo of the Amazon HQ2 backlash in Queens, Canadian foes of Alphabet’s city-building arm have organized a campaign against the Quayside development.

Laura Bliss

How to Fix Economic Development After Amazon HQ2

Urban leaders need to kick the incentive habit and take a more inclusive approach to growing local economies.

Richard Florida

The Cheaper, Greener Future of France's High-Speed Trains

Take a look at the trains that will modernize France’s rail fleet and prepare the national provider to take on its first-ever competitors.

Feargus O'Sullivan

Ancient Poop Reveals Role of Climate Change in Cahokia’s Downfall

The decline of the famed prehistoric city near modern-day St. Louis is at least partially a story of climate change.

Matthew Taub

France’s Double Standard for Populist Uprisings

Residents of the city’s poorer, immigrant-heavy suburbs have for years asked the government to take their challenges seriously. They’ve had little success.

Rachel Donadio


We Started A Podcast

Madison McVeigh/CityLab

Technology is reshaping our cities—often without permission and sometimes without a clue. That’s why we’ve launched a podcast, Technopolis, about how technology is disrupting, remaking, and even overrunning our cities. Urban innovation expert Molly Turner and startup advisor Jim Kapsis will be your guides on this techno-urbanist adventure, drawing from their experience inside both government and tech to get at the heart of what tech is trying to do and what it means for the rest of us, from Silicon Valley to city hall. In this first episode of the show, they tackle a key question: Why are tech investors so interested in disrupting cities? And is all that venture capital good for cities? Check out the first show here and subscribe to Technopolis: Apple Podcasts / Stitcher / Google Play


What We’re Reading

An Amtrak train with 183 passengers has been stranded in Oregon since Sunday (CNN)

Opportunity-zone investors are buying now, planning later (Wall Street Journal)

San Francisco to expunge thousands of pot convictions (NPR)

Lime warns riders about “sudden excessive braking” due to firmware bug (The Verge)

With Chicago mayoral election yard signs, these people are really hedging their bets (Block Club Chicago)


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