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Posted 12.10.13

Robin Dubin, PhD, chair and professor of economics at Weatherhead School of Management, has long been interested in examining geographic spaces from an economic point of view. She has done extensive work on housing prices and how they relate to the surrounding neighborhoods. Her new project builds on this expertise to take aim at the problem of urban blight.

Like other post-industrial cities in the so-called "Rust Belt," Cleveland suffers from depopulation. The foreclosure crisis also hit the city hard. 

"Cleveland was built for a million people and there are not quite four hundred thousand now," Dubin says. This means that in some neighborhoods, half of the houses are unoccupied. These neighborhoods can be targets for increased crime; moreover, it is challenging to provide city services to underpopulated areas.

 Dubin's latest research proposes to consolidate residents around what she terms "population centers," offering newly renovated houses as an incentive to move. She wrote a computer program that analyzes data about vacant and occupied properties on Cleveland's East Side, the area most affected by the housing crisis. Dubin tells the program where to put a population center, and it calculates how many area households would have to move to fill all the vacant properties close to the center.

With 100 percent occupancy at the heart of a neighborhood, newly vacated areas outside the population centers could be used for urban farming, park land or new industrial installations.

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Learn more about Robin Dubin's research and teaching interests.

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