Margaret Dewar

University of Michigan
Urban and Regional Planning

1323 S. Forest Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI
United States
48104 |  Visit Personal Website

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My research focuses on American cities that have lost a large share of their peak population and employment and now face major issues with property disinvestment. These cities include most of the past manufacturing centers of the Midwest and many of those in the Northeast. I am fascinated by what such cities become and aim to contribute to strengthening urban planning’s capacity to improve the conditions for people who live and work in them. The focus of urban planning has traditionally been to revitalize, rebuild, and redevelop disinvested areas, but such renewal is no longer possible in many areas of these cities. This means that urban planners need to reframe the way they work in such places. Further, I want to know how research on such cities can change the questions we ask and the answers we discover in many areas of urban studies.

Dewar, Margaret. 2015. “Reuse of Abandoned Property in Detroit and Flint: Impacts of Different Types of Sales.” Journal of Planning Education and Research 35 (3): 347-368.
Abstract: When owners stop paying property taxes, a government forecloses on the property. This research compares outcomes after auctions, the common way governments sell tax-reverted property, with outcomes after sales from a city department and a land bank authority. Data on a random sample of sold properties came from field research and administrative sources. Auctions failed in returning property to reuse compared to other ways of selling tax-reverted property. Managed sales led to more owner-occupied homes, additions of side lots to homes and businesses, and redevelopment and reuse as well as fewer returns to foreclosure and less property flipping.
DOI: DOI: 10.1177/0739456X15589815
Dewar, Margaret, Matthew Weber, Eric Seymour, Meagan Elliott, and Patrick Cooper-McCann. 2015. “Learning from Detroit: How Research on a Declining City Enriches Urban Studies.” Michael Peter Smith and L. Owen Kirkpatrick, eds. Reinventing Detroit (pp. 37-56). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction..
Abstract: Lessons gleaned from the Motor City can be applied to other cities and regions. Detroit's severe decline presents urban researchers with unique opportunities to observe phenomena that are usually studied only under conditions of urban expansion. [Extracted from introduction by Smith and Kirkpatrick]
Deng, Lan, Eric Seymour, Margaret Dewar, and June Manning Thomas. 2017. “Saving Strong Neighborhoods from the Destruction of Mortgage Foreclosures: The Impact of Community-Based Efforts in Detroit, Michigan.” Housing Policy Debate (2017).
Abstract: Mortgage foreclosures hit Detroit, Michigan hard between 2005 and 2014, especially in what we define as strong neighborhoods; there, more than one third of homes experienced foreclosure. Before the crisis hit, these selected tracts had largely intact physical environments and higher owner occupancy, household income and property value than the citywide median. In some of them residents worked intensely to abate the neighborhood effects of mortgage foreclosures. This study examines those efforts’ effectiveness. We selected neighborhoods with the most extensive efforts, as measured, for instance, by creation of community-based plans and applications for grants, and we conducted interviews and field observations to examine those efforts. To assess strengthening of neighborhood housing markets, we applied a modified adjusted interrupted time-series approach to evaluate changes in prices as one measure of neighborhood change. We found that strong resident initiative supported by community development organizations and external assistance led to increased neighborhood housing prices, compared with comparable neighborhoods. However, when initiative, context, and support were weaker, community-based efforts could not prevent considerable decline.
DOI: DOI: 10.1080/10511482.2017.1331366

Substantive Focus:
Governance SECONDARY
Urban Public Policy PRIMARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Analysis and Evaluation PRIMARY