Public policy and social science research teams receive up to $30,000 in funding

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Seven faculty research teams from MSU’s College of Social Sciences have received funding of up to $30,000 each from Michigan’s Applied Public Policy Research Grants, or MAPPR, program. At the start of each academic year, the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, or IPPSR, selects research projects to be funded under the program.

IPPSR Associate Director Arnold Weinfeld and Director Matt Grossmann reviewed MAPPR proposals looking for projects that directly address and guide policy issues in Michigan.

“What draws us (to a project) is what’s happening in and around the state of Michigan in terms of political issues that lawmakers, the administration, or the people are dealing with,” Weinfeld said. “So we look to projects that people come up with that will impact that particular discussion going forward.”

The rise of the solid wood industry

One project that received a grant from MAPPR is titled “Assessing Mass Timber Public Interest and Demand in Michigan.” The grant was awarded to MSU’s Mass Timber Program, which is a collaboration between MSU Extension, the Forestry Department, and the School of Planning, Design, and Construction. This research team includes Mass Timber director Sandra Lupien, Dr. George Berghorn, Dr. Raju Pokharel and Dr. Emily Huff.

According to Lupien, solid wood is an umbrella term referring to a variety of large engineered woods typically made by gluing pieces of wood and pressing them together. The end results are large columns, beams or panels that are used in building construction. Because solid wood is a renewable resource, buildings using solid wood are more sustainable and their construction produces less carbon emissions.

Solid wood was not used in Michigan until 2021 in the construction of the university’s STEM teaching and learning center.

The team’s mission is to increase mass timber construction and manufacturing in Michigan and the surrounding region. Lupien said that to make this progress, the team needs to research critical questions around the use of solid wood, such as the barriers that prevent people from using solid wood and how those barriers can be removed.

Dr. Berghorn will also work on developing a program to teach architects and engineers how to build with solid wood. Additionally, Dr. Pokharel will conduct a mass timber supply chain analysis for Michigan, and Dr. Huff will conduct an accompanying Great Lakes region demand survey.

Lupien said MAPPR funds will go primarily to studying the demand for solid wood.

“The MAPPR funds allow us to really broaden the audience of our demand survey so that we can not only understand and glean insights into the architecture, engineering and construction industries…but now we are able to expand our audience to survey potential occupants of mass timber buildings,” said Lupien.

Through this, the team hopes to be able to more accurately inform potential manufacturers, thereby increasing the use of solid wood in the state.

Detroit Neighborhood Stabilization Program

Another team that received the MAPPR grant is Dr. Mark Skidmore and Ph.D. student Camila Alvayay-Torrejon. The team’s research is titled “The Effect of Damaged Property Removal: Evidence from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program in Detroit” and aims to analyze the effects of the city’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

The 2008 Neighborhood Stabilization Program was a federal program that gave money to cities across the United States. This was a location-based policy, which meant that the targeted areas received the funds. In Detroit, the funds went to nine specific neighborhoods that had been badly affected by population decline and a housing market crash. The city determined that in these nine areas, the money would be used to fund demolitions, which were generally not followed by reconstruction.

Skidmore and Alvayay-Torrejon focus on whether demolitions were effective in the short term to facilitate urban renewal and increase property value.

To conduct the research, the team analyzed information from the city’s portal regarding demolitions and quarterly financial reports. They also consult the Zillow database, which contains real estate prices over the years. Through statistical analysis, the team is able to isolate and understand the effects of politics on the Detroit real estate market.

According to Alvayay-Torrejon, who is working on the project as part of her doctorate. thesis, this research is important because the demolition program is still used in Detroit and cities across the country today. She said that because of the funding and time spent on these projects, the government needs to know if the demolitions are working.

Once the research is complete, they will share the results to use to aid policymaking in Detroit and other cities across the country.

In addition to funding the team’s research, the MAPPR grant offered assurance that what they are doing matters.

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“It’s nice that other people think this work is important too,” Skidmore said. “(The grant) is confirmation that the work we are doing is incrementally adding value to policy evaluation research in general.”

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