Saturday, May 28, 2011

10 Land-Use Strategies to Create Socially Just, Multiracial Cities


Develop a widely shared, long-range vision for social justice, and set targets. Advocates for climate-change policies have proposed CO2 reduction targets by 2050. Social-justice advocates should set targets for poverty reduction for the same year.

Find ways to meet the short-term survival needs of marginalized communities while generating longer-term outcomes that benefit society as a whole. For example, invest in projects that meet the urgent transportation needs of low-income residents while building toward a world-class public transportation system for all.

As an alternative to sprawl, create public policies to stabilize, reinvest in, and redevelop older inner-ring suburban communities and encourage economic and racial diversity.

Manage vacant properties consistently with principles of social justice and CO2 reduction. Transit-accessible vacant buildings can be acquired, held, and managed by nonprofit housing groups in ways that pre-empt speculation and promote community stability. Vacant buildings in newer suburbs can be adapted to community uses such as day-care centers, reducing local transportation needs.

Replace aging or underutilized commercial strips with revitalized corridors that link inner cities and older suburbs through public transportation. These sites, with pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined boulevards, are ideal for mixed-income housing, with opportunities for small, locally owned businesses and community organizations.

Set aside 20 percent of new residential development for affordable housing and promote transit-oriented development—residential or commercial projects that are high-density, walkable, and close to public transportation. A commitment to affordable housing and community services in these popular developments can dampen the effects of gentrification.

Build and strengthen social-justice institutions committed to regional equity, and link them all in powerful statewide and national networks.

Reduce the patterns of concentrated wealth and concentrated poverty in neighborhoods. Create opportunities for affordable housing in privileged and job-rich neighborhoods and, with the help of community-based organizations accountable to residents, develop middle- and upper-income housing in poorer neighborhoods.

Advocate metropolitan growth strategies that systematically reduce health disparities between vulnerable communities and middle- and upper-class society.

Create opportunities for communities of color and other marginalized populations to participate in new business-improvement districts, regional collaborations, and governance structures promoting sustainable metropolitan development.

Carl Anthony wrote this article for America: The Remix, the Spring 2010 issue of YES! Magazine. Carl, founder of Breakthrough Communities, was acting director of the Ford Foundation’s worldwide programs on the environment and community development. He founded San Francisco’s Urban Habitat Program and the Race, Poverty, and Environment Journal.