Equitable Development as a Tool to Advance Racial Equity

As some cities rebound from decades of suburbanization and disinvestment, many have hailed the improvements that come with increased public and private investment and higher tax revenues. However, the benefits of “re-urbanization” are often countered by the negatives, such as exorbitant housing prices and gentrification, or the transformation of previously low-income neighborhoods into higher income neighborhoods that threaten to displace or exclude long-term residents—often residents of color.

Local governments should institute policies that take advantage of growth while mindfully addressing long-held racial inequities. The Local and Regional Government Alliance on Race and Equity recently released the Equitable Development as a Tool to Advance Racial Equity Report. This report “provides a policy framework for implementation strategies that advance equitable development.” Equitable development is defined as the following:

“When quality of life outcomes, such as affordable housing, quality education, living wage employment, healthy environments, and transportation are equitably experienced by the people currently living and working in a neighborhood, as well as for new people moving in. Public and private investments, programs, and policies in neighborhoods meet the needs of residents, including communities of color, and reduce racial disparities, taking into account past history and current conditions.”

People of color are more likely to live in poor neighborhoods that lack access to key determinants of social, physical, and economic well-being. Urban growth and economic development can increase the ability for cities to provide these resources, but only when growth is carefully planned to mitigate its negative consequences on low-income communities and communities of color.

This policy framework can help cities ensure that economic growth is equitable and that the benefits of growth–including better services, parks, higher quality housing, and public transportation–are available to everyone.

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