Yes, But Not Really

Inclusiveness and equity are all the rage right now, and more people are hoping to get on the bandwagon and project images of progressive, liberal ideals. That is, just the image. Most people are disinterested in the actual consequences of being more inclusive because they require saying “no” to people with substantial quantities of money. Developers would never explicitly claim to own a city, but many of them have more authority simply because they have the possibility to increase a city’s tax base. Nevertheless, cities will have to choose whether they are in public service to make money or to serve the public.

Private developers will rarely if ever take on the task of reducing the homeless population because they see it as someone else’s problem, whether people or the government. In their minds, they have no goal other than to make more money than anyone else can imagine, and they can use just about any means to acquire all the wealth. Planning scholars across the nation are aware that there is no housing shortage, just a lack of political will to deny building permits for luxury housing. Until there is a will, there will always be a way to increase the homeless population.

Segregation increased with the idea of urban renewal because without it, there would be no legitimate reason to displace entire communities. After stripping away urban renewal policies, financiers would be forced to explain why home owners were unable to secure the loans required to renovate their homes beyond “blight” standards. Following that, cities would be forced to explain the lack of investment in such communities that were then practically gifted to private developers. Policies that encourage and protect segregation have to be extracted from city codes, and they never will be if cities fail to stand firm on creating more inclusive operating procedures.

Finally, poor policies that exclude are maintained not just on the books, but by certain people. Without sifting through the staff and finding those who are unable to adapt, it will be impossible to implement new strategies and code changes that reflect changing demographics and lifestyles. If all the people are being trained to obfuscate, and the people who trained them are allowed to remain, cities will become less transparent and more stressful for those below the highest echelons. To break a system, more people need to be in agreement that marginalization is bad, and there is no way around that.

More graduates are demonstrating a propensity towards change, which can be exciting and simultaneously terrifying. One hopes that the new scholars are willing to take action beyond the desk of a planning department or a development firm and move communities towards self actualization. The fear is that too many hungry scholars and practitioners will wait for “the right time,” refusing to acknowledge that inaction can also be translated as complicity. The cities must follow through on big plans to change their functions, or everyone will view cities less as public entities and more like extensions of private entities.

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