What is the real problem with affordable housing? The fact that as long as private developers receive incentives for infrastructure, they will have no motive to make anything affordable for the local market. In reality, “the market” turns into a magical, mythical creature that is called upon to justify avoiding change. Therefore, if public entities are actually looking to heal the damage wreaked by all of the segregation and displacement tactics, they will work towards empowering communities instead of those paid to “fix” communities. After all, profits depend on many factors, but public engagement depends on the composition of the public.
Before several marginalized communities could be destroyed, various laws at the federal, state, and local levels were put in place to justify those actions. Theoretically, society has moved towards a justice-oriented equilibrium; in reality, many of those laws are still alive and well, and people are implementing them during the planning process. Private entities have no motivation to do anything other than acquire income when consulting the city on building infrastructure, and create beautiful images to hide the damage. To truly curb the destruction, governments will need to fund research to discover all of the planning laws that perpetuate bad practices and immediately nullify them.
Not all of the players for marginalization are elected, which is why instructing people just to vote is irresponsible at best. Many of the administrative procedures for community development are put in place by people on staff who have been validated for years, sometimes decades. Changing procedures rarely requires a vote, but many staff members will ominously allude to the dangers of making processes more efficient, all while ignoring their front-end staff. Private entities are then empowered to declare that government is completely inefficient and only private industry knows how to get through the sludge–even though they have become familiar with all the procedures. Thus, if staff are unwilling to listen to lower-level staff who consistently interact with the public, those staff should be let go and should not have opportunities to work elsewhere for public entities.
Getting meetings is one of the most difficult tasks to many community organizers, yet many private entities regularly obtain exclusive access to decision makers. Despite anti-lobbying laws throughout the levels of law, private entities use their personal access to individuals to turn the tides in their favors. Meanwhile, the residents and activists are barely able to receive a callback or an email from a staff member they contacted. To truly empower communities, government entities need to restrict access by profit-motivated entities who have proven themselves as bad players. There is no excuse or justification to ignore the public for which one is responsible.
The reason the dominant narrative is referred to as such is because it pervades every aspect of society, and as such, it will be difficult to recalibrate. While that is true, the government needs to be more accountable for how it engages with private entities because the segregation, oppression, and marginalization that currently exist are the results of unbridled access by people with nothing on their mind but income. If elected officials cannot restrain their congeniality towards people who fail to consider marginalization, in that case, people voting is definitely the answer. For everyone else, it would be wise to remember that neighborhoods do not come to meetings to be ignored just because a developer sent a cookie basket to a staff member.