Achieving Equity In City Planning

DAPSS: A Revolutionary New Framework for Planning Cities
DAPSS Desegregation, Affordability, Production, Stability and Sustainability
Photo Credit
All Illustrations by Frederick Noland

City planners have for decades perpetrated segregation, displacement and inequality. We called this out in our first part of this series, "Post-Coronavirus We Need a New Way to Plan Cities". Building on that piece, we are introducing a revolutionary framework for how to achieve equity by planning cities in an entirely new way: by intentionally addressing Desegregation, Affordability, Production, Stability and Sustainability (DAPSS).

Planners and politicians must prioritize the needs of those who are most vulnerable and who have been oppressed– people of color, people with low incomes, the homeless and the working class. This is the only way that equity and anti-racism can become the fundamental, guiding forces for all development.

We need to build a future where all development and zoning originate from and prioritize low-income and people of color communities. These proposals must intentionally assert each of the components of DAPSS. In order for this tool to work, each of these DAPSS strategies must all work together to bring our housing and land use into balance.

Here's an overview of DAPSS.

  • Desegregation: ensuring that all people are able to choose for themselves where they want to live. Desegregation must be intentional and systemic in order to overcome decades of intentional development and land use policies that have ripped our communities apart along differences in race and income.

  • Affordability: ensuring that all people regardless of their level of income can afford housing. Universal affordability must be our primary goal. The market has no incentive to produce housing that most people can actually afford. There is no "naturally occurring" affordable housing and a few “below market rate” units here and there make the situation worse. This has led to an over-supply of high priced housing. Therefore, when we build new housing, every unit has to be affordable for people and households that are working class, have low incomes and no incomes.

  • Production: building new units of housing to meet future needs of a growing economy. Production is important for meeting the needs of growing cities and regions. However, since building new housing naturally monopolizes use of the land where it's located, new housing must only be approved that objectively and intentionally meets the other strategies of Desegregation, Affordability, Stability and Sustainability.

  • Stability: the ability for people to live securely without threat of eviction or foreclosure. Stability is crucial for personal and community health. Constant threats of eviction, foreclosure, and rent increases, and deteriorating habitability issues are all destabilizing, yet all of these are endemic to our current housing system and must be changed. We must prioritize policies that encourage housing and land ownership by low income and people of color communities.

  • Sustainability: shifting focus from private profit to community building, from exploitation to restoration and resilience, and integration with natural systems. Sustainability forces us to think about the long term impacts of development, especially to the environment, rather than the short term profitability developers seek. Growth must contribute to greater sustainability rather than merely mitigating its negative impacts.

Each element is detailed further in this article, along with specific strategies to implement them.

How Can You and Your Community Use DAPSS? 

  • Use DAPSS to create your own community's vision and strategies.
  • Use DAPSS to evaluate candidates for office. Hold community forums and debates with candidates. Ask the candidates about DAPSS and see how they respond. Hold them accountable to your community's vision and plan for how you want to see DAPSS implemented. Not satisfied? Run your own candidates and make this change happen!
  • Use DAPSS to fight back against developments or re-zoning efforts or new policies or legislation that don't fit your community's vision and strategies.

A Fundamental Re-visioning of Cities

The sustained agitation in the streets for de-funding the police is a demand for fundamentally changing the way our society is structured. The demonstrations are urgent calls for investing in the resilience of communities- for taking money away from militarized protection of those with wealth and power, and instead redirecting those resources to the networks that support people and communities. The people and communities who have been terrorized by systems of oppression, racism, segregation and disinvestment. This isn't just about shifting resources. It's about changing an entire culture. 

It's in this context that we call for tearing down the existing systems of planning and development, and rebuilding them as anti-racist and actively striving for equity. The actions of city planners in today's world are similar to those of the police, just not in a militarized form- although when the Sheriff comes to enforce an eviction or a foreclosure, these two systems do intersect.

Low income and people of color communities must be the primary decision makers and beneficiaries of our land use systems in order to guarantee an equitable future where everyone lives with freedom and stability. We need to change the priorities of who has access to and control of land, housing, and open spaces and the means of subsistence.

For too long, the systems of development and access to land have been "pay to play" with developers and their lawyers monopolizing land ownership, making the rules for who gets to develop it and how. City planners have seen their role as enabling this market based system of exclusion and monopolization. It's time to assert that the role of government is to mobilize resources for equity.

We must demand that no development, policy, plan, or legislation can proceed without first proving that it will empirically and primarily benefit those most at risk- our most vulnerable residents and workers. This means putting all proposals for building market rate housing on hold indefinitely. That means putting aside all the up-zoning and re-zoning plans that enable more market rate housing.

For too long, the framework for Planners has been to expedite approvals of high priced developments along with a side order of "mitigations" or "impact fees" to placate low income and people of color communities. This "Trickle Down" approach has worsened inequality, driven people of color and people with low incomes far away from their places of work, and increased homelessness. Throwing a few "below market rate" units into a luxury condo tower doesn't count as an equity strategy. All it does is ensure that one more site will be occupied by a building where 80% or more of the units are priced completely out of reach.

Our city governments must no longer prioritize the profit margins of well-capitalized developers who cater to wealthy residents, corporate rentals and global investors who park their cash in and speculate on the housing market. In order to be considered for approval, we have to demand that every project or re-zoning that comes before a Planning Department or Commission for approval proves that their primary purpose and benefit is for low income, working class, and people of color communities. All proposals must uphold each element of DAPSS, Desegregation, Affordability, Production, Stability and Sustainability, in order for cities to achieve equity in planning and development.

Desegregation

Ensuring that all people regardless of race, religion, gender identity, national origin, abilities, or income are able to choose for themselves where they want to live.

Desegregation

Systems of segregation have defined the US since its inception. Forcing Native Americans onto Reservations, racist Jim Crow laws separating blacks from whites, denying home financing to people of color through "Redlining"forced displacement of people of color and low income residents for urban Redevelopment, forcing immigrants into segregated neighborhoods like Chinatowns, and discriminatory “Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions” that regulate use of condos and subdivisions are just some examples. Both the public and private sectors are culpable for deliberately excluding people of color from owning homes or even being able to live in desirable neighborhoods, as chronicled in the comprehensive book The Color of Law.

It's dangerous, however, to think of segregation as something that vanished with Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, also called the Fair Housing Act and the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 which established rules intended to end discriminatory practices in terms of who gets to live where and who has access to financing. Segregation also didn't vanish with the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943, the dissolution of California's Redevelopment Agencies in 2012, or the HOPE VI rebuilding of public housing in the 1990's and 2000's. Not only does segregation still exist, it continues to rip apart our social fabric. 

The 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri focused the nation's attention on the deep segregation of St Louis, which reflects similar realities for many other US cities. More recently, Amy Cooper called the cops on a black man in New York which unfortunately is not an isolated incident of whites calling law enforcement on blacks who they feel should be excluded from their domain. Even in liberal San Francisco, Alex Nieto was gunned down by police for being a person of color in his own neighborhood which was rapidly gentrifying. 

Segregation is intentional. It's systemic. Think about that new luxury apartment building charging $3,000 a month for rents or $1 million to buy a new condo plus monthly homeowners association fees. Since the disparity of incomes and wealth between white households and people of color is so wide and so pervasive, the residents in these new units will mostly be white. The income and education potential for people in concentrated areas of poverty is clearly worse than the prospects for households that have better schools and job prospects. 

For cities with less segregation there's less of an inequality gap. Or is it that cities with less of an inequality gap have less segregation? Either way, for planners to use the power of the government to keep rubber stamping market rate developments with just a sprinkling of "inclusionary" or "below market rate" units means an ever whiter and more segregated future.

Desegregation will only happen through systemic and deliberate action. Deliberate actions to create the ability for people to live in any area they want– close to work or schools and other social infrastructure, regardless of the renter's or buyer's race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, family size or composition, physical or mental capacities, language, use of rent subsidies, or other factors. As Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law, said in a recent interview, changing zoning won't solve this problem by itself. We need to make housing more affordable and we need to reduce inequality. Planning does play a crucial role in making our cities more unequal. See our first article in this series, "Post-Coronavirus We Need a New Way to Plan Cities" for a deeper analysis. Planners need to take decisive actions to make our cities more equitable.

Sample strategies for Desegregation

  1. Prioritize new, affordable, price-controlled housing in every neighborhood. Prioritize supportive, permanent housing for people who are currently homeless, in every neighborhood.
  2. Enforce fair housing (anti-discrimination). Charge landlords a fair housing fee to expand the number of city staff tasked with enforcing tenant selection and overseeing mortgage lending practices.
  3. Prohibit online platforms that use artificial intelligence and other automated systems for tenant and roommate selection, as they have been shown to have racial biases.
  4. Support small businesses and neighborhood based nonprofit organizations that provide affordable, culturally and linguistically accessible goods and services for low income and people of color residents.
  5. Strengthen enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act to ensure that commercial banks provide a more equitable distribution of investment and lending products.
  6. Prioritize creation of a municipal bank that can provide home loans, down payment assistance, and even small business support with more favorable terms and with greater flexibility and accountability than commercial banks.
  7. Make Planning Commission hearings more accessible. Hearings should take place in neighborhoods rather than at City Hall, and during late afternoon or evening hours.
  8. Create a phased plan for ending means testing - even "supportive housing" would be based on circumstance and need, not based on income. Our system of means testing is an intentional system of segregation that must be dismantled.
  9. Segregation and inequality are public health issues. We need to ensure that quality health facilities are accessible and affordable to everyone in every community as we dismantle systems of segregation and reduce inequality.

Affordability

Ensuring that all people regardless of their level of income can afford their housing. The federal standard is that affordable means paying 30% of your income on housing. However, for people with extremely low incomes, 30% may be too much, and for those in very high income brackets, paying more than 30% of income may still be affordable.

Affordability

Housing is shelter. Unfortunately, capitalism has transformed housing into so many things other than shelter- a "wealth creator", a landing pad for corporate executives, a tourist hotel, office space, event space. Each of these creates price competition and speculative investment expectations that tenants and homebuyers can't compete with.

The median income for a three person household in San Francisco in 2020 is $115,300. This means that there is an equal number of households that make less and more than this income. Based on the national standard of affordability, a household making this much would pay 30% of their income on housing which would be $2,883 per month. The median rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, however, is $4,340 per month which is more than 50% higher than the rent a median income household can afford. This means that well over half of San Francisco's households can't afford housing - so they either have to leave, crowd into a roommate situation, or pay an excessive portion of their income on rent, leaving insufficient money to spend on food, transportation, and other expenses.

The failure of our planners and of our political system stems from their belief that for-profit housing developers will, of their own accord, provide housing at a price that most people can afford. Developers and landlords don't care what the median household income is. They care even less what someone can afford who earns less than the median. They only care whether there's a market for the prices they want to charge. As long as there's a market for high prices, whether that's coming from local residents, corporate leasing platforms, or global investors, they have no incentive to lower the rents or the sales prices as long as someone from somewhere is willing to pay top dollar. 

But wait! The COVID-19 crisis has softened the market! Landlords are offering eight to ten weeks of free rent. If you think this is evidence that housing prices are falling, don't be fooled. Offering incentives is a strategy for developers and landlords to keep their prices high for the long term while providing a temporary discount to incentivize people to occupy their units during what they hope is only a temporary downturn. 

In the years leading up to the 2008 housing crisis, there was a massive building boom as developers chased the expanding market of homebuyers. When the housing bubble burst, and banks foreclosed on millions of mortgages, did those now-vacant homes become affordable housing that defrauded homeowners and low income and homeless households could then live in? Of course not. Banks tried to sell the properties - and if they couldn't sell them for the prices they wanted, the properties just languished, abandoned and blighted. Cities across the country then had to pay to tear them down - or sometimes the banks tore them down at their own cost- to address the blight they had created through greed and neglect.

That's right, even when developers capitalized on a massive consumer debt scam to finance over-building housing, and banks were then willing to part with those properties for a fraction of their prior value (because the Feds were spending trillions of dollars to guarantee the banks' solvency), we didn't see cities picking up those homes to expand their affordable housing stock; or to provide shelter for the homeless, or even for the homeowners victimized by the banks' predatory loans to move back in. They just tore the vacant homes down while homelessness increased- and is likely to continue to increase further due to the COVID-19 crisis.

To create affordability, the system needs to change. Planners need to stop approving market rate developments, There's no need for more market rate developments. Even before the COVID crisis, San Francisco as an example had over-built its regional allocation of need for market rate housing units and had far under built its allocation of below market rate housing. It also has entitled a pipeline of more than 40,000 new market rate units just waiting to go into construction. Not only have developers built too much market rate housing to address the projected demand, but planners have already approved enough additional market rate development to increase the housing stock of San Francisco, a major US city, by more than 10%. Enough is enough. Every parcel of land entitled or developed as market rate housing is another that won't be affordable.

Creating housing that is affordable for the majority of people– those who can't afford market rate housing– can only be done with deliberate, structural changes to the way we approach housing, and by deliberately, intentionally investing in affordable housing.

Sample strategies for Affordability

  1. Stop the approval of market rate housing until there is sufficient affordable housing built.
  2. Stop the sale of all publicly owned lands to market rate developers for the purpose of developing any market rate housing. That land should be set aside for development of affordable housing and community serving uses such as small businesses and nonprofits.
  3. Make sure the money is available. Some strategies include 1) charging a per square foot fee on big business retail and office space where there are new jobs; 2) creating a municipal or public bank that can provide grants or below market rate financing for affordable housing; 3) progressively higher real estate transfer taxes on sales of high value properties; 4) create an affordable housing trust fund that annually sets aside tax revenues for affordable housing; 5) the feds implemented massive corporate tax reductions in 2017- so implement a local tax on corporate earnings that captures locally at least some of the revenue lost at the federal level.
  4. Cities, nonprofit organizations, and community land trusts must aggressively purchase existing apartment buildings in order to stabilize rents.
  5. Nonprofit organizations and community land trusts must aggressively purchase sites for development of new affordable housing in every neighborhood.
  6. Ban online platforms that transform housing into commercial uses such as "short term rentals" and "intermediate length occupancies", corporate housing, executive housing, commercial and office uses, etc.

Production 

Building new units of housing to meet future needs of a growing economy.

Production

New housing is needed as our economy continues to grow. Planners and politicians, however, conflate production with affordability and even go so far as to pull desegregation and sustainability into this mash-up, assuming that simply deregulating housing development will solve all our housing problems. This DAPSS framework corrects this misguided thinking by placing the goal of production in its own separate category as a problem that needs to be solved strategically to meet the needs of a growing region. Production must be approached in a way that deliberately meets each of the other strategies of DAPSS– otherwise it is a destructive force.

No longer should we accept the speculative theories that maybe someday for-profit housing developers will build enough that prices will come down so low that most people can then afford them. The continuing displacement, segregation and instability caused by ongoing market rate development, speculation and financialization of housing is destructive and must stop immediately.

Solving the problem of production addresses the need to have a sufficient amount of housing available where people want to live– close to work, close to essential services such as schools, transportation, health care, healthy food. Making sure that there is enough housing in a particular place to support the local economy, so people can live near work and other amenities that support a community, is crucial.

How many new units do we need to produce? Over what period of time? Employment patterns and economic conditions change quickly, especially in times of crisis (as we have seen with hurricanes, fires and most recently with the COVID-19 pandemic). But housing development from the time of site acquisition to completion of construction takes three years or longer. 

In order to figure out how many units we need over a period of time, we need an analysis of the units we already have. How many are held vacant (for longer than a typical duration for a unit to turn over)? How many units have been converted to use as short term rentals? Corporate rentals? Commercial and office use rentals? How many units have been entitled, but haven't advanced through the building permit process? 

Answers to these questions can give us an accurate assessment of our existing housing stock. Vacant properties and units are resources that we should be able to use to respond to short term changes in the market, and also meet existing unmet demand. These answers will also enable us to look strategically at how and where to build to meet long term demand.

The most important question, however, is who are we producing new housing for? 

Production should never be enabled simply to build more units. Each of the DAPSS elements are separate but interlinked, meaning that embarking on a production strategy should always advance all the goals of desegregation, affordability, stability and sustainability first and foremost. Our planners and policymakers have to look to mobilize the government and our nonprofit sector, including community land trusts, to develop as much affordable housing as possible to meet current and future needs of quantity, affordability, and equity.

Sample strategies for Production in a way that deliberately also meets other goals of desegregation, affordability, stability, and sustainability

1. Create a detailed housing inventory that identifies and locates every housing unit including those that are: 

  • permitted and un-permitted; 
  • vacant and occupied; 
  • used as long term housing; and 
  • used for something other than long term housing, such as tourist rentals or corporate rentals.

2. Prohibit uses in residential buildings that are not long term housing (such as short term rentals, corporate rentals, executive rentals, office and entertainment uses).

3. Charge a fee to property owners who are holding units vacant to make their vacant units available. Each of these units must come available as "below market rate" or "affordable" price controlled units.

4. For developments that received Planning approval (development entitlements) more than five years prior, the city should purchase these developments then develop them as 100% affordable housing. These developers aren’t developing these lots, so these lots and their entitlements should be used for public benefit.

5. Protect publicly owned land to ensure that it's developed for 100% affordable housing. 

Stability

The ability for people to live securely without threat of eviction or foreclosure. 

Stability

The constant threat of evictions and foreclosures has a profound and devastating effect on people's health and well-being. Adults, especially women of color, who are responsible for making monthly mortgage or rent payments are not the only ones who suffer. Children and families are more likely to report poor health, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and psychological distress when they are not stably housed.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the displacement threat is even more dire because of concerns about infections and mandates to shelter-in-place. Maintaining employment, especially for essential workers who tend to earn close to subsistence wages, is fragile. Even before the pandemic, however, warnings of evictions leading to homelessness were on the rise. With so many millions of people currently out of work or working sporadically, getting evicted or having their homes foreclosed is even more likely to result in homelessness and increased possible exposure to the deadly coronavirus.

Just cause eviction protections, meaning that a tenant can typically only be evicted for a tenant's breach of the conditions of their lease, help to provide some stability for tenants. These protections help prevent landlords from evicting tenants for speculative reasons such as replacing tenants with "short term rentals" like Airbnb. Just cause protections also prevent evictions when landlords retaliate against tenants who request that repairs be made to address habitability issues. 

A rent ceiling like an ambitious program initiated in 2019 in Berlin that covers all units would create a disincentive for landlords to speculate through rent increases. To address its rapidly rising housing costs, in 2017, Canada's largest province, Ontario, proposed an expansion of rent control for every unit in the entire province including Toronto, Canada's largest city. These are bold actions that address the constant threat of displacement from housing costs rising faster than wages.

Perhaps the most powerful strategy for achieving stability is to shift ownership away from profit-motivated landlords and private equity firms seeking short term profits. There are so many models for what this could look like- from large scale government owned "social" housing to networks of community land trusts to government financed systems of resident ownership. A powerful concept for stability is for tenants to be able to purchase their buildings. Programs pioneered in Washington D.C. and San Francisco are designed to take existing apartment buildings off the speculative marketplace and transfer them into the ownership of tenants, nonprofit organizations or the city government. By taking these buildings out of the market, tenants will no longer have massive rent increases or be living under constant threat of other types of profit-motivated evictions.

Sample strategies for Stability

  1. Repeal laws that limit where and how rent control can be implemented. Once acts like this are repealed, price controls on rents can be implemented.
  2. Enact laws to guarantee that all tenants have "just cause" eviction protections.
  3. Create and fund a program for nonprofit organizations and community land trusts and tenants to have first priority to purchase apartment buildings as they come up for sale on the market. Each building successfully purchased in this way will increase the stability of those tenants.
  4. Facilitate the creation of nonprofit limited equity cooperatives, so tenants have an affordable path to ownership and stability, and those units will remain affordable as they are bought and sold.
  5. Require that landlords disclose the occupancy history of a building prior to receiving approvals for any building alterations. Landlords should not be allowed to evict tenants to move in either short term rental or corporate rental, commercial type uses.
  6. Prohibit commercial and short term uses from occupying apartment and homes, especially where existing residents may be evicted or coerced to leave.
  7. Strengthen enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act to end discrimination in lending.
  8. Regulate against predatory lending and other banking and financialization practices that put homeowners at risk of foreclosure.
  9. Prioritize the formation of municipal banks that can provide loans for tenants to be able to purchase their buildings.

Sustainability

Changing our approach to planning so future development contributes to the long term health and sustainability of our environment.

Sustainability

For our future health and resiliency, we need to start thinking about sustainability in terms of changing how our communities and our built environment interact with the natural environment. According to the UN, "Cities house more than half of the world's population and are responsible for over 70% of the world's energy-related carbon emissions, so they could make or break efforts to tackle climate change." Likewise, our corporatized and extractive systems of "agriculture and forestry have contributed nearly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions."

California and four other states have adopted "ambitious goals for the development of zero net energy buildings"Although laudable as a step in the right direction, sustainability is not just about reducing the environmental impacts of new buildings. It's about shifting our focus from chasing short term capital investments to long term planning around stewardship of our resources, land and environment. True sustainability demands that we change our focus from private profit to community building, from exploitation to restoration and resilience, and integration with natural systems so our cities evolve and grow in a way that is restorative and regenerative "to feed new life, health and wealth" into our environment.

Under our current system, when planners evaluate zoning and building proposals, they evaluate the potential environmental impacts that the future development might cause. Planners then consider how to mitigate or perhaps lessen the negative impacts of that particular development or re-zoning. This is the kind of planning that has led us on a path toward ecological degradation and global warming, because it's an approach that accepts negative environmental impacts as an inherent quality of growth.

It is imperative, however, to promote a positive impact on the environment and long term sustainability. By establishing a framework of regenerative impacts we want projects and rezoning to meet, and hold them accountable to those standards, we could create a useful economy full of innovative solutions for the real and meaningful problems facing our society.

When addressed strategically, issues of sustainability will directly benefit other DAPSS strategies. Building with new technologies such as passive solar construction will reduce utility and other operating costs, savings that should result in greater affordability due to the reduced monthly expenses. Health impacts from climate change and industry disproportionately burden low-income and people of color communities. By addressing sustainability as a holistic approach to planning and growth, we can improve the health of everyone rather than relying on "trickle down equity" that our planners typically use as a default. 

Sustainability can also enhance stability by focusing on preserving our existing built environment. When existing residents are able to continue to stay in their buildings, near work and familiar social infrastructures, displacement and commute times would decrease, achieving both stability and sustainability.

Our boom and bust housing cycles often result in periods of excessive building, then vacant homes are torn down. This is an extremely wasteful cycle. Unless you work in construction, you probably don't think about all the materials (wood, steel, concrete, gypsum, glass, etc.) used during construction. We need to be aware of the waste the development system encourages, and think strategically about how we can instead preserve, adapt, and renovate our existing housing as part of this holistic approach.

Sample strategies for Sustainability

1. Support the federal Green New Deal - but don't wait until politicians in DC figure out how to pass it. We need to start implementing as much of it through local ordinances as possible to refocus planning and invest in innovations that move us as quickly as possible to a future free of fossil fuel dependency.

2. Pass local ordinances that create new criteria for developments and re-zoning that that require proving that these proposals will improve resilience and will restore the environment.

3. Work with your neighbors, and come up with a  plan of your own– a vision, with drawings and models if you can– that show how you want your community to develop in a resilient, sustainable way, and hold decision makers accountable to your long term vision.

4. Change Planning Codes to create integrated systems for sustainability, and hold individual developments accountable to them. Minimizing the depletion of natural resources, minimizing shadow, traffic and other impacts on surrounding areas.

5. Further change Planning Codes and other laws to: require that Planning boards or commissions and their staff need to have expertise on sustainability; mandate zero carbon, zero fossil fuels buildings; and mandate criteria based on a life cycle and health assessment for all building materials and systems.

6. Require community gardens in developments and open spaces to provide better stormwater drainage, replenish the groundwater, reduce carbon dioxide, reconnect residents to the land, provide affordable organic food, and new jobs.

7. Require that every development submit a sustainability report as a requirement for approval. This report would disclose the developer's strategies for

  • Reducing materials use and waste in the building's construction;
  • Eliminating the need for natural gas and other fossil fuels in the building's operations;
  • Minimizing the building's monthly operating expenses;
  • Eliminating toxic construction and finish materials to ensure healthy air quality for residents and/ or users of the building;
  • Protecting sunlight access for surrounding public uses such as parks and schools; and
  • Providing community garden space.

8. Support and learn from the Movement Generation's Justice & Ecology Project that integrates grassroots organizing with a practical and clear strategy for changing our values around development.

Long Term Vision

What you have just read is an ambitious but pragmatic framework for turning our thinking about housing and land use planning upside down, so people and communities come first.

As we work on these fundamental changes, it's important that we hold onto a larger program for a truly sustainable and equitable future. Below is a teaser list of some of the elements of that long term program. We will explore these principles and strategies in future articles in this series.

  1. Protecting tenants and our housing stock against predatory Landlord Technology platforms that evict tenants so they can extract even more profit from lucrative corporate and commercial businesses. 
  2. Get housing construction and rents out of how countries calculate Gross Domestic Product- otherwise there will constantly be pressure to increase both the price of housing and volume of development as indicators of economic growth. Even better would be to dissociate from Gross Domestic Product altogether and embrace the framework of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance.
  3. End the practice of "derivatives" and "securitization" of mortgages and rents. Disallow private equity firms and hedge funds from owning housing. These are speculative entities and practices that are predatory and put people's housing at risk.
  4. End "means testing" for housing. We will never truly solve the problems of Affordability and Desegregation if we hold onto the social engineering concept that certain housing is affordable for certain households earning certain levels of income. 

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All illustrations by Frederick Noland.