Building Partnerships to Build Stronger Communities - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Building Partnerships to Build Stronger Communities

Holsten Development

Whistler Crossing is a Regional Housing Initiative Development in Riverdale, Ill.

On Monday, June 16, I was thrilled to join over 150 people in a conversation about regional inequality and how policy advocates and developers might partner to expand housing opportunities in strong markets while investing in jobs, economic development, and retail expansion in challenged, high-poverty communities. As a housing policy advocate and practitioner, the Chicago Regional Convening excited me more than the many conferences, roundtables and forums that I find myself attending because the conversation was intentionally nuanced and two-fold: How can we expand the benefits of quality neighborhoods to those that cannot afford such communities now, while building up high-poverty, segregated communities with jobs, retail and higher quality housing? Too often the fair housing community, real estate development professionals and regional policy advocates want the same end result yet are not aligned in their approaches.

The first panel of the day featured Sarah Abraham of Harvard University’s Equality of Opportunity Project, who described how growing inequality is playing out across metropolitan areas and the impact this has on people and places. She highlighted groundbreaking research that pinpointed the five strongest correlates of upward mobility:

  1. Segregation
  2. Income inequality and the size of the middle class
  3. School quality
  4. Social capital
  5. Family Structure

As demonstrated here, place-based policies are as important as ever in determining quality of life across a metropolitan area. The New York Times published this article—“In Climbing Income Ladder, Location Matters”—with an interactive tool and graph that reveal how socially mobile the top 30 most populous areas are. Chicago ranks fifth from the bottom when it comes to social mobility for children. The study strongly demonstrates that the characteristics of different regions and places are at the core of social mobility, making integrated communities an even more important issue in the Chicago region.

The second panel, which I kicked off, featured a discussion about the Regional Housing Initiative and the local, regional and federal policy focus on fair housing, equity and place-based efforts, as well as the challenges that developers face when trying to build affordable housing in strong communities. Throughout the course of the rest of the day, there was significant discussion about how to build trust and momentum to tackle our greatest social challenges in the wake of continuously declining resources.

I am looking forward to following a national advocacy effort, led by the Ford Foundation, Open Societies Foundation, National Housing Conference, Poverty Race Research Action Coalition and more, to spur greater partnerships between community advocates and community builders.

See this blog post by the National Housing Conference for more information!

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