Equitable ac­cess key to healthy ur­ban­iza­tion

There is a need ... to fo­cus more on equitable ac­cess to core ser­vices in­clud­ing af­ford­able hous­ing, trans­porta­tion and achieve eco­nomic pros­per­ity and en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity for all peo­ple.

China Daily (USA) - - VIEW -

Rapidly grow­ing ci­ties are find­ing it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to pro­vide their res­i­dents with core ser­vices such as hous­ing, water, en­ergy and trans­porta­tion— a chal­lenge that is ex­ac­er­bated as the pop­u­la­tion of poor peo­ple liv­ing in ur­ban ar­eas grows in the world.

More than 880 mil­lion peo­ple live in slums and for mil­lions of un­der-served ur­ban dwellers, the lack of ac­cess to core ser­vices un­der­mines eco­nomic pro­duc­tiv­ity, chal­lenges them to fend for them­selves in in­ef­fi­cient and costly ways and risks pol­lut­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

Global hous­ing deficit is def­i­nitely a ma­jor is­sue. It’s a well­rec­og­nized prob­lem that there is a lack of af­ford­able, ad­e­quate, se­cure hous­ing in well-lo­cated ur­ban ar­eas. How­ever, over the next 10 years, this gap is es­ti­mated to in­crease by about one-third, dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fect­ing women, chil­dren and eth­nic mi­nori­ties.

Given the scale of the chal­lenge and the vari­abil­ity across ge­ogra­phies, it’s im­por­tant that we seek be­yond tra­di­tional so­lu­tions. In its re­port, “To­wards aMore Equal City”, World Re­sources In­sti­tute ex­am­ines whether pri­or­i­tiz­ing ac­cess to core ur­ban ser­vices will create ci­ties that are pros­per­ous and sus­tain­able for all peo­ple, and out­lines three po­ten­tial ap­proaches to tack­ling the hous­ing chal­lenge:

To ad­dress the growth of un­der­ser­viced, sub-stan­dard hous­ing, dis­con­nected from liveli­hood pos­si­bil­i­ties, de­ci­sion-mak­ers should rec­og­nize in situ (in the orig­i­nal place) par­tic­i­pa­tory up­grad­ing— like that of Thai­land’s BaanMankong pro­gram— as the op­ti­mal so­lu­tion, ex­cept when there are lo­ca­tion-based risks.

Poli­cies at all lev­els of­ten overem­pha­size home­own­er­ship to the detri­ment of res­i­dents in the in­for­mal sec­tor. In­stead, ci­ties should con­sider poli­cies that rec­og­nize and en­cour­age rental hous­ing for peo­ple of all in­come groups.

There are many in­stances of in­ap­pro­pri­ate land poli­cies and reg­u­la­tions that push the poor out of the city. In­cen­tiviz­ing the con­ver­sion of un­der­uti­lized land and al­low­ing for in­cre­men­tal de­vel­op­ment can help make use of ex­ist­ing ur­ban land and give traditionally marginal­ized groups well-lo­cated homes.

The hous­ing is­sue never stands alone. Sus­tain­able mo­bil­ity helps create a more ac­ces­si­ble city for all, espe­cially when mo­tor­iza­tion is on the rise world­wide. Trans­port and land use plan­ning need to be in­te­grated, and to en­able bet­ter ac­cess for all peo­ple to goods and ser­vices like ed­u­ca­tion, jobs and health­care. Of­ten so­cial hous­ing is of­fered by ci­ties on the out­skirts of ci­ties due to lower land prices there and lead to fur­ther in­equal­ity of the ur­ban poor. Of­ten the share of cost for trans­porta­tion is up to 30 per­cent of the in­come. So­lu­tions like more in­clu­sive transit-ori­ented de­vel­op­ment— a com­bined plan­ning of new rapid transit so­lu­tion and dense de­vel­op­ment around sta­tions— are ways to im­prove the sit­u­a­tion.

An in­creas­ing num­ber of ci­ties are prov­ing to be lead­ers by work­ing with busi­nesses to create holis­tic change. For ex­am­ple, New York City’s PlaNYC and the Port­land Plan’s in­te­grated ac­tions on af­ford­able hous­ing, green space ac­cess and road safety to im­prove the econ­omy, sus­tain­abil­ity of­fer so­cial in­clu­sion all at once with the help of the pri­vate sec­tor. In par­tic­u­lar, many ci­ties’ par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Vi­sion Zero ini­tia­tive to elim­i­nate traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties serves as a global model for cre­at­ing safer ci­ties by de­sign. The au­thor is a US-based writer and colum­nist.

Sim­i­larly, as the WRI re­port shows, Medellin in Colom­bia built a coali­tion with po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, the pri­vate sec­tor and other key stake­hold­ers to in­vest in ed­u­ca­tion, hous­ing pol­icy re­form, a func­tional public trans­port sys­tem and ad­dress the causes of poverty city­wide. With this model of part­ner­ship, Medellin demon­strated that ur­ban trans­for­ma­tion is pos­si­ble— but only with an in­te­grated ap­proach.

In the next two decades China will face the chal­lenge of con­tin­u­ous pop­u­la­tion growth. Learn­ing from the good prac­tices around the world and fol­low­ing the par­a­digm of theNewUr­ban Agenda we ex­pect that fur­ther progress to­ward sus­tain­able ur­ban­iza­tion can be made. There is a need, how­ever, to fo­cus more on equitable ac­cess to core ser­vices in­clud­ing af­ford­able hous­ing, trans­porta­tion and achieve eco­nomic pros­per­ity and en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity for all peo­ple. The au­thor is di­rec­tor of WRI Ross Cen­ter for Sus­tain­able Ci­ties.


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