FOSTER HEALTHY, INTEGRATED COMMUNITIES

Ronald Shiffman

The planning policies that we have undertaken over the past three decades have led to greater income segregation citywide. At the same time, there is growing recognition in the health field that segregated cities are unhealthy, not just for the poor who bear the brunt of living in often substandard conditions, but for the wealthy and all other income groups as well. We must recognize that the process of displacement and replacement now occurring citywide will not foster integrated and healthy communities, and we must explore new zoning mechanisms to reverse this pattern.

First, we must pursue policies and interventions that protect against displacement. We should explore the implementation of mandatory inclusionary housing in all new developments through new tax abatements and other forms of public subsidies for building owners and developers. Moreover, we must develop a series of procedures to vigorously enforce fair housing statutes. 

Second, we must provide housing for all income groups in proportion to their need. Currently, our affordability standards are based on the Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area median income, which measures regional income and raises the boroughs’ averages dramatically. I propose to base our affordability standards on borough median income figures so that no community is developed to benefit any group over another on the basis of income, race, or class—though exceptions may be made where there is an affirmative obligation to overcome previous exclusionary practices.  

If the city continues to move in its recent pattern where Manhattan becomes an island for the super rich, we will have developed a sophisticated form of economic apartheid and will suffer the consequences of a less healthy city. 

Ronald Shiffman is a city planner with 50 years of experience providing planning and development assistance to community-based groups in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods and a former member of the City Planning Commission [1990-96]. He is a Professor at the Pratt Programs for Sustainable Planning and Development and the Founder of the Pratt Center for Community Development.

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