Is equity the new sustainability? Since Next City’s Equity Factor column was launched in May 2013, discussions of equitable development have become so popular in the media that the word’s meaning has become devalued (see also: diversity, gentrification, growth). As Next City’s new urban economics fellow, I am going to attempt to ground the term in the realities of the people and spaces affected by the impediments to economic mobility.
I plan to continue to focus on issues related to economic policies, social mobility and workforce development and, at the same time, I want to take some of the extra weight off “equity” by offering critiques of projects and public policies using the term as a smokescreen. How often are community benefits offered as a trade-off for development when communities are not given the information that there are other options open to them? I’d also like to take a historical view, to place news stories into a larger context. Why might some industries succeed in a city where others have failed? Ideally, this will be a space for personal stories, speculation, visioning and appreciation for good ideas.
I am hoping to facilitate open, nuanced conversations. Tell me if there are stories from your city I should be investigating. Bring any errors or misstatements to my attention. Chime in with opinions. Let me know if I’m doing a good job. Tweet at me (pm_jawn) or drop a line in the comments section of my posts. The Equity Factor is a space to tease out the effects that economic stratification has on urban life. The more heads that come together to strategize about this dilemma, the better.
The Equity Factor is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.
Alexis Stephens was Next City’s 2014-2015 equitable cities fellow. She’s written about housing, pop culture, global music subcultures, and more for publications like Shelterforce, Rolling Stone, SPIN, and MTV Iggy. She has a B.A. in urban studies from Barnard College and an M.S. in historic preservation from the University of Pennsylvania.