Building social equity into our cities

Building social equity into our cities

When you think of urban planning and design, what comes to mind? You might think of transportation considerations, public parks, mixed-use strategies to prevent sprawl and appropriate zoning. Largely absent from mainstream conversations about how we plan and build our cities, however, is the concept of social equity.

What happens when neighborhoods lack effective representation in city council and financial resources? What about areas that have been segregated for several decades, and their residents are disenfranchised? Those places don’t enjoy the status that would place them next in line for utility improvements. They often lack safe and connected sidewalks or transportation options. A market selling healthy, fresh food might not be accessible to residents. There might not be managed green spaces for exercise and recreation.

Happily, a shift is taking place. Planning firms and public officials are placing greater emphasis on the built environment and its role in promoting and safeguarding the basic rights of a city’s residents. At EnSite, we consider social equity as one of the three pillars of sustainability, along with environmental stewardship and economic development. And we believe all people deserve a safe, connected, healthy place to live, work, learn and play.

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