Housing and Community Development

Mariposa 1038 (Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects)

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The AIA Housing and Community Development Knowledge Community (HCD) tracks housing issues and develops relationships with industry stakeholders to encourage and promote safe, attractive, accessible, and affordable housing for all Americans.

A Marshall Plan for American Cities

  • 1.  A Marshall Plan for American Cities

    Posted 08-20-2019 11:04

     

    It is an interesting fact that in spite of increasing urbanization and renewed interest in cities, federal support of US cities has continued to dwindle. Maybe the next presidential election will change that. In the debates to date, the state of US cities has come into sharp focus and housing has emerged as a leading topic among all candidates. But nobody went as far as South Bend, Indiana Mayor Buttigieg who had a think tank work out parts of his recently released Douglass Plan.

    A Marshall plan to revive vacant homes and create wealth: Vacant houses
    in Baltimore
    Inspired by American hero Frederick Douglass and comparable in scale to the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II, the Douglass Plan dismantles old systems and structures that inhibit prosperity and builds new ones that will unlock the collective potential of Black America (Campaign website).
    American cities sure could use a shot in the arm. Abandonment and vacant homes are pervasive ailments that don't only afflict post-industrial cities in the rust belt and along the east coast. Even thriving sunbelt cities such as Nashville, Austin or San Diego know increasing wealth bifurcation, dereliction, poverty and dis-invested neighborhoods. The urban crisis has hit rich and poor cities in different ways. In Baltimore or Detroit properties over large swaths of the city don't appreciate in value enough to make their possession worthwhile, in San Francisco or Denver home prices have gone through the roof, to the extent that normal earners can't afford to live there except in substandard conditions. The homeless populate any city in record numbers. Rich or poor, the American city has been in crisis for such a long time that it threatens economic prosperity of the entire nation.
    Besides north St. Louis and most of Detroit outside of downtown, there's Baltimore's Black Butterfly, the South and West Sides of Chicago, Flint, the east side of Cleveland, the east side of Buffalo, large swaths of Indianapolis, Gary, even South Bend. Areas of vacancy or hypervacancy today were often the thriving black neighborhoods of yesterday. That's not a coincidence. It's by design. (NextCity 8/19/19)
    The last time a US president thought about cities in a big way was under Kennedy and Johnson; but the Great Societyinvestments which took shape in many cities were soon dismantled by Nixon and especially Reagan.
    Our society will never be great until our cities are great. Lyndon Johnson.
    Federal help for cities in the form of empowerment zones, TIGER projects and many other acronyms have come and gone since then without making much of a difference. In most cases it helped some investors or developers, mostly the programs brought about an army of non-profits devoted to administering urban poverty. Little was done to rectify the structural racism deeply embedded in much of US urban policy. The Douglass Plan is like a breath of fresh air:

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    [Klaus] Philipsen FAIA
    Archplan Inc. Philipsen Architects
    Baltimore MD
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