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Bridging the Equity Gap through Planning and Policy

February 6, 2020 by admin
Planning News

Over the past several decades, communities across the nation have developed sustainability goals and strategic plans; characterizing “sustainability” as the intersection of ecology, economy and equity. More recently, many communities have begun to take a closer look at the “equity” realm of social and environmental interaction. They have developed social equity goals and strategic plans to address gaps, or disparities, in health, housing, opportunity, mobility and choice. 

On May 14, 2019, the American Planning Association (APA) Board of Directors ratified the Planning for Equity Policy Guide (the Guide), following review and approval by the 2019 APA Delegate Assembly.  The Delegate Assembly convenes annually at the National Planning Conference and is comprised of planners from all fifty states. This latest policy document joins a quiver of policy guides that address critical issues facing planners and their communities. 

The Guide is intended to promote equity and explicitly remove barriers in local policies and regulations that perpetuate inequity and is in keeping with APA’s stance to advocate for public policies that create just, healthy and prosperous communities that expand opportunity for all through good planning practices.  

Nearly sixty years of research, advocacy and planning practice form the foundation of the Guide, dating to a 1963 article by Melvin Webber published in the Journal of the American Institute of Planners titled, Comprehensive Planning and Social Responsibility. Other important milestones leading to the development of the Guide and important sources of information for current planning policy include: 

  • The Planners Network, established in 1975 by Chester Hartman, Harvard educated urban planner, author and current Director of Research of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC). Planners Network is an association of planning professionals, activists, academics and students. Their focus on promoting fundamental change in political and economic systems considers the relationship of physical, social, economic and environmental planning in both urban and rural areas. For further reading, case studies, and current activities visit plannersnetwork.org. 
  • Norman Krumholtz and John Forester’s 1990 book, Making Equity Planning Work, explains how planners and planning agencies can use their unique technical and professional expertise to challenge current practices, advocate for alternatives and influence urban policy to address social equity gaps. This is an excellent read and resource for any planner venturing into the realm of equity in urban planning to understand how to make it work for your community.

The central theme through all of this work is equity, which the Guide defines as, “just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Unlocking the promise of the nation by unleashing the promise in us all.” In other words, planning for all, not just the few. As we plan our communities the concepts of equity and fairness should always be considered. These issues are multifaceted and complicated. They go beyond regulation and require us to consider the social impacts of our recommendations. 

The Planning for Equity Policy Guide is a superb reference as we examine these issues. It will provide historical context to the discussion and provide detailed information about the steps, process and factors leading to better, more just planning. Policy measures are presented in detail for the following topics:

  • Gentrification 
  • Environmental Justice 
  • Community Engagement and Empowerment 
  • Climate Change and Resilience
  • Education 
  • Energy and Resource Consumption 
  • Health Equity
  • Heritage Preservation 
  • Housing 
  • Mobility and Transportation
  • Public Spaces and Places. 

An extensive list of resources and further reading concludes the document. You can find more information about APA policy guides, including the Planning for Equity Policy Guide, at planning.org/policy/guides.

 

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