Creating Communities of Opportunity
By Jonathan F.P. Rose, President, Jonathan Rose Companies and Andrew Ditton, Managing Director and Co-Head, Citi Community Capital October 21, 2013 08:00 AM
By 2050, the population of the United States is projected to grow from 314 million to approximately 400 million people -- and most of this growth is projected to be in our cities. Put another way, less than 40 years from today, 89 percent of our population will claim a city as home. In the middle of the last century that number was 67 percent. Within the span of 100 years, the U.S. will essentially have become a country of cities.
This concentrated urban growth can be an enormous benefit to the U.S. economy, but only if it is reinforced by appropriate investment in new infrastructure and guided by policies that support vibrant, diverse communities. Now is the time to have vital, thoughtful conversations about what makes a successful community of opportunity.
The U.S. provides its residents opportunity in great abundance, but not always in equal share. Too often, low-income communities grapple with failing schools, poor access to health care, a lack of fresh healthy food, and limited safe, green affordable housing and transportation options - all of the fundamental ingredients for communities that spur mobility and long-term harmony. Today, health, educational and economic outcomes are often too easily predicted by zip code.
The solution is to create communities that have the physical, social, and environmental ingredients to be catalysts for opportunity. That's easy to say, much harder to do.
PolicyLink, a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity, defines communities of opportunity as "places with quality schools, access to good jobs with livable wages, quality housing choices, public transportation, safe and walkable streets, services, parks, access to healthy food, and strong social networks. " Throughout history, many cultures have similarly defined the core building blocks that are essential to providing their communities with opportunity. We must continue to develop a clear vision of the facilities and services that are needed to create a contemporary community of opportunity, taking into account the strong cultural values that underpin and distinguish all successful communities.
Jonathan Rose Companies focuses on transforming communities and creating shared value by working with partners to build or preserve affordable housing that allows communities to evolve, become safer and healthier, and minimize their environmental impact, all without sacrificing the needs of families who have spent years shaping their neighborhoods and cultivating deep local connections. With the experience that comes with being the country's leading affordable housing lender, Citi too plays an important role in improving communities. The oxygen of this work is financing, and it would simply not occur without collaboration of banks like Citi and developers like Jonathan Rose. True progress requires a shared commitment as well as resources to turn vision into reality.
PolicyLink's definition of communities of opportunity is grounded in widespread connectivity -- the assumption that a community is connected to a secure, safe supply of energy and water, access to waste and storm water treatment, and regular solid waste pick up services. It also implies that a community of opportunity should be a healthy place, safe from physical and social threats. It should be free of toxic compounds in the water, land and air. Its residents should be able to access sufficient affordable health care. It should provide access to the social and mental health services needed for families to prosper. It should have a diversity of people, perspectives and opportunities. Its governance should be transparent and uncorrupt. Its citizens should have a significant role in its decision making system and in creating a long range vision and plan for their community.
Safe and affordable housing is one of these essential elements. But all of these strands must be integrated and woven to create a rich and dense community fabric.