Designing the worst place to be poor
Alex Steffen is a planetary futurist and creator of the books Worldchanging and Carbon Zero. His new project The Heroic Future launches in September. Follow Alex on Twitter or to sign up to get his free weekly newsletter.
If you were designing the worst place to be poor in decades ahead, you’d come up with a low-density, auto-dependent, aging and declining suburb.
The idea that it is somehow progressive to be anti-development may well now be the most pernicious one in American urban politics.
“Fully 88 percent of Atlanta’s poor live in the suburbs” Poor people being stranded in the places cheap gas built is the next great social crisis.
And suburban poverty is going to get worse: the suburban poor land at the intersection of economic transformations, cultural shifts, infrastructure decline, suburban bankruptcy and climate vulnerability. In fact, if you were designing the worst place to be poor in decades ahead, you’d come up with a low-density, auto-dependent, aging and declining suburb.
Suburban poverty can’t be tackled without major interventions in planning, built form, infrastructure, governance; without, in essence, unmaking broken suburbs and re-crafting them into something new. The problems of the new suburban poor are structural.
And one of the worst consequences of urban NIMBYism which limits/blocks new housing development is that it’s driving the urban poor out into these suburbs.
Originally published on January 13, 2015 at www.alexsteffen.com.