Who Gets Left Behind in the Pursuit of 'Livability'?

Richey Piiparinen explores the "original sin" of the quest for urban “livability” - economic development - and examines what the pitfalls are when cities are designed for high-valued consumers rather than people.

Piiparinen wades into the debates generated by the use of what Kaid Benfield calls "overly familiar vocabulary," by taking issue with the use of "livability" as a goal for city development. Part screed against "Creative Class" urbanism and part reflection on the role of fantasy in city building and the recent backlashes to livability he observes in Portland, New York, and Chicago, his essay tries to address essential questions of affordability, gentrification, inequality, and economic development, without descending into a wormhole of semantics.

If we take Piiparinen's definitions of "livability", which he describes as "appealing to a select group of folks so as to form 'an attractive economic place'”, and livability (which is defined as "fit or suitable to live in or with"), as accurate, then the central question the essay raises seems to be whether city development based on the one must necessarily exclude the other.

He concludes his essay by suggesting that, "it’s time for city leaders and citizens alike to take stock in how cities are being made, and for whom the making is focused. In fact maybe it’s time to drop the 'livability' gimmicks that define Willy Wonka urbanism–or to squeeze 'the style' out of 'lifestyle' so as to expose the highest priority, the highest necessity: which is life."

"So, you wanna make your city 'hot'?", he argues. "Then cook the irons of affordable housing, mobility, education, and solid jobs."

Or, why not try do all of the above?

Full Story: “Livability” vs. Livability: The Pitfalls of Willy Wonka Urbanism

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