The Built Environment in 2022: Challenges and Opportunities

As climate change, the pandemic, and a historic housing crisis continue to impact the nation, experts weigh in on the issues that could shape the future of the built environment in 2022.

January 13, 2022, 10:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Beautiful Pink Flowers along the East River at Hunters Point South Park during Spring in Long Island City Queens

James Andrews1 / Shutterstock

In a multi-author brief, Brookings staff and senior fellows assess the built environment issues that could dominate 2022.

For Dr. Newsha K. Ajami, the quality of water infrastructure will be a crucial concern as water supplies diminish and demand grows. Ajami suggests investing in the hard and soft infrastructure required for a "circular water economy" that reclaims and reuses water in innovative ways.

Alex Berke draws attention to the proliferation of mobile phone data, the ways planners can use this new source of information about travel and mobility to guide policy, and the ethical implications of managing these datasets.

Anika Singh Lemar notes the long history of racial injustice in American land use and housing policy, calling for a renewed commitment to quantifiable advancements in equity.

Other researchers highlight the importance of hurricane protection projects, federal fair housing enforcement, and addressing capacity deficiencies that prevent communities from accessing federal investments. Additional concerns include broadband infrastructure, the need to reimagine the suburbs for changing demographics and values, transportation funding that supports sustainable transit, and addressing the continuing housing crisis.  

At the heart of many of these challenges is the looming threat of climate change, which is causing a strain on resources, increasingly destructive natural disasters, and rising sea levels that threaten coastal communities. Jan Whittington writes that cities must take urgent action to limit global warming by investing in climate-friendly infrastructure and identifying resilience strategies that can be deployed at the city scale.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021 in Brookings

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