Obama on the Record Against Sprawl, Inequality by Design

Former President Barack Obama was at the AIA’s national conference in Chicago earlier this month. His presentation included some strong words about the effects of sprawl.

2 minute read

June 30, 2022, 7:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

“Former US president Barack Obama has called on architects and policymakers to tackle urban sprawl and to "create livable density" in American cities,” reports Ben Dreith for Dezeen.

"Sprawl in America is not good for our climate. And so we have to think about creating livable density that allows us to take mass transit and take bicycles,” Obama is quoted as saying in the article.

Obama also cited Chicago as an example of a city where architecture had been used to reinforce inequality, such as with public housing projects like Cabrini Green.

“The former president believes that some of the problems found in Chicago and other major cities in the US are the result of government policy and zoning decisions,” reports Dreith. “[I]t's not just a lack of funding for affordable housing,” said the former president.

Obama also called out ostensibly liberal cities for opposing affordable housing.

"Frankly, some very well-intentioned laws and regulations at the local level, often generated from the left and from my own party, sometimes are inhibiting the creation of affordable housing and powering NIMBY attitudes and make it very difficult to integrate communities and allow people to live close to where they work."

Obama’s track record while in office on issues of urbanism and equity shows some incremental progress, stopping well short of comprehensive innovation. While the Obama administration succeeded in implementing the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule to advance the causes of the Fair Housing Act, the Trump administration worked to undermine those rules and critics questioned how effective the AFFH will be in achieving its intended goals. The Obama administration also supported pro-development reforms well before it was a broad trend at the local level.

Monday, June 27, 2022 in Dezeen

stack of books

Planetizen’s Top Planning Books of 2023

The world is changing, and planning with it.

November 24, 2023 - Planetizen Team

Close-up of 'Red Line Subway Entry' sign with Braille below and train logo above text in Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago Red Line Extension Could Transform the South Side

The city’s transit agency is undertaking its biggest expansion ever to finally bring rail to the South Side.

November 24, 2023 - The Architect's Newspaper

Row of brick three-story townhomes in Britih Columbia.

More Affordable Housing for People, Less for Cars

Most jurisdictions have off-street parking requirements that increase motorists’ convenience but reduce housing affordability. It’s time to reform these policies for the sake of efficiency and fairness.

November 20, 2023 - Todd Litman

Red fire engine on street in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Getting Buy-in for Road Diets From Fire Departments

Proposals to narrow streets often meet resistance from emergency responders concerned about safety and access.

12 minutes ago - Strong Towns

Colorful brick apartment buildings with fire escapes in Chinatown, New York City.

A ‘Black Market’ for Short-Term Rentals Grows in NYC

While many owners are listing their rentals on other websites, others are moving them back to the long-term rental market.

1 hour ago - Curbed

Aerial view of intersection in Hoboken, New Jersey with crosswalks, bulb-outs, and blue home plate painted in middle of intersection, surrounded by mid-rise multistory apartment buildings.

Vision Zero at Work: Hoboken Celebrates Seven Years of Zero Traffic Deaths

The New Jersey city implemented simple yet impactful changes to eliminate traffic fatalities.

2 hours ago - Jalopnik

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.