A New Guide to Revitalizing Cities Around the World

A major study by the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, "Revitalizing Places: Improving Housing and Neighborhoods from Block to Metropolis," identifies planning strategies to improve housing and urban development practices.

November 22, 2016, 6:00 AM PST

By Todd Litman


A major study by the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Revitalizing Places: Improving Housing and Neighborhoods from Block to Metropolis [pdf], identified policy, planning and design strategies to improve urban housing and communities.

The study considers a variety of planning objectives including economic development, social equity, and community livability. The report discusses the benefits and costs of increasing urban densities, and practical challenges of urban infill. It considers diverse housing demands and ways to satisfy them. It identified four key strategies for creating more sustainable and inclusive communities:

  1. Policies and programs to support more and better infill development in core cities and suburbs. These include simplifying infill developments, promoting public acceptance of infill, and promoting accessory apartments.
  2. Urban expansion that with appropriate infrastructure and services, and innovative designs to comprehensively develop neighborhoods and new towns.
  3. Strategies to retrofit existing areas in response to concerns about existing developments. This includes upgrading inadequate services and infrastructure, creating attractive, mixed-use neighborhood centers, improving access to jobs and services, and dealing with abandoned housing.
  4. Improving data coordination and performance indicators. Data and information sharing is key to understand the effects of policies and programs. Indicators can provide feedback on the process and interim achievements, helping recalibrate and improve actions.

The report builds on research and examples from around the world that define optimal urban development patterns, and the policies that help make this happen, including regulatory and planning reforms, infrastructure financing options, land assembly methods, government agency coordination, infrastructure and housing investment practices, property tax policies, and improved public engagement and data collection practices. Although the study focused on Mexico, many of the concepts apply to all cities, in both developed and developing countries.

Monday, November 21, 2016 in Rethinking Social Housing in Mexico Project

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