Inclusive Urban Development
Inclusive Urban Development
Ensuring that the improvement of life quality that NBS strive to achieve is shared by all urban inhabitants is a significant challenge faced by urban planners. NBS can be a powerful tool to improve health and wellbeing and support social integration for particular target groups. However, if not properly managed, urban regeneration can improve the lives of some at the expense of others through reinforcing pre-existing disparities between social groups. NBS have the potential to either increase social divides or act as a bridge improving social cohesion in cities. Whether interventions will tend to induce the former or the latter will depend on the strategy and priorities adopted for the improvement of green spaces.
The term “green gentrification” has become commonplace in planning circles around the world explaining the phenomena of increasing property prices pushing certain groups out as a result of urban regeneration, at times through interventions associated with urban greening. A blueprint for avoiding green gentrification through the implementation of NBS does not exist. However, a range of principles have been identified that can assist cities in dealing with the negative effects of gentrification and uneven distribution of NBS:
An important starting point is to ensure that the potential for gentrification related effects remains present in the minds of planners, decision makers and developers when undertaking a strategy of urban regeneration. As such, the city should be able to anticipate the negative outcomes to a certain extent and develop mitigation mechanisms and strategies accordingly. Furthermore, bringing socio-spatial challenges into the forefront of urban regeneration projects should trigger an important discussion regarding these trade-offs whereby stakeholders can better identify priorities.
Linking NBS with strategies targeting social inclusion and development:
In many cases, lower socio economic areas and minority communities are associated with higher risk of exposure to air pollution, urban heat islands and lower green space accessibility. There is significant potential for NBS to be utilised as a tool to achieve objectives outlines a wide range of different urban strategies (see MP2 Embedding NBS in existing plans and strategies). This highlights the potential for the city to address socioeconomic disparities whilst addressing urban challenges related to climate change and ongoing urbanisation at the same time if these strategies are effectively aligned. For this purpose, an important starting point is to identify target areas in the city that are characterised by particularly low socio-economic standards. This can be conducted through statistical analysis. Once these areas have been identified, they can become priority areas for interventions such as project funding schemes, or target areas for green space enhancement.
Understanding NBS as a tool to address a range of challenges:
Planners have to strike a balance between targeting NBS to the areas where the challenges (air pollution, urban heat island, flooding etc.) they are supposed to address are most pressing, on one hand, and ensuring that this does not worsen social disparities, on the other. A good approach is to see urban inequality itself as a challenge to be addressed through NBS and target these areas accordingly.
Understand the underlying mechanisms of gentrification:
Evaluating the results of green gentrification is important, but it is also important to understand the underlying processes around gentrification. This means not the increasing housing prices itself, but the processes that lead up to this outcome. Reasons behind this issue could be, for example, increasing tourism, increasing incomes in some specific sectors amongst certain social groups, increasing living costs, or growing competition with other land-use, all of which can increase demand for housing and push up prices in a particular area. By understanding the central root causes of gentrification, it is easier to develop effective strategies and mechanisms suited to the specific urban context.