Wednesday, February 13, 2013

CASE STUDIES OF URBAN DEVELOPMENT PRACTICES IN DEVELOPED AND DEVELOPING COUNTRIES: A JUSTICE CRITIQUE


1.1 Introduction
Urban development interventions still remain contentious in development discussions mainly because of their consequences. The debate as to whether these interventions are beneficial continues to resurface in development literature as well as programs related to the modernization of the city and the encouragement of economic development. It is evident that “new housing and related infrastructure investments in cities can act as key engines for economic regeneration to restore the wealth of households and generate new demand” (UN-Habitat 2009). Yet the process to achieving this and the aftermath of such actions has raised issues of “justice” (Fainstein 2010). Fundamental theoretical dilemma arises; can there ever be a situation where “capital and community” development are mutually reinforcing? (Stoecker, 1997).  In this paper, which is part of the Urban Planning and Local Economic Development series, perspectives are drawn from urban development in New York, Chicago, London, and Brazil to aid understanding of how these two concepts can be harmonized within the context of justice. Some emerging strategies to facilitating this have been appreciated and implications for knowledge building and policy have been drawn on the findings from these discussions. 

1.2 Review of Case Studies
1.2.1 The Chicago Experience
Chicago now is a citadel of economic development. Despite the seemly decline of American cities, Chicago seems to be flourishing and experiencing growth. This has not always remained the case as Chicago in the 1880s was characterized by “slums and blight” (Bennertt, 2006). The city also experienced similar fates in the great depression bouncing back after World War II. The city consequently initiated efforts for urban regeneration and development with focus on the inner city called the Loop. Unfortunately these interventions were semblance of urban renewal programs at that time with associated issues of urban displacements, destruction of neighborhoods and low emphasis on public housing (Fainstein 2001 and Levy 2013).  Between 1990 to date, urban development has taken a new dimension with much emphasis on European Classicism style of urban development (Bennertt, 2006). Led by Mayor Richard J Daley, an intergraded approach was adopted that incorporated place and people based strategies into the development of the Loop. Investing in the beautification of the city (place based strategy) was complemented by a “mixed-income model of community development to save public housing; to humanize public housing through the use of new urban design techniques” (Bennertt, 2006). Conceptually, the mutual blend of place and people based strategies underpins the reality that development is multidimensional; both spatial and non-spatial (Alkire, 2002 and Harms, 2005). Consequently by understanding that local economic development is aimed at improving the quality of life of communities then the immediate implication is that people and place matter (Anne, 2012).

The mix-income model may have spurred a new framework for better urban development programs than urban renewal strategies. By “creating housing units for occupancy by low-income households, it also contributes to the diversity and stability of American communities” (HUD, 2010). By definition, “a mixed-income housing development can be defined as a development that is comprised of housing units with differing levels of affordability, typically with some market-rate housing and some housing that is available to low-income occupants below market-rate” (HUD, 2003). Does this approach really work? Chicago experience seems to portray so (Brophy and Smith, 1997 and Bernnett, 2006) yet some skepticism persists (Bernnett, 2006).  Schwartz and Tajbakhsh (1997) inquire of the social effects of the mix-income model by posing the questions: “does it improve the life chances of low-income residents; how; to what extent do the social effects differ in the various types of mixed-income housing outlined above” as well as “concerns on the cost of developing and maintaining mixed-income housing”. Despite the fact that these concerns were made at an earlier date, they provide critical concerns for sustainability and making the model a success. For most housing failures maintenance have been critical; thus who does this and how become evidently important as state and national budget deficits continue to rise. Bernnett (2006) argues the Chicago cases ensured the provision of affordable housing for the poor and induced local participation which all underpins the tenets of justice. By inducing public sector investments in private developments that benefited low income households consolidates this observation. Yet without enough discussions elaborate conclusions cannot be made for the Chicago case although it offers a model of emulation.

1.2.2 The New York and London Experience
For starters, discussions are made with references with New York City citing Battery Park City, Time Square, and Yankee Stadium Projects. From a “Justice Framework” of equity, democracy and diversity, Fainstein (2010) advocates for urban development that integrates these tenets in the planning process. In London Fainstein (2010) reflects on the Docklands redevelopment, Coin Street, and planning for Olympics. Here varied conclusions on the criteria of Justice and the indicators that qualify these measurements present a limitation of the conceptual framework. Nonetheless, the approach provides a means for appreciating how urban development can be made more humane or human centered as well as the systems and factors that can support such ‘just’ processes for urban development. 

Interestingly, justice as a concept is fraught with plurality and relativity of perceptions. Its objectives, measurements, how it works, its consequences, and its appropriateness in certain contexts reveal these contradictions (Duthie, 2009). Despite this, the “justice” perspective reflects a consensus of a travesty of development espoused by the Cocoyoc Declaration (UNCTAD/UNEP, 1971). Consequently, “the Idea of justice advances the bold argument that development should be synonymous to making the world less unjust, for poverty reduction and reduction of injustices do not necessarily go together” (Deneulin, 2009). 

One observation that Fainstein (2010) discuss not in detail is the trend of reduced investments on housing for low income housing in times of city decline or low growth. It is apparent that in such times the most distressed are the low income population whose ability to make a living is deteriorated heavily. Unfortunately huge investments are rendered to the private sector (Urban Renewal Program Period and the mid 1970s fiscal crisis, New York) that already have somewhat the capability for self-sustenance within the market. This present another equity issue and consolidates seemly questions of public sector investments in privately own interventions which seem to yield little benefits for those who are impoverished in the city (e.g. Yankee Stadium). For New York, poor negotiations were the basis injustice as of such decisions were ill-informed. Obviously what emerges here as another tenet of justice is accountability; does mere rendering of expenditures qualify as accountability, should wise use of resources be ingrained in the process in the face of available alternatives, who makes the judgment and who enforces? These are key issues of justice.

For both London and New York, what has also become evident has been the drive to attract people into the city as part of growth and urban development programs. This approach have qualified the cities as being diverse yet the question remains as to whether changes in income levels that were documented in these cities were for original residents or immigrants. Why focus on attractions when developing the low capacities of original residences and where they live may provide similar results and as Chicago may have illustrated the consequences are much more rewarding. This would serve as a leverage in transactions with the private sector and lower public sector investments into private sector investments in the city; thus relieving more resources for enhancing the wellbeing of low income earners. 

Another subtle revelation is the initial apprehension in London for new residents to the Dockland area after the redevelopment. On equity grounds, should there be an argument for this or probably there is no cause for concern? The fear of being priced-out of their natural abode seemingly present equity issues for these individuals unless their assets and welfare are guaranteed. It may have happened that this may not have been the case or probably not enough evidence persists; for much of the low income residents during the early years of urban renewal this was immensely evident. Should equity questions be limited to housing? What about access to education, health, recreation, employment which all underpin the welfare of poor people? Limiting equity and other discussions to housing (shelter) limits the magnitude of the urban “blight and slum situation”. In effect, the whole idea of equity with its associated varying perspectives should rest on the grounds of “a common humanity or human dignity” which is more pervasive than housing (Jones, 2009).

From the perspective of diversity which was not explicitly defined, Fainstein (2010) raises some issues of mix races and ethnics but should we consciously induce diversity or there should be tolerance for it. I lean strongly to the latter yet feels indifferent to the former if there are no negative implications. For instance, sending low income households to high income areas poses questions of cost on the management of their livelihoods. Indeed, there are evidence to show that diversity do matter and influences economic growth, “yet there are also reasons to believe that diversity could be harmful, by leading to sub-optimal provision of public goods or reducing trust or social capital” (Lee, 20011); but this is subject to definition. In this regard, the challenge for researchers and policy is how to harness the potential of diversity while minimizing the negative effects. This draws critical implications for the “mix-income model” and its success. To be able to manage these daunting questions may build the foundation for program success. 

1.2.3 The Brazil Experience
Trends in Brazil have not diverge from slum development in developing countries; but recent evidences suggest a paradigm shift for the better (Budds 2005). Several challenges persist in the drive by the city government to tackle low income settlements in Brazil’s São Paulo; the largest and most important city; including issues related to squatter settlements, illegal sub-divisions, public housing estates, reservoir basins, inner-city tenements and a growing housing deficit. Budds (2005) offers a discussion on how these challenges are being tackled using policy framework of place and people based strategies that rest on “improving the quantity and quality of housing for low-income groups”. This has been done through the enactment of new legislation that enable the legitimization of land for squatters on government lands, building of institutional capacities, engaging the private sector and building strong public participation in all decision-making and implementation processes. 

In the context of Fainstein (2010) standpoint, the Brazil experience may offer another prospect similar to the Chicago experience. The program structure builds on participatory processes such as participatory budgeting and according to Budds (2005), “the creation of the new Municipal Housing Council, which encourages public participation in all stages of policy formulation and implementation” is a keynote to success thus far. The type of participation is by representation yet the New York experience in the Wall Street discussions present differing conclusions of weak participation. The issue of accountability in the “Justice Framework” emerges again at this level. The Brazil experience converge on one understanding and consolidates the discussions in the Chicago experience which is; affordable housing for the poor is not just a matter of providing apartments but the complementary services of education, health care, recreation, etc (UN-Habitat 1999,  Budd 2005, World Bank 2008, and Fainstein 2010). More so, the scale and number of people involved suggests that the cost variation in affordable housing in developing countries facilitate this venture much better than those in developed countries. Yet another argument may also suggest the contrary that developed countries have the financial capacity to initiate such programs. Nonetheless, it is a foregone conclusion that urban development must be reflective of improvement in wellbeing and not the contrary.

The first observation relates to the issue of funding of housing for low income groups. As necessary as the interventions are the question of ensuring repayment presents daunting implications for sustainability. These interventions rely heavily on external funding both the federal and the Inter-American Development Bank as well as World Bank support for the program. This although worthwhile would not be infinite thus the question as to what happens if funding runs remains critical. The challenge is how to make low income people make effective payment for housing? How long is the local government willing to wait for defaulters? How should defaults on housing be managed? Should the municipal government continue to waive these payments? Does demanding payments make it just or unjust? Lastly, what are the implications thereof?

There are other critical issues of contention here in the Brazil experience. First is the centralization of federal resources which has a good effect on reducing administrative cost, duplication of responsibilities and presenting a framework for effective monitoring of federal resources. However, identifying the urban areas with greatest housing deficit to benefit from this fund may be challenging; what factors are necessary to fit under housing deficit, is it just quantity or quality, is it ownership or rental? These questions need to be answered for fairness and equity in the process. Another issue is one of ‘legitimization of illegality’; could this spur other such development with the belief of inducing benefits? Thirdly, how is the work location of those resettled or displaced and/or integrated into the processes? Is it that the affected finds jobs immediately at new places or movements are within acceptable distances to their workplace and so does not impose any other cost? Does it therefore imply that providing for low income earners at the expense of other income groups is much more equitable and just? Apparently, displacement is not occurring for low income earners but also for property owners. Lastly, how good is the foundation on which beneficiaries are identified as in most developing countries databases on such communities are weak and outdated? These are among several issues associated with the Brazilian experience.

1.3 Conclusion
This discussions points to the fact that the urban environment is a complex yet dynamic system which offers opportunities for immense development. The question remains as to how these complexities are managed and the dynamics harnessed for improving the welfare of all. For developed countries, increasing pressures of city decline and the drive for economic development poses this daunting challenge. However for developing countries the challenge is managing congestion, slum and blight. Despite the diverging focus, these perspectives converge around the key issue of justice. Fainstein (2010) articulates three main parameters; equity, democracy and diversity. In adding to this framework, sustainability, subsidiarity, efficiency, transparency and accountability, and security are additional principles that must be injected into the “Justice Framework”. In effect, the drive is towards “good urban governance” (Auclair and Jackohango, 2009). In addition, I advocate for an inquiry into a “Justice Index” for urban development.

In addition, there must be the realization that urban poverty is a consequence of a lack or inadequate institutional response and that improving systematic understanding of the causes rather than inducing horizontal approaches may prove ineffective. Bolay (2006) is thus right to intimate that “attempts have been made to eliminate slums but they have almost universally failed because they do not question the urban model that generates the slum in the first place”.  In this regard, for developing countries, urban development and housing development must not only rest on the supply process but also initiate the process to alleviate factors that causes the slum situation. In other words, the cost of non-regulation rest on the shoulders of municipal governments and the effects of the lack thereof is slum development. From this standpoint, characterizing squatters an illegality is unwarranted as they are not necessarily the cause but a consequence of the lack of urban regulation and development. Thus in response both preventive and ameliorative programs should be instituted rather than 'criminalization'. 

Would there ever be a truncation in investment by the private sector using public sector resources? This is definitely not an option as public-private partnership is now seen as the panacea for most socio-economic development. Evidently, no matter what effects the involvement of the private sector in the housing sector may pose, they have remained a critical player in the development process. The question does not therefore rest on whether they must be involved but on how they are involved in economic development and the provision of affordable housing in the urban areas.

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