Communities of Opportunity
Developing Communities of Opportunity
Over the next 30-some years, the U.S. population is projected to grow by more than 90 million, with our nation’s metropolitan regions experiencing the vast majority of that growth. And globally, by the end of the 21st Century, over 80% of the world’s population is projected to live in cities. People move to metropolitan regions seeking opportunity. And no wonder, as they provide over 80% of the nation’s economic activity. These characteristics function best in justly governed democratic communities, in which residents, acting collectively, can make a difference.
Today, however, the promise of a better life is not evenly distributed- the ZIP code in which one lives too often predicts one’s health, education, economic and well being outcomes. And yet we know the solutions to more evenly distribute opportunity: housing that is affordable for the young, the aging, the lower income worker as well as the more prosperous ones, with supportive services for those who need them; meaningful work that provides enough income for a good family life; a range of transportation options; excellent education systems; neighborhood focused health care; shopping, including fresh, healthful food; centers of arts and culture; parks and natural lands; and places of contemplation, community and compassion such as churches, synagogues and mosques and temples.
Safe, Green, Affordable Housing
Housing is the platform upon which communities of opportunity are built. And yet many urban residents are housing insecure. Almost 20 million American families spend more than 50% of their income on housing, and another 20% on transportation to get to and from their home. In the last decade, over 12% of the nation's affordable housing stock was lost to either gentrification or abandonment.
Enterprise Community Partners notes that "low-income households who spend more than half their income on housing have, on average, less than $20 left each day to cover all other expenses. As a result, families who are housing insecure spend on average 38 percent less on food and 55 percent less on healthcare compared to otherwise similar households living in affordable housing, with significant consequences on nutrition and long-term wellness. As a result, children in housing insecure families are 35 percent less likely to be classified as well, 28 percent more likely to be seriously underweight and 19 percent more likely to be food insecure compared to similar families in subsidized housing. In addition, a recent study of public housing residents found that children living in poor-quality homes were 39 percent more likely to visit the emergency room compared to children living in recently renovated homes.
Up to 40 percent of asthma episodes among children are caused by housing-based triggers. According to one study, when you move an asthmatic child out of poor-quality housing and into a green, healthy home, their asthma-related trips to the doctor drop by 66 percent. Other studies have found that energy-efficient retrofits to a low-income person's home can result in improvements in general health , hypertension, sinusitis, hay fever and other diseases, in addition to significant savings on the monthly utility bill.
When a child grows up in an unaffordable home, she is often forced to move frequently, which can lead to disruptions in school attendance and, ultimately, poorer school performance. Studies show that a single change in elementary schools results in a decrease in math and reading skills equivalent to a four-month learning disadvantage. In addition, studies have found that children growing up in overcrowded housing have lower math and reading scores, complete fewer years of education, are more likely to fall behind in school and are less likely to graduate from high school than their peers.
Housing instability undermines a child's sense of security, and increases their likelihood of mental and physical health issues throughout their lives. Safe, green, affordable, stable housing is the essential base from which opportunity grows.
The core of our work begins with the development of green, affordable and mixed income housing, located within walking distance of mass transit. We also purchase existing affordable and mixed income housing, make it greener and preserve its affordability, and partner with local social service and educational organizations to enhance the lives of our residents.
Our Owner’s Representative practice works with clients to find sites, finance, design and construct the schools, health care performing arts, libraries and community centers, parks and other elements that enhance the wellbeing of neighborhoods.
These strategies are essential for every one of the world’s cities. We have learned much from the work of others, sharing ideas through national and global networks of practitioners who are advancing solutions. Although we can only develop projects in places where we have an on the ground presence, our acquisition and advisory work has a larger footprint.
“All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.”