One of the most important issues of our time is how we make better cities – places that deliver quality of life for all, writes Georgina Power of MIPIM. For a growing number of professionals in the real estate industry, ‘better’ cities are about creating ‘inclusive’ cities.
Inclusive cities are those in which citizens feel part of their city’s story and evolution, regardless of their wealth, age, sex, ethnicity, culture and mobility.
As Alex Notay, build-to-rent director at PfP Capital, who will speak at MIPIM 2019, puts it: “So often we reduce cities to assets or to physical components, yet cities only work when you think about the people.”
Diversity has been shown to help cities thrive. But with growing diversity comes a growing need for inclusion.
Three essential factors create an inclusive city, according to the World Bank:
- Social – equal rights and participation for all, including the most marginalised
- Spatial – affordable necessities, such as housing, water and sanitation
- Economic – access to jobs and the opportunity for residents to enjoy the benefits of economic growth
“A city has to offer a balance of all three factors to be inclusive; put more weight on one factor rather than another, and it becomes like a wobble board and you lose balance,” says Notay.
Notay believes that the siloed nature of the urban development process, segmented into a plethora of professions and specialisms, is what is holding back the creation of inclusive cities. Even if everyone does their bit, and does it entirely ethically, the end product can fall short because of a lack of holistic approach.
Part of the problem is that the development process takes so long; a large urban placemaking project can take 10-20 years, from planning and financing through construction and to community creation. Given the pace of societal change, it’s almost inevitable that a scheme will have to evolve and adapt but there isn’t always the team or budget in place to do so over the long term.
Bringing in new ways of urban thinking
For cities to be inclusive, it is also about allowing people their own space, whether this is for different cultural groups to meet or for providing access for people with disabilities as well as those with pushchairs or heavy luggage. As Notay says, “you cannot force social cohesion; what you can do is to plan to not exclude people deliberately.”
So much of the creation of an inclusive city is about changing the way the real estate and urban professionals think. Notay says: “Even if it is about the architect and project manager looking into getting a better price for the bricks so that the social housing can be built with the same materials as the private housing, or the developer looking to make 20% of his or her housing wheelchair-accessible, that makes a difference. This is all doable upfront but usually prohibitively expensive to retrofit.”
As groundbreaking urbanist Jane Jacobs wrote: “Cities have the capability of providing for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
Inclusive cities create value in the long term for all, including for the real estate industry.
Alex Notay will be leading a discussion on inclusive cities at MIPIM 2019.
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- Georgina Power is MIPIM editor