Sustainable cities are about equity, too

Sustainable urban strategies that focus on providing new green spaces often do so at the expense of social justice. The “just green enough” model instead aims to clean up the environment without sacrificing equity.

Parks, riverwalks and other green urban strategies often lead to gentrification, which in turn drives up real estate prices and displaces low- and middle-income residents. For this reason, gentrification and social justice scholars are calling for the “just green enough” model, which encompasses all three aspects of sustainability: environment, economy and equity.

In a recent article, the authors highlight models of urban greening that clean up the environment while also enabling blue-collar residents to stay in place and enjoy the benefits of a greener neighbourhood.

The key to the “just green enough” strategy is to uncouple environmental cleanup from high-end residential and commercial development. It should instead include affordable housing and green amenities for all residents from the outset. Local governments also have an important role to play in setting out a vision and strategy for housing equity and inclusion.

“In our view, it is time to expand the notion of what a green city looks like and who it is for,” write the authors. “For cities to be truly sustainable, all residents should have access to affordable housing, living-wage jobs, clean air and water, and green space. Urban residents should not have to accept a false choice between contamination and environmental gentrification.”

Image credit: Thomas Hawk via Flickr

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