Well-designed affordable housing should do more than provide adequate, accessible and inexpensive shelter to lower-income households.
In addition to being resilient itself, a successful affordable housing project should contribute to the resilience of its community and city. Resilient placemaking can transform disconnected neighborhoods into thriving cities.
What is Placemaking?
Placemaking is a people-centric approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces to create spaces that promote health, well-being and happiness. It capitalizes local assets, resources and potential to strengthen communities and improve the resilience of cities.
Placemaking focuses on the needs of the people that live, work and play in a space, using the public spaces in a development or neighborhood to encourage greater social interaction, foster healthier relationships and improve the economic viability of the community.
The Importance of Public Spaces
Public spaces can bring different people, activities and events together where everyone can see them, interact with them and play a part in their community’s story.
Placemaking bridges the gap between person and public space, transforming disconnected neighbors into booming human and civic networks and disorganized neighborhoods into resilient, thriving cities.
Building Resilient Cities Through Placemaking
At the core of every resilient city is a connection between people and space. Without this bond, people do not feel compelled to invest in the place where they live or work. Using placemaking principles to create quality public places, architects, developers and urban planners can influence the way people connect to these spaces.
When you include people in the process of creating their own public spaces, you help establish and foster person-place relationships that produce resilient cities capable of adapting to change and recover from natural and man-made disasters.
RESILIENT PLACEMAKING IS ESSENTIAL TO BUILD SMARTER, RESILIENT CITY INFRASTRUCTURE AND TO ENHANCE DISASTER PREPAREDNESS AND CRISIS MANAGEMENT.
People who feel like they “belong” and that they have a say in how their city is shaped are more likely to put the time and effort involved in protecting it from disaster and helping each other during the aftermath.
Affordable Housing for Resilient Cities
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, affordable housing must meet the following criteria to reinforce the resiliency of cities and help them bounce back from disasters and other threats and crises:
- Support the community social structure and economic livelihoods of residents.
- Reduce the vulnerability of residents to environmental risks and stresses.
- Enhance the personal security of residents in the face of violence or threats of displacement.
- Empower communities through enhanced capacities to share in their own governance.
Applying resilient design principles to affordable housing developments equips housing to do more than offer financial affordability to lower-income residents. Resiliency should help affordable housing residents cope with the following challenges:
- The persistence of economic struggle.
- The dangerous inconsistencies of a changing climate.
- The impacts of urban violence.
- The scourges of dysfunctional governance.
In addition to boosting the inventory of low-income units, affordable housing development can serve as a platform for the development of positive social systems, employment opportunities, education, security, transportation and access to vital resources that enrich residents’ lives and improve city resiliency.
Building Resilient Community Ties
You cannot build resilient cities without resilient communities. People who have strong relationships with each other are better able to get through disasters and their aftermath. Placemaking that allows residents to communicate and interact helps build potentially life-saving ties.
Spaces that support social gatherings and facilitate the exchange of information among residents are fertile ground for growing meaningful relationships and building community resilience. Among these places are community centers, dining rooms, parks and playgrounds, gardens, game courts and meeting rooms.
Community spaces can also establish and maintain support networks between the residents and other communities as well as service providers, city officials, churches and volunteers, thus elevating the resilience of the city.
During a disaster or emergency, your community resilience space can serve as a neighborhood hub where members of your and surrounding communities can receive critical information, potable water, food and medical services.
The Bottom Line
We cannot create resilient cities without building resilient communities, and we cannot build resilient communities without employing good placemaking techniques to create spaces where communities can grow and prosper.
Sources: Resilient Design Institute, Project for Public Spaces, Enterprise Community Partners, Citiscope, Neighborhood Empowerment Program, Federal Emergency Management Administration, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.