A new golden age of cities has ushered in an era of intensification and redevelopment in urban centres. As a result, many cities are enjoying re-found affluence, but are also faced with growing affordability issues, something underlined in a recent Metropolis Magazine article. In many ways, the high societal cost of exclusion mirrors the burden that sprawl placed on public finances. As this cost becomes clear, triple-win projects that benefit residents, the city-region, and private actors are well-positioned for success.
As sites of opportunity, cities have a long history of attracting new, poor residents. Terrible housing conditions for these newcomers was well documented and in response, governments began offering social housing. Balancing quality of life, good design and cost has remained a stubborn challenge, however. Numerous designs have been tested, with varying success. Recently, a low-rise, high-density approach has regained popularity. This typology is promoted on the basis of encouraging eyes on the street and creating well-defined spaces, while lower building heights reduce costs. While the success of this typology within current socioeconomic context(s) remains to be seen, a return to this typology suggests that architects, social advocates and policy-makers may be closing in on the (contextually-dependent) Goldilocks of social housing.
Leading exceptions, like Jane Jacobs and Janette Sadik-Khan aside, citymaking remains a male-dominated profession. Confronting this reality, the Guardian Cities spoke with a number of prominent female urbanists to find out what the alternative could look like. They found more pragmatic, collaborative and empathetic processes, and planning and design solutions that recognized the meed for safe and inclusive places. While steps are being taken, it’s clear that there is still a long way to go in transforming the gender-equal and inclusive city from vision to reality.