Coming to Racial Terms with Trickle-Down Urbanism: A personal TOD journey (Part II)

Tranist Oriented Development is a field within urban planning that promotes mixed-use development near transit as a way to revitalize communities and improve the efficiency of our transportation system. It often involves strategies to create more housing, improve walkability and create more places for shopping, gathering, working and enjoying urban life. Last month I wrote about my own personal journey in understanding how cultural racism had influenced my work over the last twenty years on equitable Transit Oriented Development (eTOD).  This month I delve into some ways that racism is baked into our systems, structures and institutions making it an incredible (but not insurmountable) challenge to correct if we are to truly realize EQUITABLE TOD that works for people of all races and income levels.

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Reflecting Back on an Impactful 2018

Another year ends, and it is with deep gratitude that I look back over 2018 to reflect on all the amazing accomplishments achieved by the array of incredible local and national community leaders, thought partners, and funders that I have had the privilege to work with to make America’s communities thrive. As someone who cut her teeth working at the federal level, it has been beyond depressing to see the vitriol, decay and lack of leadership by Congress and this administration. Yet against this backdrop, innovation and a commitment to greater racial and economic equity is exploding at the local level. Read the MZ Strategies post to see some of the highlights!

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Lifting Up Solutions to Address America’s Housing Displacement Crisis

This fall Mariia Zimmerman, Principal of MZ Strategies, LLC will be speaking across the country at several events to share emerging practices and new policies centered around elevating community voice, ownership, and education to ensure that long-time residents and small business owners can remain in communities as they attract new and much-needed investment.

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SPARCCing New Strategies to Ensure Equitable Transit-Oriented Communities

MZ Strategies, LLC developed two new publications on Equitable Transit Oriented Development (ETOD) for the Strong Prosperous and Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC). ETOD emphasizes transit’s role in serving mixed-income communities and prioritizes the needs of those who rely on transit. This includes broadening the definition of TOD to include issues of racial equity, community health, access to economic opportunity, and environmental goals. The six SPARCC-supported communities, reflect this shift in many ways and are at the forefront of ETOD strategies. Blog cross-posted from SPARCC. 

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Spring Remembrances and Upcoming Presentations by MZ Strategies, LLC

We see daily the highs and lows that our nation continues to experience in advancing equity, affordable housing, and inclusive communities. Despite the unexpected flurries, devastating storms, and unpredictable temperatures we face today in our work of creating strong, prosperous and resilient communities, there remains truth in Reverend Dr. King’s famous quote, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

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Our Mobility Future May be More Autonomous, but Will it be More Equitable?

So, will autonomous vehicles be a panacea or another pandemic for low-income households and communities of color?  Only time will tell, but so far, most discussions of a brave, new autonomous future fail to happen within broader discussions of economic and racial disparities that exist today, much less are they being considered within a broader regional context of housing and land use policy. We all need to recognize the interconnections between transportation, housing and equity.

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Infrastructure and Housing: Local Dreams and Federal Illusions

In our excitement over what may possibly happen with a new infrastructure proposal, let’s not lose sight of what is happening right now in the world of housing infrastructure. Actions by this administration to cut funding for affordable housing, suspend Fair Housing requirements, and reduce the impact of public sector investment in housing needs to be part of our forthcoming infrastructure debate.

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Addressing Affordable Housing at the Structural Level: Calling out the Elephant in the Region

This week Enterprise Community Partners released a new report calling for the creation of a new regional housing entity to address the Bay Area's alarming housing crisis. MZ Strategies co-authored the report with Enterprise staff, and while the report details specific recommendations and a set of actions for Bay Area partners, many of the ideas presented have resonance in other communities. The report includes case studies of innovative tools, structures and partnerships being deployed in New York, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Washington. The Elephant in the Region: Charting a Course for Bay Area Metro to Lead a Bold Regional Housing Agenda challenges the many partners and public agencies involved in housing to think differently and seize this moment in time to write a new chapter for the region.

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In Thanks of Communities for All Ages

I’m excited to journey to Kansas City, MO next week to join the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) and local partners in discussing how the Kansas City region can ensure that its many diverse and remarkable communities remains places where people of all ages (and income levels) can thrive. MARC is among the country's top regional planning agencies. It's leadership on such topics as complete streets, transportation equity, and active living make it a national leader. 

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A Tax Reform Sucker Punch

Tax reform was an area that many who care about infrastructure held out hope. Would Congress fix the Highway and Transit Trust Funds by indexing the gas tax for inflation? Would new tax incentives be created to foster greater private sector investment in a variety of infrastructure asset classes? Would loopholes be closed to bring off-shore funds back to invest in America? Could we create a new tax credit to address housing displacement and stabilize neighborhoods? The answer to each is a resounding no. Rather than recognize and respond both to the need and the bipartisan demand for infrastructure investment that benefits the economy, the environment and the average American, this Congress provides a sucker punch.

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Imagine If We Really Committed to Building Livable Communities

Read my latest reflections from this year's Rail~Volution, my pitch for voting on the 50 Most Influential Urbanists, and highlights of new research by AARP and MZ Strategies documenting how states, regions and localities are stepping forward to support transit-oriented development and walkable urbanism. We still have far to go to restore the walkability and vibrancy in our communities so that living well without a car becomes more viable, but many places are stepping up.  While a start, we need many more to follow suit.

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Lighting a SPARCC to fight Displacement

Sharing musings on a new initiative MZ Strategies, LLC is proud to be a part of working with an amazing group of partners to launch the Strong Prosperous and Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC). SPARCC is designed to support local cross-sector collaboratives working in six regions to develop policies and projects that advance racial equity, climate and public health goals. These six regions – Memphis, Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago, and the San Francisco Bay Area – each have created their own visions for how community-led investment can create stronger neighborhoods that intentionally work to stem displacement and create shared prosperity for existing and future residents and entrepreneurs. Additional thoughts on gentrification, including reading recommendations.

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Marking an MZ Strategies Milestone

Five years ago, I launched MZ Strategies, LLC with the crazy idea that I could bring my passion and almost twenty years of experience in policy and planning to support partners who shared a desire to make communities more inclusive, economically-vibrant and sustainable. Since then, we have worked with a terrific group of partners, communities, and organizations working to achieve this vision. Policies change, shift and adapt to face the problems and assets unique to every community, but common across the nation.

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Infrastructure Week: #TimeToThink

Infrastructure is key to the national economy and to the economic opportunity that every Amercian faces. Safe water. Affordable energy. Mobility and accessibility. We have artificially made infrastructure investment a zero-sum game by letting the “no tax” voices win.  Infrastructure is the ultimate public good. Public investment in all forms of infrastructure costs the individual user less than paying for it through user feeds, or perhaps not even getting the service if it’s too cost prohibitive for the private sector. Yes, it’s time to build, but even more importantly, it’s time to think.

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