Creating Sustainable Communities Through Comprehensive Revitalization
Even as communities work to recover from the foreclosure crisis, they must respond to other challenges that affect their future:
- Do broader issues with the community’s economy, quality of life or other factors impact how the foreclosure crisis is impacting your community? For example, do these factors influence market demand for your community?
- Does the foreclosure crisis itself create new opportunities for the long-term health of your community – such as creating affordable homeownership opportunities for lower-income households or acquiring key parcels for an important neighborhood project?
- If so, there’s a payoff to thinking now about the big picture of creating a sustainable community and not just about how to deal with REO properties.
What is a sustainable community?
“Sustainable” is a word that means different things to different people. Broadly, though, a sustainable community is a place where:
- The economy is vibrant, with adequate jobs and incomes for residents, strong businesses and business districts and a stable housing market that rewards people who invest in their properties.
- All people in the community enjoy a full set of opportunities to advance themselves, improve their lives and meet basic needs for themselves and their families.
- The community preserves and sustains the natural environment on which it relies.
A community that is economically vibrant, socially just, and environmentally healthy is a place that can continue to attract residents and businesses seeking a high quality of life for a long time into the future.
The basic tasks of comprehensive revitalization planning are similar to the process outlined for stabilization planning:
- Building partnerships at the neighborhood, local, and regional level in order to address the wide range of needs and opportunities that will be identified.
- Understanding the dynamics at play in the neighborhood, including not only housing market dynamics but also physical conditions, social and demographic dynamics and economic conditions.
- Engaging residents in understanding the neighborhood, setting strategies and implementing them.
- Identifying strategies that respond to the needs and opportunities identified in the planning process.
- Obtaining commitments from funders and partners to champion and implement these strategies.
Tips for Success
- Do not let planning get in the way of action. When a viable strategy is identified with a willing champion, try it and see if it is working while continuing to plan in other areas. People are more likely to engage in an action-oriented process.
- While a planning document is very helpful to organize one’s thinking and often a necessity to attract funding and political support, planning is not fundamentally about creating documents. It is fundamentally about strategic thinking and action.
- Similarly, while large public meetings will be critical at various junctures in the process to get input, help connect people and build support, planning is not fundamentally about holding a series of public meetings, no matter how well-attended they are. There are many other effective ways to interact with residents and other stakeholders to get input, connect people, and build support.
- Remember that nothing in a plan will happen without the agreement of the people who can implement it and make it work. These negotiations are a critical part of any planning process.
- Try to consider various “flavors” of strategies that involve different types of stakeholders in their implementation. What can residents do themselves that would impact the issues under consideration? What are larger agencies or organizations needed to do? What kinds of partnerships among organizations, and between organizations and residents, could make strategies more effective?
- Look for an early or easy “win” (like a small but visible project) to galvanize your efforts.