An ESI-ANBOUND collaborative article based on an internal survey that asked opinions for future cities
What does life in urban settings look like going forward? Living through a series of social uprisings, environmental consequences, and conflicting political agenda priorities, we are experiencing not only a changing landscape, but also the increased expense of living in cities. All the while, many people remain optimistic, curious, and imaginative about the future of urban living. Through a two-part internal survey on the future of cities, urban enthusiasts from ESI and ANBOUND reflect on their experiences and share their perspectives. Part 1 talks about social environment while Part 2 discusses life quality concerns in cities going forward.
Some Life Quality Concerns in Future Cities
Our survey breaks down concerns for future cities in 10 aspects – (overall) Affordability, Housing Affordability, Resources for Children, Resources for Elderly, Safety, Clean Air and Water, Climate Change, Access to Health Care, Access to Jobs, Emotional Wellbeing, and Economic Inequality — for participants to rate from 0 (least concerning) to 10 (most concerning). Affordability and Housing Affordability, the main price tag of settlement in the city, received the most attention from participants in both firms. This is followed by social welfare and environmental benefits, such as the resources for younger residents and the elderly, safety issues, air, water, and climate change. These are then followed by access (to health care and jobs), mental and economic inequality issues.
All of these listed aspects received more than average concern. While these concerns may appear to fall under government’s policy agenda and social welfare, resolving them would require a coordinated mode between the public and private sectors. We asked participants to indicate which authorities – government, business, individual–they think should take the lead in problem-solving. Here are some thoughts to share.
Survey Response 1: I think citizens will drive these changes and hopefully hold public representatives and corporations accountable.
Survey Response 2: I think government should lead most of the problem-solving, while businesses should participate in the process. For example, use city afforestation and wind-powered electricity to improve the ecological environment of a city. Develop supportive policy for mental clinics to encourage residents to care for mental health. Work in urban design to provide all-age public amenities.
Survey Response 3: Government is the most likely problem-solver. I hope that they can lower the living expense, especially housing and rental costs. The collaborative mode of “government supervises and market participates” can work by, for example, connecting personal information, tax information, and property information to disrupt the profit chain of landlords.
Survey Response 4: I would expect government and partnerships to make bigger improvements in their portion of responsibility and the effectiveness in achieving certain goals.
Survey Response 5: I think it is the economic mechanism and the government. Appropriate economic mechanism is like an invisible hand, helping society distribute resources reasonably. Government should play the supervisor role, intervening the market with certain agenda when the economic mechanism makes mistakes and needs navigation to move towards the right direction (e.g. solve climate change).
Some Life Quality Concerns in Future Cities – Housing Affordability
According to the survey question above, participants have listed affordability, especially housing affordability as their top concerns in future cities. To understand what contributes to housing cost, we first asked what kinds of housing properties are desirable. It turned out that convenience to consumer goods, scenery, work, and transit options are among the most popular property characteristics.
Properties with the most desirable characteristics may not always be the most affordable ones. So how can we promote desirable characteristics while making the cost more affordable? Participants shared their opinions from property management, population control, to public-private partnership.
Survey Response 1: We don’t need to keep building new houses. There is enough housing, but the problem is that these houses are used for speculative behavior than for accommodating people. The housing market must prevent the speculative behavior by the land lord (including the sales agents) and strengthen the supervision on permit issuance staffs.
Survey Response 2: I think appropriate reasonable city planning and population density are the keys. Over-populated places can have higher housing price and living expense. Thus, if local government can effectively control population density, problems like high living expense may be alleviated.
Survey Response 3: We need to enhance the enforcement and source of responsibility on environmental and equity issues.
Survey Response 4: Government can incentivize developers and designers to increase equitable and affordable housing options and partner with them to make such housing applications accessible for people in need. Public-private partnership can dedicate funding to encourage ideas on innovative and equitable housing design and policy.
Some Life Quality Concerns in Future Cities Scenario: Pedestrian-Oriented Development
Participants show a high interest in the future of mobility and the possibility of self-driving technology, renewable energy usage, safety and privacy of driving experience, as well as public transit options and coordination. In the case of city planning, participants are challenged to consider a new development strategy focused on efficient public transit design: Pedestrian-Oriented Development (POD).
Many maybe more familiar with Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). TOD typically features dense, walkable, mixed-use development (commercial, residential, office, entertainment, etc.) near transit to attract people and create connections in communities. POD is a pedestrian-friendly strategy providing clear, comfortable pedestrian access to commercial and residential areas and transit. Similar to TOD, it features compact development and mixed-use. In addition, POD emphasizes traffic calming design for safe, convenient opportunities for walking, biking to key community destinations and work places.
Given this context, participants provide some thoughts on how to promote more POD to meet the development goal of a mixed-use, pedestrian friendly area. Participants mostly agree that POD design could be part of the long-range planning and involve a diverse group of people in the planning process is important. Other top opinions are land use regulation for dictation, invest public funding, and use these funding to incentivize private developers to follow POD guidelines.
Special thanks to Bao Yutong, Kennedy Sampson, and Laura Burtner on their work filming and editing the video response!
Joyce Liu | JoyceLiu@econsultsolutions.com
Joyce Liu is an analyst at Econsult Solutions. Prior to joining the firm full-time, she was a research assistant. Joyce graduated from University of California, Los Angeles with a B.S. in Biology in 2018 and completed her M.S. in City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania in 2020.