Many hope the smart growth movement will help distribute wealth and resources more evenly within communities, to the benefit of low-income and minority residents.
Historically, the latter populations were excluded from prosperous neighborhoods by pricing or by outright bans . Postwar suburbanization siphoned jobs, wealth and middle-class residents from urban areas to exclusive suburbs that enjoyed high sales and property tax bases.
Thus inner-city neighborhoods and inner-ring suburbs became areas of concentrated poverty. They suffered from a paucity of job opportunities, social and professional networks; increasing crime and social problems; the disproportionate location of polluting factories nearby; artificially inflated food prices; and poor public transit service. In California today, the lack of affordable housing continues to plague many communities.
Smart growth elements, including transit-oriented development and more compact and potentially affordable housing, could address some of these chronic issues. Creating neighborhoods with mized housing types, or enacting minimum affordable housing requirements, helps deconcentrate poverty. Tools such as land trusts, brownfield reclamation and infill development can ensure affordable housing in lower-income and ethnically diverse neighborhoods where property values are skyrocketing.
Low-income advocates are challenging the practice of offering public subsidies to real estate developments that fail to provide good jobs for local residents,. As metropolitan regions become increasingly central economic units, it has become evident that targeted efforts to decrease concentrated poverty can actually boost regional income. Low-income advocates also emphasize the critical importance of human capital, and a healthy social fabric to regional economic vitality,
Current and future community and regional leaders need to include minority and low-income leaders in regional visioning, planning and debate so that community and economic development, transit planning, and other growth reflects the needs and interests of all. Private sector and government leaders may not have a history of working with low-income leaders, or vice versa; this collaboration may be challenging.