Inclusive Cities: Challenges and Opportunities
Inclusive cities offer equal and better opportunities and living conditions for all their citizens. Today, city leaders across the world are starting to realize that their cities are becoming more unequal, with the gap between different people widening in terms of income and access to services, infrastructure, amenities, and opportunities. This is why, city leaders are asking urban designers and architects to create more socially just and inclusive cities that would lead to a transformative future in urban life.
From climate change, sustainability, and land-use planning to infrastructure, jobs, and governance, here are 5 challenges that architects and urban designers face when creating inclusive cities with opportunities to overcome them:
1- Housing for all:
As migration and the urban population continue to grow around the world, cities often face the challenge of providing houses for everyone, regardless of their social group, financial and economic abilities, or physical abilities. One of the best ways that architects and urban designers can solve this problem is by providing affordable and mixed-income housing, which would allow diverse people to live in the same city or space. For example, architects and urban designers are starting to build more mixed-income housing, which would create equality and lead to better and inclusive urban cities. Mixed-income or affordable housing for all would also create diversity in the place, which would attract more people and lead to more successful integration and economic equity.
2- Infrastructure and Public Services:
Inclusive cities’ infrastructure and public services should respond to the needs of all citizens and should not be targeted at only one part of the population. As the urban population grows, cities often face challenges related to water, sanitation, waste management, and electricity among many others. However, investing in technology for data collection can help transform cities into smart cities that are inclusive, as they help city leaders to better understand the needs of all the citizens. For example, smart waste management systems, such as smart bins, have fill-level sensors embedded in them that help waste collectors perform their jobs more efficiently, which would significantly reduce foul smells across the city. On the other hand, smart water management systems monitor and check water quality, all while helping conserve water supplies across the city, which helps make the city more efficient in return.
Another challenge faced when planning for inclusion is accessibility, which is the most important element in inclusive cities projects. Well-planned cities offer better accessibility for all people, regardless of their financial situation, economic capacity, disability, gender, sexual identity, religion, and age. Better accessibility includes better planning for the location of jobs, commercial businesses, entertainment activities, and services in such a way that allows all people to have equal access. For example, it is important to make streets accessible for all means of transportation, especially walking and cycling. On the other hand, it is also important to make streets accessible for visually impaired people by adding physical cues, which would lower accidents rates. Accessibility in restaurants, malls, homes, and public spaces is also important for better inclusion.
4- Social cohesion:
Cities do not only grow in population, but also in diversity. In fact, cities face a lot of challenges in terms of social cohesion, socializing, and engagement in times of diversity, as different people with different cultural backgrounds, religions, and interests come to live and work in them. This is why, it is important to seize the opportunity and create public and shared spaces that would strengthen social as well as cultural activities, such as better pedestrian-oriented streets that give the citizens the opportunity to socialize more, which would have a better impact on inclusion in return. In addition, building and designing public spaces, such as parks and squares, would also allow people to meet, socialize, and interact when designed properly, leading to a better connectivity and social life and to the creation of a sense of place among people. For example, making improvements to bench seatings in a public space hugely impacts social cohesion, as well-placed seatings ensure that more people meet and connect, which makes a big difference in terms of social and mental well-being.
5- Community Engagement:
More often than not, it is quite hard and completely impossible to build a city for all people without understanding the needs of all people and citizens. One of the biggest challenges in building cities is lack of community engagement, as most often, people’s voices go unheard and therefore, development strategies and policy-making that cater to their needs would not be available. This is why, developing participatory platforms and organizing participatory activities is a great opportunity for city leaders, architects, and urban designers to establish community engagement and participation in city planning and build more inclusive cities that respond to the different needs of citizens. For example, when done well, community engagement can ensure that people who do not normally have influence on or participate in projects, such as the elderly and the disabled, are more engaged, which would lead to better planned projects that respond to their needs and ensure fair results for all.
Inclusion Creates Better Liveable Environments
Today, because public spaces and amenities are being used more intensively due to the growing number of the population in cities, city leaders’ goal is to build thriving, and healthy cities with better sustainability, lower poverty rates, and less pollution. City leaders are well aware that good planning and being well-prepared for future risks, including climate change, is becoming more necessary and important. This is why they are working towards building inclusive, smart, and accessible cities that encourage innovation and enhance economic growth, leading to better and more liveable environments.