05 April 2012

The New Urbanism:Threat or Blessing?

The recent shift from suburban living to a "new urbanism" concerns some. Props to Anthony Bradley (here and here) for this piece and others like it that express concern that a growing number of minorities and the poor generally are being squeezed from urban enclaves. In other words, the poor aren't moving up, they're moving out because rents are going up. And who's paying the higher rents to live in places from which their great-grandparent fled to the ranch houses of suburbia? White, artsy, hipster, types, that's who.

This may be an accurate description of shifting population trends or it may not. And it may have less to do with race than with economics in generally. Capitalism as creative destruction and all that. My burden here is not to weigh into this debate but to point out a superb organization that works for a city from within the city, not to gentrify it but to restore it. Not by making the city over in the image white, artsy, hipster types but by using the knowledge, skills, and insights of the folks who are already there, regardless of race or economic status.

The Richmond Christian Leadership Institute (click here) is my example. For a quick handle on what RCLI is about, go to this short piece by its founder, Fritz Kling.

Human society could be described as moving from a garden to the city (from Eden to the new Jerusalem). The middle classes escaping the cities in the decade after the Second World War didn't escape the fallenness of their own human nature, and their descendants won't find a heaven on earth by reversing the direction of migration. No matter where you are there's much to be done and organizations like RCLI are the catalysts that can make it happen.

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