Expanding Equity in Sustainability Projects Through Community Engagement: Can Organizations Adapt?

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Johnson, Nicholas
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Across the United States, inequitable distribution of urban resources is of increasing concern to city planners, government officials, and residents in the country’s major cities. Scholars have found that the wealth gap between rich and poor is the widest it has ever been (Piketty, Saez, & Zucman, 2018; Wolff, 2017). Affordable housing availability and accessibility is very low, and needs are far from being met in cities like New York (Ellen & Weselcouch, 2015) and Atlanta (Housing Justice League & Research|Action Cooperative, 2017). While these issues are urgent, they are also controversial among policymakers, local politicians, and other powerful stakeholders who verbally commit to the pursuit of equality but do not—or cannot—incorporate equitable community engagement strategies that ensure equal outcomes are achieved (Elwood, 2005; Ghose, 2005; Zapata & Bates, 2015). The City of Atlanta, frequently featured on lists compiling the least equitable cities in the United States (Ponczek & Lu, 2016), has given lip service to developing equitable urban planning projects based on race, class, and geography many times, only to adopt policies and processes that are viewed as counterproductive. The Atlanta Belt Line presents a recent case.
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