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Thread: Why mixed income emphasis?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Why mixed income emphasis?

    As a neophyte, allow me to pose a question.

    Aside from 'moral' or 'ideological' considerations, why does much of the planning laguage you hear about today insist on mixing income levels in developments?

    I mean, I can see the practical point of mixing USES to boost efficiency of transport and 'constant' use. But what is the benefit of mixing income levels?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    ..... I can see the practical point of mixing USES to boost efficiency of transport and 'constant' use. But what is the benefit of mixing income levels?
    Two benefits of mixed income:
    1. So the low and moderate income individuals that provide the services demanded by a community (retail commerce, teachers, emergency services personnel, entry to mid level planners, etc.) can live in that community.
    2. To provide a certain level of socio-economic diversity in that community. Ecosystems struggle and/or fail without diversity; why should we believe that communities are any different?

    Just my $0.02 worth. Adjusted for inflation, of course.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SGB
    Two benefits of mixed income:
    1. So the low and moderate income individuals that provide the services demanded by a community (retail commerce, teachers, emergency services personnel, entry to mid level planners, etc.) can live in that community.
    2. To provide a certain level of socio-economic diversity in that community. Ecosystems struggle and/or fail without diversity; why should we believe that communities are any different?

    Just my $0.02 worth. Adjusted for inflation, of course.
    I think we may be talking about a different level of mix. What I meant is the idea that you should (or even could) cram millionaires, upper middle class, middle class (like teachers) and poorish people (like, say, a maid in a hotel) within a couple of blocks of each other. Clearly, on a broader scale everyone needs housing.

    On the second point, I'm not sure the analogy is appropriate, assuming it actually applies to ecosystems. I don't think having large mansions or homeless shelters makes my community more functional. I suppose though, a borader range of busionesses can be supproted if your population base is more diverse.

    I can definitely see the point of mixing housing so you get less segregation by age.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Over broader areas in cities economic stratification has occured. Those who had the means to leave and new residents have preferred to locate in the new housing on the urban fringe. Retail and other services that have low-wage workers followed suit. Now, working class and lower class individuals that did not have the means to move with the jobs and well-to-do find themselves in a difficult situation where they are unable to conveiniently/efficently get to work or benefit from those retail opportunities. I think the goal is to integrate economic classes on a fine grained level to provide all classes the best living experience possible.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  5. #5
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    I can definitely see the point of mixing housing so you get less segregation by age.
    And the more mixing of housing types (apts, towhouses, detached houses, etc.) in a small(er) geographic area (by neighborhood - 1/4 mile square), the greater ability there is for more income diversity in that small(er) geographic area.

    Therefore, diverse housing stock more easily allows for mixing incomes.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  6. #6

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    Another key point: people learn by example. If you grow up, as I did, in a mixed income community, you have hope. You know people who you know are not that different from you have succeeded. You have examples of people who started out where you are, but became doctors, lawyers, etc., etc. If you grow up in a place where there are no examples of success, how do you know what it looks like?

  7. #7
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Besides you have to have workers to clean the mc mansions, and to hand over the Monster Thickburgers to the folks in their Escalades. What are you going to do, provide PUBLIC transportation to these people.
    Last edited by giff57; 29 Mar 2005 at 5:53 PM.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    And let's not forget the five performance standards developed by David Lynch in "Good City Form," as described on pages 234 and 235.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Mixed income used to occur more naturally: You had servants quarters or an apartment over the garage or what have you. Well off folks and less well off folks lived much closer together. As services became more commodified, we began building "middle class homes" in great swaths without garage apartments etc. And we didn't want Those People living near us. Lee made another point that goes with that: when folks are geographically separated by "class", it becomes a prison that is much harder to escape. Also, when the number of college educated professionals in a neighborhood drops too low, crime skyrockets. I may be wrong on the exact figures, but something like 6% to 40% of the neighborhood can be professional and it makes the same impact on crime. If it drops to 4%, things go to hell real quick. So there are some practical consequences beyond "ideology" for implementing some of this.

    There is more to it than that. I am just tired/busy, so won't regale you with my usual long-winded, rambling thoughts on life, the universe and everything.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    More interesting answers...

    "Mixed income used to occur more naturally: You had servants quarters or an apartment over the garage or what have you. Well off folks and less well off folks lived much closer together. As services became more commodified, we began building "middle class homes" in great swaths without garage apartments etc. And we didn't want Those People living near us."

    It would definitely seem that if a large proportion of people live in'new' developments that did not grow 'organically' then there will be more income spearation. In European cities this is reduced by slower, more accretive growth, higher density and soemtimes government subsidy. To teh extent that the most 'inept' individuals among the poor have a higher tendency toward quality-of-life criminality, I would guess that effective policing would boost richer people's tolerance for lower-income neighbors. it may not be a coincidence that the flight to the suburbs in the US took place in concomitance with the jump in general crime levels from the end of WW II to the 1980s.

    " Lee made another point that goes with that: when folks are geographically separated by "class", it becomes a prison that is much harder to escape. Also, when the number of college educated professionals in a neighborhood drops too low, crime skyrockets. I may be wrong on the exact figures, but something like 6% to 40% of the neighborhood can be professional and it makes the same impact on crime. If it drops to 4%, things go to hell real quick. So there are some practical consequences beyond "ideology" for implementing some of this."

    Does this raise the spectre of 'gentrification'? If an area becoems desirable/'hot' can the lower incoem strata still afford it without a very substantial amount of government intervention?

    "Besides you have to have workers to clean the mc mansions, and to hand over the Monster Thickburgers to the folks in their Escalades. What are you going to do, provide PUBLIC transportation to these people."

    From a purely practical viewpoint, 'these people' can surely walk seveal blocks? I'm not talking about separation along huge distances. I rasied the issue becuase you often hear about NU and other 'enlightened' developments including mixed-income housing.

    "And the more mixing of housing types (apts, towhouses, detached houses, etc.) in a small(er) geographic area (by neighborhood - 1/4 mile square), the greater ability there is for more income diversity in that small(er) geographic area."

    If an area is dsirable, the differnet housing typoes would probably result in more differentiation by life-cycle stage (single, marreid, married with children, married 'empty-nester') than income as such?

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    The benefits of mixing poor people with the rich or upper middle class is minor, it may even encourage further social stratification.

    The real emphasis on mixed income is to allow the poor to have at least some access to the resources that middle class people do, whether it is schools or jobs. Having elements of various income classes living in the same town is probably ideal, with the middle classes taking up the largest population share. However, planning to ensure that all income groups live on the same street is unnecessary, and frankly, people consistently chose to live surrounded by their own social classes.

    The rich and the upper middle classes will always have the resources to live where they want to live, and it almost always is with one another in exclusive pockets. One should be very careful not to penalize the middle class and especially the lower middle classes by forcing them to live side by side with the poor.

  12. #12

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    Well, it may be politically incorrect to ask this, but I dislike seeing huge, oil-encrusted drilling rigs in the neighborhood north of mine. Along with six junk cars and a front yard that's been paved for parking. And, a front yard filled with rusting industrial and construction equipment that even spills out from behind a wooden fence the slob finally built. There are cultural/aesthetic expectations that are different for different classes.

    Ducks and waits for accusations of snobbery

  13. #13
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    How dare you try to impose your elitist cultural values upon me! All that machinery you think is ugly feeds my family! Do you want to starve me just so you can have a pretty view?! This is my livelihood you're talking about! I'm sorry that it doesn't agree with your conceptions of what is attractive and what isn't!

    How was that?
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  14. #14

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    I am going to vigorously disagree that the benefits of mixing economic strata are minor. Our niece lives in a very comfortable suburban enclave. She is terrified of the people on street in the city and mindlessly bigoted about all sorts of people that she never has actual contact with. Her only exposure to another world is TV. She is going to emerge as a person who is not able to function in the larger society or appreciate any type of grit or grist for the mill. She'll vote for the ilk of Bush in a heartbeat if they promise to keep those other people you see on the street out.

    She'd be way better off growing up with friends who can't afford what she can, and with some people who are struggling to make it in some way other than having to move their credit card balance around to get lower interest rates. She'd learn to speak Spanish instead of making fun of those who do. She'd even be better off with oil wells up the street. She'd know that some people in the world have to work in dangerous and dirty occupations. She'd know where the fuel that chauffeurs her around the 'burbs actually comes from.

  15. #15
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    I am going to vigorously disagree that the benefits of mixing economic strata are minor. Our niece lives in a very comfortable suburban enclave. She is terrified of the people on street in the city and mindlessly bigoted about all sorts of people that she never has actual contact with. Her only exposure to another world is TV. She is going to emerge as a person who is not able to function in the larger society or appreciate any type of grit or grist for the mill. She'll vote for the ilk of Bush in a heartbeat if they promise to keep those other people you see on the street out.

    She'd be way better off growing up with friends who can't afford what she can, and with some people who are struggling to make it in some way other than having to move their credit card balance around to get lower interest rates. She'd learn to speak Spanish instead of making fun of those who do. She'd even be better off with oil wells up the street. She'd know that some people in the world have to work in dangerous and dirty occupations. She'd know where the fuel that chauffeurs her around the 'burbs actually comes from.
    Well put as usual Lee.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    I am going to vigorously disagree that the benefits of mixing economic strata are minor. Our niece lives in a very comfortable suburban enclave. She is terrified of the people on street in the city and mindlessly bigoted about all sorts of people that she never has actual contact with. Her only exposure to another world is TV. She is going to emerge as a person who is not able to function in the larger society or appreciate any type of grit or grist for the mill. She'll vote for the ilk of Bush in a heartbeat if they promise to keep those other people you see on the street out.

    She'd be way better off growing up with friends who can't afford what she can, and with some people who are struggling to make it in some way other than having to move their credit card balance around to get lower interest rates. She'd learn to speak Spanish instead of making fun of those who do. She'd even be better off with oil wells up the street. She'd know that some people in the world have to work in dangerous and dirty occupations. She'd know where the fuel that chauffeurs her around the 'burbs actually comes from.
    I am perfectly in a greement with you as an individual. One of the benefits of growing up in the second ring of London (as oppsoed to the outer suburds) is that my kids row up seeing sorts of people. I will repeat, once again, that most of teh resistance to this originally comes from poor policing.

    Whether such proximity should be forced down people's throats by government is a different issue. My original question is how far planners should go in terms of 'social engineering' as opposed to encouraging intelligent construction/urban ofrm. it's a fine line either way, I agree. My point is that you could probably 'demnostrate' that mixed uses means a more eficient use of space. Is there any evidence that mixed income areas are, for teh ske of argument, better in any measurable urban planning way?

  17. #17
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    My original question is how far planners should go in terms of 'social engineering' as opposed to encouraging intelligent construction/urban ofrm.
    That's why I believe planners should work to encourage the creation of living opportunities and let the individuals decide what will work for themselves. One size does not fit all. Some choose the country to live in, they shall have it. Some choose standard subdivisions and suburbia, have your cake too. Some choose mixed areas and some choose densely developed city cores. All need to be provided. The failure is in the last 40 years, new communities and new development do not offer all these options. One could say that the way American communities are built now is social engineering dicated by existing zoning laws, "the market", and lenders, builders, and investors.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally posted by NHPlanner
    Well put as usual Lee.
    Despite my semi-tongue in cheek post above, I agree with Lee and NHPlanner.

    In fact, taking the exact contrary view, I would argue that as a middle class professional, the horrific, oversized extrusions of multiple gables, pony walls, and overall bad taste shat out for the local gentry in my town (too often realtors and the like) can be MORE offensive than the junk cars.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by boiker
    The failure is in the last 40 years, new communities and new development do not offer all these options. One could say that the way American communities are built now is social engineering dicated by existing zoning laws, "the market", and lenders, builders, and investors.
    That's right, but it's less "the market" than the four other things you enumerate that misinterpret and misrepresent the market. All you have to do is look at the relative prices people pay for urban and exurban housing to see that one is oversupplied and the other is an unmet demand. Blame the other four factors for that, especially zoning laws, which should be the easiest to change.

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