Safety, Growth, and Equity: Infrastructure Policies That Promote Opportunity and Inclusion

Posted by on July 14, 2008

New Policy Brief Advances Equitable Infrastructure Principles

The devastation that followed Hurricane Katrina turned a spotlight on the shocking failures of levees, transportation, power systems, and utilities in the region—and left the public wondering about infrastructure in their own communities.  Over the next two decades, the need for substantial infrastructure investments is expected to increase, not just on the Gulf Coast but all across the country.

Safety, Growth, and Equity: Infrastructure Policies That Promote Opportunity and Inclusion, a new brief authored by PolicyLink Director of Research Victor Rubin, considers the impact of infrastructure decisions on housing, development, investment patterns, and overall quality of life. Most importantly, the paper views infrastructure through an equity lens and offers seven principles to guide infrastructure decision making to ensure that everyone—especially people of color and others in low-income communities—benefit equally from infrastructure investments.  Three of the principles assert:

* Infrastructure plans should not have to compete with health, education, and human service needs but should be recognized as equally critical governmental and societal responsibilities that should produce equitable results.
* Employment and economic benefits associated with building and maintaining infrastructure should be shared throughout the region.
* Infrastructure decision making should be transparent and include mechanisms for everyone to contribute to the planning and policymaking process.

Additionally, the brief suggests tools for assessing infrastructure-related efforts, so that they include:

* Basic, minimum standards to evaluate infrastructure adequacy and inform policymaking;
* Effective governance that directs a fair share of funding to areas with deteriorating and inadequate infrastructure;
* Supporting development in areas with pre-existing infrastructure investment, to lessen sprawl and revitalize urban areas;
* Substantive public participation in policy, including local activism, coalitions, and litigation.

Safety, Growth, and Equity: Infrastructure Policies That Promote Opportunity and Inclusion asks the questions, who benefits, who pays, and who decides; and sets forth promising practices to create the conditions necessary to sustain economic growth.

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