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The America we need

The New York Times is running an opinion series right now called, The America We Need. It is all about how the US might emerge from this crisis “with a fair, resilient society.” This piece by Carol Galante covers many of the topics that we discuss on this blog. Carol is a former city planner and nonprofit housing developer. She is now the faculty director of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC, Berkeley. Here are a couple of excerpts from her article that I think will resonate with many of you:

There are two things we know: The U.S. economy will recover. And the recovery will start in and be strongest in the same cities that were thriving before the pandemic. Economies in places like Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Boston are driven by the innovation, technology and biotech sectors, which are proving to be remarkably resilient to the impacts of Covid-19.

We have an obligation to ignore the short-term reactionary impulse to blame density for the spread of the coronavirus and instead use this opportunity to rethink the policies that impede the construction of new housing, at more price levels, in the places where housing is most needed.

In my subsequent career as a nonprofit housing developer working in prosperous coastal California communities, I spent far too many nights in City Council meetings working to get apartment buildings for lower-income older people and families approved. Underlying the “density” battle was almost always a battle over who has access to the opportunities of a place and who doesn’t, cloaked in arguments about neighborhood character and traffic impacts.


  1. I cant help but think that elimination of zoning that permits exclusively single family dwellings is the answer to the provision of a variety of new, and in many cases more affordable housing types. Permit up to 4 plexes in all housing zones. It is happening or proposed in some US states. It would spread density and temper prices. Permit 6 storeys on arterial roads and insis on retail space at grade.


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