The boss of a global cities organisation says that London must challenge the threat of social inequality.
The head of international group 100 Resilient Cities (100RC), Michael Berkowitz, says that world cities including London face a major threat if they do not address the lack of affordable housing and growing social inequality.
Global Cities Expert Warns About Affordable Housing
100RC is a $100m initiative launched two years ago and is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. Berkowitz believes that equity and social cohesion are two of the “critical issues” faced by major cities due to the pace of urbanisation.
His cautions arrive as 100RC opens its regional headquarters in Clerkenwell to serve cities in the Middle East and Europe, including London, Bristol and Glasgow.
He warns: “Equity and social cohesion are two of the critical issues that we are seeing in resilient cities around the world. In the US, the debate is partly about recognising that black lives matter.
“London is interesting because it’s an old city, but it is growing almost at the pace of a developing world city. We don’t know what is going to hit the city next. Is it going to be a cop shooting someone in Tottenham, a major blackout or another 7/7 – who knows?
“But cities where people feel bought in can survive. Cities where you have high inequality, a lack of social cohesion and where people don’t trust the authorities – that can be a spark.”
Speaking specifically on the affordable housing crisis in London, Berkowitz says: “Everyone we talk to has mentioned this housing crunch.”
He adds that New York City has similar challenges and that Mayor Bill de Blasio is working on a major initiative to ensure that all residents live within a 40-minute commute of a good job. As well as providing affordable housing, this scheme hopes to encourage commercial and industrial businesses into other parts of the city. They are generally located in downtown and midtown Manhattan.
Berkowitz continues: “I’m generally in favour of densification because this promotes walking and cycling, but you’ve got to do this in the right way with good neighbourhoods and good streets.”1
100RC is a global network of 67 cities and works with city mayors and public officials, as well as the private sector to address threats including terrorism, cyber-security, infrastructure and the environment.