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Equity in Atlanta #2 | What is Equity, Really?

Updated: Jan 22, 2020

What is equitable economic development anyway - new buzzword or can I take real action to bring it to my project?

At the foundation of our work at Karp Strategies, we believe that equity and upside go hand in hand. Best defined by the Partnership for Southern Equity, an organization based in Atlanta, economic inclusion is:

“increasing equity in the distribution of income, wealth building, employment, and entrepreneurial opportunities for vulnerable populations. In this definition, equity is a step beyond equality because it starts to take into account that people may not start from the same place and, therefore, ‘equal’ treatment may not resolve the gap that exists.”

We heard and shared examples of municipalities, Chambers of Commerce, non-profits, and developers grappling with equitable economic development as it becomes a part of our more mainstream practice and lexicon. How can we bring intention to action in our work? The economic development field is listening, with many practitioners shifting towards more holistic community development that looks at supporting local businesses, building talent pipelines from as early as middle school that lead to skilled jobs, and thinking about making housing affordable. Atlanta-based developer Egbert Perry, for example, asked us to reframe our current definition of affordable housing into “housing that’s affordable in the neighborhood you live or want to live in." Researchers at Georgia Tech posit that timing and proactive planning can be key to mitigating displacement, suggesting that we secure affordable housing up to two years before an economic development project breaks ground. We heard praise for mixed-income housing and a call to redefine the metrics by which we determine the success of equity-driven development beyond jobs, wages, and the number of companies moving to our community.

We left wondering: how well does your project build connections between neighborhoods? How is your initiative or project plugging into or catalyzing public transit networks? What might our communities look like if we brought these concepts to life in our upcoming projects or policies?


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