As cities throughout the US struggle to deal with affordability in housing, Minneapolis, Minnesota, has emerged as a surprising smart-urbanism powerplayer. In December its council voted 12 to one to pass its ambitious Minneapolis 2040 plan, which is awaiting final metropolitan approval. Its aim: radically rethink the built environment, while acknowledging the discriminatory housing policies of the past that used zoning laws to, effectively, segregate areas.
About 75 per cent of the city comprises low-rise single-family housing; the new proposal upends zoning rules to allow for increased density and building up rather than out. Though some residents fear a loss of character in certain neighbourhoods, the plan represents a bold attempt to diversify choice and provide greater equality in the marketplace.
The plan will be a fix for Minneapolis – but other cities can take inspiration too.
Correct past wrongs
More diverse housing allows for a more dynamic mix across the city.
Get climate ready
Minneapolis will be on its way to climate resilience by 2040: it has committed to cutting the greenhouse-emissions figure recorded in 2006 by 80 per cent come 2050 by improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings and prioritising public transport and renewable energy, among other measures.
Involve the public
Debate has been fierce but the conversation has been productive: after a year of discussion, the council passed the plan with only one member voting against it.
Copenhagen has forbidden students from smoking during school hours, imitating a Norwegian initiative that has prevented children from picking up the habit in the first place. While the rule seems obvious, it’s actually radical for Denmark, which for decades has prided itself on a lax approach to smoking, long avoiding excessive regulations and tax hikes on cigarettes. According to Niels Them Kjaer, head of tobacco control at the Danish Cancer Society, “This law has gained ground because it does not affect existing smokers.”
Los Angeles recently launched ShakeAlertLA, an earthquake-warning app, for all the county’s residents. The app – the first of its kind in the US – collects data from hundreds of sensors and will send alerts to users before an earthquake of 5.0 magnitude or larger begins. For decades cities have struggled with early-warning systems. City hall hopes that this app can help to save lives in LA.
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Poland has moved to the right since the Law and Justice (pis) party came to power in 2015 – but some cities are pushing back. Poznan’s mayor Jacek Jaskowiak has defied the federal government’s social conservatism by promoting diversity and supporting gay and women’s rights. He tells monocle what’s at stake.
What was your reaction to the recent murder of Gdansk’s mayor Pawel Adamowicz?
He was a good friend of mine; we spoke a similar language on refugees. His murder was a result of hatred created by the public media. The attack on him crosses any kind of line.
How can cities challenge the government’s conservatism?
When there is a gap in co-operation with the national authorities, we can fill it by co-operating with other cities.
Poznan has become more diverse in recent years. How?
The city has taken in refugees from Syria and eastern Ukraine – and I have opposed hate speech against migrants.
What signal does the annual Equality March send?
It’s a pushback against exclusion; we all deserve respect, whether members of the lgbt community or people with disabilities.