A recent Policy Innovation Lab report describes how the principles and policies of equitable development are fundamental in the immediate response to the pandemic and in the long-term efforts to rebuild and recover.
As the public and governments at all levels focus their current efforts on containing the health impacts of the pandemic and stabilizing people economically, there is a yearning for a return to normalcy. But as people attempt to minimize damages from the pandemic and look to what a recovery might hold, an effort to reset to pre-pandemic conditions would mean a continuation of the systems and policies that have led to deep inequities for Black people, people of color, and low-income communities that have only been further exacerbated in the early stages of the pandemic.
At the Policy Innovation Lab, we strive to engage with how these issues of racial equity and social justice play out in the District, particularly in Wards 7 and 8. In our new report, we argue that the principles and policies of equitable development have particular relevance both in the immediate response to the pandemic, and especially as we look to rebuild and recover.
Drawing from our research and experiences working with local partners, we first outline important lessons from equitable development and other community planning efforts before examining the early impacts of the pandemic and highlighting the potential for policies that could support an equitable recovery. While there are many varying definitions and implementations of equitable development, we see it is an approach to community and economic development that commits to building inclusive prosperity by centering the ideas and needs of groups that are traditionally left behind in these efforts, namely low-income residents and communities of color. In its truest form, equitable development provides legitimate power for communities to shape their futures and makes investments in the resources these communities have long been starved for.
These same communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, primarily those in Wards 7 and 8 in DC, have also historically benefited the least from the growing prosperity in the District. There are clear principles and policies that can combat these inequities: aggressively investing in building and preserving deeply affordable housing, providing critical funding for ending homelessness and repairing public housing, prioritizing Black-owned small businesses, and giving people the power and resources to direct the changes happening in their communities. Many of these are not new issues, and we draw from the work of local organizations like the DC Fiscal Policy Institute and the Fair Budget Coalition who have been fighting for these priorities for years.
As outlined in our report, we believe a genuine commitment to the principles of equitable development, in policy, in programs, and in the budget, can provide a framework for not only recovering but pushing past pervasive inequities.