For most European municipalities or Quango organizations, such as the Amsterdam Airport Authority, buying agricultural land, changing the zoning, and then closing in for the financial kill, has been one of the big money makers for these institutions over the past years. All of a sudden, due to the crisis, this money machine has also come to a halt. Municipalities will have to devalue billions of Euros on their municipal land holdings in the next few years.
Due to the focus on the recession, our environmental planning receives very little attention. As residents, we are served quite poorly, because most decisions in this policy area are made in consultation with a limited amount of parties, often only serving their own economic interests.
In countries where there is ample space, we see a tendency for people to move to the larger cities, thus causing the same effect. The future lies in cities. Cities, interconnected with other cities, feeding creative and sustainable value creation. Using their own currency. Where access becomes more important than possesion, the abundance in cites can be used favorable by its citizens.
Neal Gorenflo of the Internet platform Shareable.net has made a list of Policies for Shareable Cities.
Cities where citizens are able to take much more control over their economic destiny. Here are some policies that are expanding choices for city dwellers and taking shareable transportation to the next level:
1. Designated, discounted, or free parking for car sharing: Easy, plentiful parking is consistently one of the most cited incentives by folks who share cars.
2. Create economic incentives for ridesharing: To overcome the presupposed inconveniences of the practice, economic incentives could be implemented, including high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, discounted parking and reduced tolls.
3. Adopt a citywide public bike sharing program: Quite a few cities have hopped on the bike sharing bandwagon in recent years, and pretty much all of the other cities should, too.
4. Financial incentives to encourage urban agriculture on vacant lots: In every vacant lot, there is a community garden waiting to grow.
5. Create food-gleaning centers and programs: The amount of food wasted from farm to grocer to table adds up to about 40 percent of the total.
6. Mobile food vending: Even though food trucks seem to be taking over some cities, the launching of such a venture is a really big deal.
7. Support the development of cooperative housing: Housing cooperatives can lower housing costs in a variety of ways including restrictions on profit from resale, self-management, nonprofit status, shared facilities, and subsidies.
8. Encourage the development of small apartments and “tiny” homes: Municipal codes often include size restrictions for housing units that prohibit things like micro-apartments, tiny houses, yurts and container homes.
9. Factor sharing into the design review of new developments: Forward-thinking urban planning is vital to creating a shareable city. Housing that encourages resident interaction and properties that include mixed-use units.
10. Expand allowable home occupations to include sharing economy enterprise: The zoning codes that separate home life from commercial life — thereby making it illegal for many people to generate income at home — needs to be relaxed intelligently.
11. Use idle commercial spaces for community benefit: Facilitate the use of empty commercial spaces by startups in order to test products and services without the big upfront costs and long-term commitments associated with commercial real estate.
12. Assist cooperatives through city economic development departments: Local jobs, local money — that’s what cooperatives are all about. Every city should provide support staff and resources to help folks who want to set up a co-op.
It has always surprised me that housing is scarce, and that you cannot buy land to build on anywhere in The Netherlands at a reasonable price. "Land is scarce" our political and governmental elite always say. Is this true, or are we making land scarce because of our rigid legislation? Or is real estate development only for our politicians and their selected companies?
Most politicians misinterpret the esteemed economist Keynes, since it suits them well.
"Spend money and stimulate the economy" is what they like to remember. That Keynes also said that in good times money had to be saved is consequently forgotten. It seems the ambition of an individual politician has taken precedence over the consequences for many. Megalomaniac projects require a disproportionate portion of public funds, while the damage to our everyday environment is "inhuman." We are still taking action with tunnel vision, instead of with a shared vision.
On the road to a sustainable society, one of the pillars of the new Society30, we all have to think hard about the organization of our living and working environments. And we have to question each other on a broad range of topics: our energy supplies, our industries, our logistics, and our place in Europe and on the global stage. What do we want and what should we stop doing?
I’ll make the first move by fundamentally scrutinizing a few aspects of our everyday surroundings, and I challenge you to put aside your natural thought process. Will you think with me?
"Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons" is available in Print, eBook, and as a Free PDF!