The boss of 100 Resilient Cities has said London must tackle the threat of social inequality
World cities including London face a major threat if they fail to address a lack of affordable housing and growing social inequality, the head of an international organization seeking to make global cities more resilient to the challenges of the 21st century has said.
Michael Berkowitz, president of 100 Resilient Cities (100RC), a $100m initiative launched two years ago and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, told AJ that equity and social cohesion were two of the ‘critical issues’ that major cities faced given the pace of urbanization.
He was speaking yesterday as 100RC opened its regional headquarters in Clerkenwell to serve cities it is working with in the Middle East and Europe including London, Bristol and Glasgow.
He said: ‘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 recognizing 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 [terrorist attack] – 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 directly about the affordable housing issue in London Berkowitz said: ‘Everyone we talk to has mentioned this housing crunch.’
He added that New York had similar challenges and that mayor Bill de Blasio was working on a major initiative to ensure that all New Yorkers lived within 40 minutes’ travel of a good job. As well as providing affordable housing, this scheme involves encouraging commercial and industrial areas – traditionally located in downtown and midtown Manhattan – to other parts of the city.
Berkowitz said: ‘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 neigbourhoods and good streets.’
100RC, a global network of 67 cities, works with city mayors and other public officials along with the private sector in addressing threats including terrorism, cyber-security, infrastructure failure and environmental challenges.