Planning Practices that Matter: Housing for Resilient Cities

The MIT Resilient Cities Housing Initiative (RCHI) is convening its inaugural symposium in Fall 2013 to identify and highlight some of the most innovative examples of planning projects and policies that address urban housing problems. What kinds of transformations have effectively addressed the housing and housing-related needs of underserved low-income people in a safe, equitable, and sustainable manner? Housing, in this context, needs to be conceptualized as an important piece of what it takes to foster a resilient city.  Housing by itself cannot be “resilient” unless it also helps residents cope with the simultaneous challenges of urban violence, dysfunctional governance, economic struggle, and a changing climate. The symposium will grapple with the barriers to resilient housing by engaging in a multidisciplinary approach to evaluating “success”.

The symposium will bring together scholars and practitioners from MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning with prominent visiting scholars and practitioners to discuss some of the world’s most promising planning projects (including projects that take the form of policies) that claim to equitably address housing and related needs in the face of increasing urbanization. Speakers will analyze the stated and unstated intentions of these projects, critically evaluate their success, and extrapolate what aspects can be generalized to other contexts.

Selected projects will exemplify resilient interventions that adapt to environmental, sociopolitical, and security challenges generated by urbanization. We seek to identify both built and unbuilt work: a) existing projects that have been fully realized, which generate multiple measures of success, and b) promising approaches that have not been implemented, recognizing that success cannot yet be measured but criteria for success can be established. The scope of projects will include housing developments, infrastructure upgrading, urban design plans, and government policies. 

The symposium is organized around the following question: What are the best examples of places and programs that address unmet housing needs in urban areas? The sessions focus on resilience in the following contexts: 1) U.S. public housing, 2) Slum upgrading, 3) Shrinking cities, and 4) Post-disaster reconstruction. We hope to uncover new and emerging examples of successful practice, reexamine assumptions about previously studied projects and programs, and redefine the criteria for successful planning.