By Jen Kinney.
Buffalo is considering it. Pittsburgh is too. New York, San Francisco, Tallahassee and dozens more municipalities already have it. Particularly in places like Seattle, where rental prices and income inequality are rapidly increasing, inclusionary zoning is seen as a promising but complicated tool for creating more affordable housing by requiring developers to reserve a percentage of new units to be sold or rented below market price. In addition, one study found data showed that, as of 2012, inclusionary zoning was promoting economic integration. But living side by side doesn’t necessarily lead to a meaningful bridging of the income divide.
Authors of a new paper found that when it comes to the rich and poor chatting at the corner bodega or the neighborhood park, even where low-income and high-income families are living in close proximity, they are unlikely to encounter each other in places of worship, laundromats, grocery stores and other informal “activity spaces.” It’s a finding that is as intuitive as it is troubling, calling into question efforts to promote mixed-income communities.
“The greater the level of inequality in the neighborhood, the greater the likelihood that people are going to sort by socioeconomic status,” says Christopher Browning, an Ohio State University professor and one of the paper’s authors. “When folks move into a mixed-income housing development, they don’t necessarily develop network ties with people of different classes. This is an extension of that: They may not share locations of everyday activities either.”
The study isn’t sweeping: The data came from one source, the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey, which asked residents where they engaged in daily activities like grocery shopping. Researchers geocoded the answers and then looked at sample pairings of neighbors to see how often they shared space. Pairings of two low-income households were most likely to encounter each other informally, while high-income households were unlikely to encounter any neighbors — regardless of socioeconomic status.