To help us stay on top of best practices, we keep an eye out for research in community development work. A recent report from the bureau of Housing and Urban Development took a look at a subject near and dear to our hearts here at FCS: mixed-income community dynamics. The researchers observed various mixed-income neighborhoods, coupled with in-depth interviews of residents. We walked away from reading the study with four takeaways for fostering a flourishing mixed-income community.
#1 Gather in Public Spaces
The report showed that mixed-income areas sometimes end up with policies that dissuade neighbors from interacting, like prohibitions on social gatherings in an apartment building. Break the cycle by hosting gatherings in the public spaces of your neighborhood or building. Barbecues, tea parties, kickball games in the field -- find ways to connect with neighbors in a wholesome way to change the attitude toward get-togethers.
#2 Advocate for Amenities Everyone Can Enjoy
Most of the time, all residents wanted stores, eateries, and recreational places nearby. The problem arises when those amenities come and price out a huge chunk of residents. This is part of why Community Grounds makes sure to have affordable and delicious menu items - we want all our neighbors to enjoy the shop. When your neighborhood association or community start planning new fun establishments, take a moment to ask whether the price range will accommodate fellow neighbors.
#3 Make Equally Beautiful Residences
Socioeconomic status is largely invisible, but markers of socioeconomic status are not. The report found that neighbors tended to socialize based on visible social categories, like housing type. At FCS, we’re working to create housing units of equal caliber, whether they sell for market rate, sell at a subsidized price, or serve as an affordable rental property. If you see development in your area, advocate for similar care to go into all new homes.
#4 Tell the Neighborhood’s History
This one is especially for communities on the cusp of becoming mixed-income. New residents don’t automatically know a neighborhood’s history. Historic neighbors can help newer neighbors by sharing about the neighborhood’s name, its founders, its elders and its gifts. Newer residents can listen to these stories and be sure to honor and preserve that history. It’s part of why we’re so grateful for the South Atlanta Civic League’s timeline of South Atlanta History! Start by researching your own neighborhood’s past.
Living in an equitable, mixed-income community can take some work, but it’s work that bears fruit in the form of deeper relationships and enriched neighborhoods. We’re grateful to benefit from the great work happening around the country as we seek to strengthen our neighborhood here in Historic South Atlanta. We hope these tips will help you to do the same in your context!
Let us know what happens if you try some of these!