Spatial Inequality

2020 The Forgotten Triangle


The Forgotten Triangle

In the 1920s, residents of Cleveland’s Kinsman neighborhood could walk to work in the nearby steel mills and railyards. Today, relics of that era—in the form of abandoned factories and rail tracks—surround and isolate the neighborhood.

2006 Avon



Most of the jobs available to Cleveland residents are located in outer suburbs like Avon, where the absence of brownfields and decaying infrastructure has made it cheaper to build.

Planning for job access is essential to helping residents escape poverty and spatial inequality in underinvested areas.

I feel like we are a lost community, and there’s a lot of potential around here, but we don’t have anything to strive with.

Abandoned and decaying buildings suppress the value of land and hamper residents’ efforts to revitalize. By joining forces with city planners, non-profits, and a land bank, residents are working to take control of blighted properties and turn around their neighborhood.


Land Banks

Local and county land banks have demonstrably empowered residents while reducing land speculation.

pie chart of 75 percent


Vacant and Abandoned Properties Eliminated in Cleveland since 2006



Side Yards Created



Affordable Single Family Homes Created

apartment building


Affordable Units in Multifamily Buildings

2020 Roads and Rails


Roads and Rails

Transit infrastructure can help reconnect and revitalize a neighborhood like South Phoenix, but the improvements can lead to displacement of the very people they’re designed to serve.

2003 South Phoenix


South Phoenix

The costs of sprawl are felt in inner neighborhoods like South Phoenix, abandoned and isolated as Phoenix’s resources, capital, and attention shifted to the suburban fringe.

Resilient and drought-tolerant, tepary beans are native to the desert Southwest, grown by Native peoples since pre-Columbian times. But when the Pima and Maricopa tribes of the Phoenix region lost access to their water, cultivation of the beans nearly disappeared. Now, with water restored, the beans are making a comeback—and so are their growers. This resurgence resulted from policies designed to address inequality and create opportunity by reconnecting people with their land and water.

Seeds and Water

Planning for Social Equity: How Baltimore and Dallas Are Connecting Segregated Neighborhoods to Opportunity

Kathleen McCormick

Over the past 40 years, economic inequality in the United States has returned to levels last seen in the 1920s. This gap has become more pronounced in many cities where wealth and poverty are concentrated geographically.

City Tech: The Road to Smarter Transit Is Paved with Data

Rob Walker

The emergence of big data is making possible new measurements that can inform how state transportation agencies plan and manage their projects.

Mayor’s Desk: Syracuse Endorses the Value of its Legacy

Anthony Flint

Ben Walsh was sworn in as the 54th mayor of Syracuse in January 2018, leading a postindustrial metropolis that, like many, has struggled with job and population loss.

Hartford is Ready for a Reboot

Anthony Flint and Sara Bronin

A post-industrial city on the brink of bankruptcy, Hartford, Connecticut has overhauled its zoning and turned abandoned factories into craft breweries and makers spaces. Planning commissioner Sara Bronin talks about cutting-edge urban planning practices.

2020 Creating Housing


Creating Housing

In Portland, gentrification led to one of the nation’s most severe housing crises, forcing over 10,000 people of color to the fringes of the city since 2000.

2020 Urban Removal in Albina


Urban Removal in Albina

As Portland struggles to build affordable housing and mitigate displacement, it is haunted by a time—not so long ago—when it purposefully targeted black neighborhoods for displacement in the name of urban renewal.

2009 A Boutique City


A Boutique City

As newcomers compete for housing and jobs, the rising cost of living has led to gentrification. The shift can be noted in the reactions of long-time residents, whose childhood neighborhoods are being remade by new residents.

Attracted to its healthy economy and popular outdoor lifestyle, young people and urban professionals have flocked to Portland, causing explosive population growth and rapidly shifting demographics.

If we become a boutique city, where the core of our city has all these wonderful amenities but it’s affordable to only a very few, we have failed.

Tracking Education

Patterns of school enrollment can tell us a lot about Portland’s shifting demographics. After a period of widespread school closures as families with children moved out of the city, school enrollments have finally started to stabilize. However, high rates of student transfers indicate that financially struggling families are being forced to move farther outward from the city center.

Median Rent in Portland
line graph of increasing rent in portland
three person icons with one highlighted

1 in 3

Students Change Schools

apartment building


Family Housing Units Permitted

Because the Pima-Maricopa tribe owns its land collectively and has resisted the pull of selling for development, the community remains intact. Seeing beyond potential short-term financial gain has allowed the community to address historical inequities and remain connected to the land.

Native Considerations

Inclusionary Housing: Creating and Maintaining Equitable Communities

Rick Jacobus

After decades of disinvestment, American cities are rebounding, but new development is driving up housing costs and displacing lower-income residents.

From Stigma to Housing Fix: The Evolution of Manufactured Homes

Loren Berlin

Liz Wood wanted to buy a house. It was 2006, she had been renting for a decade, and her monthly payments were getting high.

Protecting a Share of the Housing Market

George W. McCarthy

People who work with me are often surprised by the extent to which my philosophical canon derives from low-budget offbeat films, typically from the 1980s.

2020 Good Neighbors


Good Neighbors

Portland’s housing crisis has resulted in a growing population of citizens living on the streets, who have begun to join together in houseless “villages.” The city has tried to normalize these informal settlements with public services. But efforts have been thwarted by the city’s powerful neighborhood associations, which have also resisted attempts to densify their neighborhoods with more affordable housing options.

2009 Neighborhood Associations


Neighborhood Associations

Grassroots activism helped create Portland’s land use system. To help safeguard it, the city’s neighborhood associations were vested with significant resources and influence. Their high level of civic engagement makes them critical players, but a lack of inclusivity can sometimes make them part of the problem instead of the solution.

When [houseless people] step forward and say we have a way to find safety, stability, and community that will move us forward in life, we need to listen to them.

Informality in Phoenix takes the form of an unofficial and undocumented labor force of Latino immigrants, whose inexpensive labor provides the engine for an economy based on real estate and construction.

Building Phoenix

The Future of America’s Middle Neighborhoods

Alan Mallach

In the 19th and 20th centuries, middle neighborhoods sprang up to house middle-income families drawn to U.S. cities by the dramatic rise of industry.

Backyard Brouhaha: Could Inclusionary Housing Break the YIMBY Deadlock?

Anthony Flint

In the few years since the Yes in My Backyard (YIMBY) movement splashed on the scene in cities across the United States, the YIMBY mantra has been persistent: clear away the regulatory barriers and let developers build more housing.

Yes In My Backyard

Anthony Flint and Randy Shaw

Those in the Yes in My Backyard (YIMBY) movement have a simple goal: increase the supply of housing in cities, and sky-high prices should come down. But they face a growing backlash from neighborhood activists fearful of gentrification and displacement.

Moves by Minneapolis

Anthony Flint and Lisa Bender

Minneapolis may seem like an unlikely place for the start of a revolution. But the Midwestern city has passed some of the most progressive housing policies and zoning reforms in the country.

Imagery in the above videos are courtesy of the following:

Creating Housing: Oregon State Government; The Oregonian/Barcroft Media; The Oregonian Op-Ed; Pond5; Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability; Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives; Shane Burley; Willamette Week.

Forgotten Triangle: Brookings Institution; Carmen Angelo/WTAM-iHeartMedia; Cleveland Metro School District; Case Western Reserve University; Cleveland Plain Dealer; Ed McDonald/Taco Slayer Aerial Urban Exploration & Community ActivismOhio Department of Transportation; Pond5. 

Good Neighbors: Zach Putnam. 

Roads and Rails: City of Phoenix.

Seeds and Water: Arizona Historical Society; Central Arizona Project; Gila River Indian News; High Country News; Imagn.

Urban Removal in AlbinaAlbany Democrat Herald; Corvallis-Gazette; KOIN; Mapping Inequality; Oregon Historical Society; Oregonian Publishing Co.; Portland City Archives (A2010-003.3600, A2010-003.6541, A2012-005); Prosper Portland; Pond5. 

Click here to watch the original Making Sense of Place series in its entirety.