Inclusive Growth Blueprint: A Model for Equitable Development in New York City

The Inclusive Growth Blueprint is a first-of-its-kind agenda for the next Mayor and the incoming City Council to change the way development is done — to prioritize infrastructure and development projects that proactively address long-standing disparities and meet the material needs of New Yorkers, especially the communities that are usually left out of the decision-making process. Only such an inclusive approach centered around the needs and ideas of people of color, immigrants, and New Yorkers who drive our workforce and sustain our communities will allow for equitable and sustainable growth.

About the Inclusive Growth Initiative

The New York City Inclusive Growth Initiative (IGI) is a two-year project composed of an 18-person Steering Committee representative of the diversity of New York City in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, immigration history and status, incomes status, thought and disability.

Convened and facilitated by the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD), the New York City Employment and Training Coalition (NYCETC) and Regional Plan Association (RPA), this Steering Committee developed an Inclusive Growth Blueprint with 50+ recommendations for the future of economic development, workforce development and affordable housing to prioritize infrastructure and development projects that proactively address long standing disparities and meet the material needs of New Yorkers, especially the communities that are usually left out of the decision-making process.

The Inclusive Growth Blueprint is a first-of-its-kind agenda for the next Mayor and the incoming City Council to change the way development is done in New York City. It is proactively inclusive of people with non-traditional educations, people who do not have access to other networks of civic influence in the five boroughs, and people with working-class backgrounds and occupations.

Recommendations for Inclusive Growth

I: Foundations and Best Practices for Inclusive Growth →

II: An Inclusive Growth Vision of Economic Development →

III: An Inclusive Growth Vision of Workforce Development →

IV: An Inclusive Growth Vision of Affordable Housing →

I: Foundations and Best Practices for Inclusive Growth

There are fundamental best practices to be utilized, and explicitly named, during all processes of inclusive growth. There are details relative to the current system of economic development in New York City that repeated themselves across housing, economic development, and workforce development. These patterns yielded underlying issues and negative outcomes surrounding community development and investments, public buy-in and trust, transparency and accountability. For example, we found that people close to problems in their communities were not often tapped for their interests and consulted on their expertise to weigh in on or find community-based solutions to that problem. An historical, systemic and unequal distribution of resources means that often root challenges - such as generational poverty or crumbling community infrastructure - are left unaddressed and passed on from generation to generation, with historically excluded communities often left holding the bag.Communities continue to be left behind, losing funding for schools, priced out of homes, and left to figure out how to heal their communities destroyed by natural disasters without proper guidance.

As a result, the below best practices, or foundations, of inclusive growth should be infused into all policies and processes within housing, economic development and workforce development. They are centered around inclusion and equity, urgency and necessity, and restructuring and changing power dynamics.

  • Make community empowerment engaging and accessible: Dedicate resources and professional support toward community engagement and leadership for neighborhood, community and City-wide planning and development.
  • Ensure transparency, accountability and access to information for individual projects/developments as part of a comprehensive planning process.
  • Build in community power and ownership to enable community-led projects to thrive.
  • Utilize a cultural inventory to ensure key neighborhood institutions are not displaced.
  • Create new wealth-building opportunities for communities that face systemic barriers to wealth-building
  • Integrate sustainability and resiliency initiatives within inclusive growth developments, and prioritize all sustainability initiatives to start with low and moderate income and Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities first
  • Proactively work to rebuild trust between place-based agencies and communities through City leadership

II: An Inclusive Growth Vision of Economic Development

Inclusive economic development would mean projects that proactively address underlying and long standing disparities. It would mean the communities meant to benefit would be empowered, not just served. It would mean real decision making and self-determination for communities which have historically lacked it. This will require a clearer citywide vision for growth and investment that prioritizes infrastructure and development projects in which underrepresented groups would be given a seat at the table and empowered to drive decisions. The planning process for these projects and policies would be transparent and simple, leading to easier engagement and less bureaucracy. Ultimately, the effect on people’s lives and community well-being would be front-and-center rather than an afterthought or side effect.

Other cities have created comprehensive plans that intentionally engage communities in proactive planning, coordinate long-term goals between agencies, and ensure all communities receive a fair share of things like affordable housing, schools, transit services and waste facilities. A comprehensive plan can help ensure benefits — or impacts — of these facilities are not concentrated in a few neighborhoods, and underlying disparities are addressed through short term budgets and long-term capital program investments.

Recommendations: People

  • Connect economic development with workforce development
  • Incorporate a small-business framework in economic development focusing on small business growth, sustainability, and M/WBE support
  • Support families in order to help develop skills and opportunity
  • Make health and wellness a core part of an economic development strategy

Recommendations: Community

  • Prioritize investments in real estate and physical infrastructure that are also investments in social infrastructure
  • Make more transportation choices safe, affordable, sustainable, convenient, comfortable, and enjoyable options, especially at the neighborhood level
  • Clean the transportation sector, starting with the communities most negatively impacted by heavy vehicle traffic and transportation emissions today.
  • Reform and democratize community representation in the economic development process

Recommendations: Systems

  • Develop a proactive, equity-based and enforceable comprehensive planning framework, and draw projects and policies from this comprehensive plan
  • Coordinate land use planning, economic development, transportation, housing, climate, and other citywide goals
  • Reform the Land-Use Process
  • Create a Public Accountability Entity with the power to enforce community benefits agreements
  • Understand, plan for, and fund the city’s transportation system at a citywide level, centering equity goals in the process
  • Update the City’s regulatory and enforcement approaches to expand safe, clean transportation options while supporting inclusive growth goals around racial justice, job creation, and workforce development
  • Ensure a just energy transition to prioritize all sustainability initiatives to start with low and moderate income and Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities first

III: An Inclusive Growth Vision of Workforce Development

A truly inclusive workforce development system in NYC should help connect New Yorkers, particularly those with systemic barriers to employment, into good quality jobs and careers. The system should work explicitly to redress barriers caused by historic and continuing inequities and discrimination against New Yorkers on the basis of race, gender, age, and socioeconomic status. Finally, the workforce development system should provide a seamless set of supports that every New Yorker from any walk of life can depend on to get their first job, get the skills they need to advance in their careers, launch an encore career later in life, or any other career goals. This vision encompasses a talent-driven economic development model that recognizes human capital as its backbone and source of prosperity and growth within our communities and among our businesses.

This would mean every New Yorker would have access to the skills, training, and education needed to thrive in the local economy, and that every business, particularly locally grown small- and medium sized businesses, is able to maintain a highly skilled workforce. In the long-term, workforce development systems should also function to improve job quality -- the combination of wages, hours, and benefits -- for low-income workers.

Recommendations: People

  • Address structural barriers that prevent people from participating in workforce and training programs
  • Institute hazard pay for essential workers by advocating for amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act
  • Increase funding and support for dislocated workers to upskill in their current sector or re-skill and enter a new sector
  • Create workforce development and entrepreneurship programs that serve the particular needs of older adults
  • Create pathways to integrate immigrants with skills gained abroad into NYC’s workforce in line with their experience and particular needs
  • Support career readiness among non-traditional college students

Recommendations: Community

  • Invest federal Covid-19 recovery funds into workforce development
  • Support the hiring needs of small businesses through the workforce development system
  • Connect the city’s workforce development system to local economic development projects, including real estate development, projects sponsored by public agencies like the NYC Economic Development Corporation, and local development agencies.
  • Create a Permanent Workforce Development Fund
  • Expand a pipeline of talent in green technologies for a clean energy future and ensure that marginalized communities, and especially environmental justice communities, are prioritized in training programs and hiring

Recommendations: Systems

  • Revive in the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development (WKDEV) as the city’s chief authority overseeing the city’s workforce agenda
  • Shift government thinking around NYC’s workforce development policies and systems from being viewed primarily as a poverty reduction strategy to being seen as a fully integrated part of the city’s overall economic development
  • Streamline the city’s workforce development program investments into two main program buckets: 1) early employment training programs; and 2) career pathways training programs so that New Yorkers can quickly identify and move into programs that meet their employment goals
  • Streamline, coordinate and build in more flexibility into funding mechanisms to incentivize connectivity among service providers that increases access to any workforce programs for jobseekers
  • Create a set of key performance indicators (KPI) with which to measure outcomes for clients across the whole workforce development system
  • Root out workplace discrimination and worker abuse by reinforcing policies that increase and strengthen worker protections and job quality, including wage theft enforcement, index minimum wage, and worker safety nets
  • Align real-time talent needs of employers to investments in training programs by investing in sophisticated data analysis capacity, such as that of CUNY’s Labor Market Information Service (LMIS)

IV: An Inclusive Growth Vision of Affordable Housing

Inclusive housing means prioritizing the needs of low-income communities of color above those of the wealthy, white communities that benefit from the current system, and focusing on what people need, rather than what is profitable to build. For inclusive housing growth to become a reality, a larger share of the affordable housing that is developed needs to respond to the need among the lowest-income New Yorkers at highest risk of displacement -- those who are rent-burdened, need deeply affordable housing units,facing foreclosure and are un- or under-housed.

Increasing affordable housing does not have to rely solely on development. The City can also create mechanisms to turn existing unregulated units into affordable housing, such as the right-of-first-refusal, and expand tenant protections and means to hold landlords accountable (like expanding the Certificate of No Harassment pilot program). These goals require meaningful public oversight and community leadership that would establish a truly inclusive housing model that addresses the needs of the lowest income New Yorkers, reduces displacement risk among New Yorkers of color, and mitigates the homeless crisis.

Recommendations: People

  • Deeply invest in rental assistance dollars to address the needs of low and extremely low-income New Yorkers
  • Strengthen the safety net to prevent evictions
  • Increase social service funding tied to housing units to ensure more people maintain their housing

Recommendations: Community

  • Create a housing plan focused more on outcomes than outputs, and target subsidies and tax incentives toward projects that meet the deepest needs of households within that plan
  • Create more affordable housing opportunities in areas with lower share of affordable supply to ensure all NYC neighborhoods are accessible to various income levels and especially those with extremely low- and low-incomes
  • Identify barriers to points of entry to housing for specific communities, and commit funding and infrastructure towards addressing such barriers
  • Improve housing quality and stability in historically disinvested neighborhoods
  • Unpack and address the complex interplay of housing and education policies and practices that impact neighborhood level segregation
  • Invest in community connection and social ties opportunities for residents of NYCHA housing to address inequitable amenities and community resources

Recommendations: Systems

  • Facilitate greater coordination and accountability between agencies responsible for homelessness and housing through a streamlined entity
  • Engage a broad and representative set of stakeholders in the creation of the citywide housing plan
  • Streamline engagement processes across agencies that oversee development and place-based change
  • Meaningfully address fair housing mandate and root out discrimination in the housing market
  • Significantly invest in NYCHA rehabilitation, infrastructure, and preservation
  • Address resiliency, climate adaptation, and sustainability for NYC’s residential building stock, especially in NYCHA and when public subsidies are used