2020. It has been five months since the death of George Floyd and eight months since the pandemic came to light on our shores. The combined impact on our cities, towns and rural areas is unparalleled in my lifetime. Everyone has been affected. People are inventing new ways of living; trying to right the wrongs; and trying to recover, rebuild and rebalance. But how do we repair our society after 300 years of oppression? How do we repair our way of living that has been so severely rewritten by the virus? This edition of On Common Ground explores the ways in which our society is responding to these two seismic shifts that demand everyone’s attention, everyone’s thoughts, and everyone’s participation.
To the latter, this issue includes an article discussing strategies for citizen engagement in a time when community leaders must both hear from as many people as possible, but do so with social distancing; and two articles on city planning in reaction to the twin events — one on equity and inclusion and one on ways a city can heal itself through rapid regulatory reforms.
For a quantitative view, we present the results of NAR’s recently completed 2020 version of its biennial Community & Transportation Preferences Survey, but, this year, we fielded the poll twice — once in February right before the country shut down due to the pandemic and once in late July, five months into the shutdown. Some preferences changed and some stayed the same, and this issue also offers two articles that explore some of the trends: Return to the Suburbs and the Future of Transportation.
To help residents and communities that have been brought down by COVID-19, a pair of articles offer strategies for addressing vacant properties to transform them back into productive use and at the household level, ways to stabilize the situation for a homeowner who is in trouble.
Lastly, for the businesses that are holding on, trying to make a go, we look into approaches that businesses are taking, and the support cities are giving them, to keep the doors open until enough customers return and the owners can breathe a sigh of relief.