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Jonathan Rose is on a mission is to develop ‘communities that enhance opportunity for all’. As the Founder and President of Jonathan Rose Companies, his firm’s work has touched many aspects of community health; working with cities and not-for-profits to build affordable and mixed-income housing, cultural, health and educational infrastructure, and advocates for neighborhoods to be enriched with parks and open space, mass transit, jobs, and healthy food. He is also the author of ‘The Well Tempered City’, a treatise on how cities have a crucial role in addressing the most important issues of our time. I caught up with him to find out more about his ideas around how cities can be re-designed to tackle social and environmental problems in ways that help humanity thrive.
I started by asking him about how he defined the purpose of Jonathan Rose companies.“Our mission is to develop ‘Communities of Opportunity’, in which every resident and employee has equal access to opportunity, environmental quality, health, and well-being. The United States of America was founded to be a Land of Opportunity; the poor distribution of opportunity, environmental quality, and health by zip code is a fundamental misallocation of justice. If we are to create a fair and just society, then it is our moral imperative to overcome this. Communities of Opportunity begin with safe, green, stable affordable housing. Our goal is to buy or build affordable and mixed-income housing and to expand the platform of opportunity by providing or connecting each to the transportation, health, education, social, cultural and other elements to our residents, so that they and our staff can become empowered partners with us and their cities in the transformation of their own neighborhoods. This will not equalize outcomes, but we hope that it will equalize our residents’ pathways,” said Rose.
I asked Rose what he thought the link between environmental and social justice was when it comes to housing, and how the toxicity of mental stress interacted with that of being in a physically toxic environment? He replied, “Lower-income neighborhoods statistically are more likely to be closer to highways, bus depots, ports, industrial areas, wastewater treatment plants, chemical plants, garbage processing facilities, etc. And we know that the pollution that comes from these has negative health effects, as well as impacting cognitive development. We also know that the experience of trauma, stress, and the constant fear of crime also have negative life-long health and cognitive effects. Both these environmental and physical impacts lower immune systems strength, and so there is an emerging theory that each negatively impacts the other. Recent data further supports the idea that psychosocial stress increases cardiovascular vulnerability to the adverse effects of air pollution in particular, adding to our understanding of the ways in which the social and physical environments may jointly contribute to poor health and health disparities.”
I also asked Rose about his approach which creates mixed-income housing in such wide bands (from homeless to 130% of median income) contributed to better communities.”The fascinating work of Raj Chetty and his Opportunity Insights project indicates that when children move at young ages from neighborhoods of concentrated poverty to middle-income neighborhoods, they have better life outcomes. Fraser and Nelson have shown that mixed-income housing is associated with reductions in crime and overall increases in neighborhood safety. More recently, Chyn has suggested that some of the earlier research may have understated the positive effects of improved income neighborhoods on children’s life chances, particularly with respect to fewer violent crime arrests and lower school dropout rates. However, more research is needed in this area,” said Rose.
Rose also has strategies in place to tackle the thorny issue of gentrification. “We very much believe that improved neighborhoods, better schools, safer streets, and healthier environments are better for long-term residents. The key is to give existing residents an affordable stake in neighborhood improvement. We have three strategies to do this. To buy, preserve and improve existing affordable housing; to develop new affordable and mixed-income housing to increase the supply in improving neighborhoods; and the third, through our New Markets Tax Credit unit, is to invest in projects that create or bring excellent local jobs to communities,” replied Rose. Finally, I asked him what he was most excited about in terms of social innovation when it comes to housing? “Expanding our residents’ opportunity by creating facilities and bringing in programs for onsite health care, access to affordable healthy food, exercise, after school and life-long education, arts and culture and more, and figuring out how to measure the individual, building and neighborhood benefits of this work.” An ambitious vision but one if replicated across the United States could have profound consequences on how cities could help communities thrive.
April 30, 2019 at 10:15AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs