Too often, low-income neighborhoods and communities of color are left out of the conversation when it comes to planning and community development. This has led to a lack of investment in these areas, which has in turn led to disinvestment and disarray. But there is hope.
By getting organized and mobilizing, residents of these communities can begin to level the playing field and create real change. Residents need to be informed about the planning and development process so that they can be better prepared to participate in it. They also need to understand the impact that planning and development can have on their community. Once residents are armed with this knowledge, they can begin to get involved in the planning and development process in their own community.
Communities are constantly changing and evolving, but not always for the better. For residents to influence the direction of development in their communities, they must be proactive. By taking the initiative to reach out to local officials, attend community meetings, and get involved with local organizations, residents can ensure that their voices are heard and that they play a role in making their community a better place to live. Here are some specific ways that residents can get involved in the planning and development process:
1) Reach Out to Local Officials: Residents can connect with their local officials to discuss the improvements they would like to see in their community. They can do this by attending community meetings, sending letters or emails, or calling their offices. When meeting with officials, it is important to be respectful and come prepared with possible solutions. For example, if a resident would like to see more green space in their community, they could suggest that a vacant lot be turned into a park. To make an impact, residents should try to get involved with as many officials as possible and encourage their friends and neighbors to do the same.
2) Attend Community Meetings: Most communities have regular meetings open to the public. This is a great way for residents to stay up-to-date on current development projects and voice their opinions about proposed changes. If a resident cannot attend the meeting, they can often find meeting minutes posted online. Examples of community meetings include city council meetings, community board meetings, and public hearings. You can find out when and where these meetings are taking place by searching online or contacting your local officials.
3) Get Involved with Local Organizations: Many organizations are dedicated to improving conditions within specific communities. By getting involved, residents can help these groups achieve their goals while also ensuring that the changes made benefit everyone in the community. Examples of local organizations include neighborhood associations, block associations, and community development corporations. Most of these groups welcome new members and are always looking for volunteers.
4) Form a Community Organization or Coalition: This will allow residents to pool their resources and have a greater impact on the planning and development process. Community organizations can also help residents access government funding for projects that will benefit the community as a whole. Coalitions consist of representatives from different groups who work together to achieve a common goal. For example, a coalition could be formed to advocate for more affordable housing in a community.
5) Get Involved with Your Local Government: This can be done by attending city council meetings, contacting your representatives, or serving on a board or commission. There are many different ways to get involved, so find the one that best suits your interests and skills. For example, if you are concerned about the environment, you could serve on a green infrastructure commission. Or, if you want to help shape the future of your community, you could join a planning commission.
6) Get to Know Your Neighbors: Getting involved in neighborhood associations and other community groups is a great way to get to know your neighbors and the issues that are important to them. This can help build relationships and trust, which is essential for effective community development. Additionally, when residents know each other, they are more likely to look out for each other and take action when something needs to be fixed. By working together, you can have a greater impact on the direction your community takes.
7) Volunteer: By giving back to your community, you can help make it a better place for everyone. There are many different ways to volunteer, so find one that interests you and get started today. For example, you can volunteer at a local food bank or soup kitchen, help clean up a park, or mentor a child. Or, you can donate your time to a local organization that is working to improve conditions in the community. Volunteers make a difference in their community, and the more people that get involved, the greater the impact will be.
8) Shop Locally: Local businesses provide jobs and contribute to the tax base, which helps fund important services like schools and police departments. So next time you need something, consider shopping at a local business instead of a big box store. You might pay slightly more, but your purchase will go a lot further in supporting your community. By shopping locally, you are also more likely to get better customer service and build relationships with the business owners. In return, the owners are likely to be responsive to the needs of their customers and the community.
9) Be an Advocate for Change: If you see an issue that needs to be addressed, don’t be afraid to speak up and start working towards a solution. Remember, every voice counts! Don’t wait for someone else to take action, but rather be the change you want to see in your community. You don’t have to be an expert to make a difference—you just need to be passionate about the issue and willing to speak up.
10) Educate Yourself and Others about the Planning and Development Process: One of the best ways to make sure your community is developed in a way that benefits everyone is to educate yourself and others about the process. By understanding how the planning and development process works, you can make sure that your community is being developed in a way that meets the needs of all its residents. While each community is different, there are some general steps that all communities go through when it comes to planning and development. For example, all communities need to go through a comprehensive planning process, which is used to create a vision for the future and identify goals and objectives. Next, zoning ordinances need to be created or updated to reflect the vision and goals of the community. Finally, development regulations need to be put in place to ensure that the vision is implemented in a way that is consistent with the community’s goals.
The planning and development process can be complex, but it is important to understand how it works so that you can be an informed and engaged citizen. If you want to learn more about the planning and development process, there are many resources available, including books, websites, and articles. You can also attend community meetings or workshops, which are often open to the public. When it comes to community development, knowledge is power! By educating yourself and others about the process, you can make sure that your community is developed in a way that meets the needs of all its residents.