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The ‘just city’: housing development and urban planning

The international research project ‘The Democratic Foundations of the Just City’ (2017-2021), led by Oliver Dlabač, PhD, and supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation, focused on the concrete meaning of ‘just urban planning’ in selected European cities. It is argued that socially sustainable urban planning should not only play a selective role in upcoming construction projects. Rather, city-wide development strategies should be pursued that keep the overall social fabric in mind. The following are the prerequisites for equitable urban development: the political will for targeted measures that actually benefit disadvantaged population groups; political institutions that look beyond municipal boundaries; and a society that is willing to accept social and cultural diversity even in its own residential street.

Mixed residential city: potential of non-profit housing developers

Even if the construction of socially mixed settlements and neighborhoods is in principle also open to private developers, it becomes clear in the above study how in particular existing housing cooperatives or newly created non-profit organizations are attributed the potential for a better social mixing of settlements and neighborhoods. While housing cooperatives in Switzerland already use data-driven tools for housing assignment, the targets are very roughly based on the population composition of the respective municipality or canton. How much individual housing developments actually contribute to social, cultural and intergenerational mixing, or how much they could contribute, has not yet been analyzed. Within the framework of a self-initiated project, target values are now to be calculated for the city of Zurich for each non-profit housing development, which would contribute to optimal mixing at different scale levels: within the housing development, at the level of the neighborhood as well as the contribution to city-wide mixing across municipal districts. The results will then be discussed with selected housing developers and subsequently published.

Digitization of school allocation

In Switzerland, as in other countries, the annual allocation to schools is still carried out manually by the responsible school authorities. Cantonal and communal directives stipulate that attention must be paid not only to short and safe walking routes to school, but also to a balanced composition of schools and classes according to social and linguistic background, ability and gender. In addition, there is limited school space and the need to open new classes as a result of population growth. Even before the actual assignment of individual students, allocators face a complex task in determining school catchment areas each year. Our data-driven method – originally developed at the University of Zurich – supports school authorities in taking these diverse requirements into account. However, the determination of the catchment areas as well as the assignment of the individual pupils is still done by the allocators, which means that individual factors of the individual pupils are still being taken into account.