Urban Renewal Amidst National Divides: Can Housing Development (Partially) Correct Past Injustice?
41 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2015
Date Written: 2015
Community economic development and urban regeneration have long been considered strategies to alleviate urban poverty, strengthen distressed neighborhoods, and counter racial segregation. Despite differences in their underlying methods, both rely on a faith in the market economy acting as a constructive force for betterment. Hence, community economic development (CED) does not rely on rights as the basis for social transformation, and urban regeneration does not talk of past injustice. In contrast, the motivation of rights advocacy is to address previous policies and practices of state mistreatment. As such, it has traditionally addressed public agencies as the target for remedying ethnic segregation and subordination, incorporating demands to correct past injustice by recognizing the right to equality, housing, and dignity. To be sure, social integration and racial justice often motivate CED and urban regeneration programs. Nevertheless, the main assumption underlying initiatives of this sort is that the power of market economy — if harnessed and regulated properly — is an effective vehicle for achieving positive change within poor and minority communities.
This article explores if and how a CED/urban regeneration project can incorporate a commitment to human rights. I do this by analyzing an Israeli initiative in an Arab neighborhood, Jaffa, which is a “mixed” Jewish-Arab city. The project involves a housing development for a national minority in Israel — the Arab citizens — that constitutes twenty percent of Israel’s population. The development is challenging, both theoretically and practically. It raises numerous practical hurdles and is economically, socially, and administratively complex.
Theoretically, it is a test for the intersection of human rights and market development. The state (national and local) has largely been responsible for past discrimination and distress of the Jaffa Arab community, and market forces have exacerbated this inequality. The Jaffa CED initiative relies on market forces to spur correction of past injustice; however, human rights considerations are infused therein, given the role of the state, which remains present in the commercial transaction, demarcating the boundaries of market activity.
Keywords: Community Economic Development, Poverty Lawyering, Law and Social Change, Human Rights
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