Minimizing segregation between cities' richest and poorest residents can have tangible benefits for communities, and incentivizing local governments to prioritize this issue could be an effective way to achieve change, according Habitat for Humanity CEO Jonathan Reckford.
"Without incentives or requirements, typically land's going to go to higher uses or higher economic returns, which will be upscale housing," Reckford told The Huffington Post's Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani on Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
But reducing economic segregation and creating mixed-income communities, he said, will likely be positive for the environment and for the health of residents.
Cities are increasingly exploring mixed-income housing opportunities, but not all projects have been received warmly. While refurbishing older units and converting them into mixed-income buildings does improve their amenities, the process can also force out many poor residents. A building in New York City received backlash when it created a separate entrance for families who earned less, with critics saying that it heightened division among residents.
Volunteering can help raise awareness about disparities within neighborhoods and help create social change, Reckford said, citing Habitat for Humanity members who work with local communities across the world to build homes.
"For many of those volunteers, it's actually the first time they've had meaningful interaction across socioeconomic lines," Reckford said.