The Rhetoric of Mixed-Income Communities

Northtown Village mixed income housing development. Source here.

In chapter 6 “The New Urbanism” of City of Rhetoric, David Fleming explains the idea of the economically diverse urban village in Chicago. More specifically, Fleming argues that mixed-income urban communities (created to avoid conflict by walling out differences) are based on unrealistic dreams of social harmony. For example, he shows that reports on the success of mixed-income communities show that communities are biased toward high-income residents especially when the success of mixed-income development plans relies not only on the rich but on low income residents meeting the standards of higher-income residents. With this, Fleming then suggests that the mere foundation of mixed-income urban communities does not allow for social harmony. For Fleming, then, building communities amongst diverse people is not the answer for avoiding conflict because it creates inequality instead of harmony.

Why does this matter in a broader context? If we define that a healthy public life is the goal in a broader context then the building of communities that absorb the diversity among its individuals (that intend to stabilize conflict but instead have the opposite effect) place us farther away from achieving this goal. Promoting mixture instead of difference increases inequality and conflict and in turn decreases the number of interactions between people that leads to a healthy public life.

Works Cited

Fleming, David. “Chapter 6 The New Urbanism.” City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America, SUNY Press, Albany, NY, 2009, pp. 121–148.