DOI: 10.19830/j.upi.2020.049
New Advances of “Smart Shrinkage” Practice in American Rust Belt Cities: A Study of Neighborhood Action Plan in Youngstown

Gao Shuqi

Keywords: Shrinking Cities; Neighbourhood Planning; Housing Vacancy; Property Tax; Smart Shrinkage


Recently, the conceptualization of “smart shrinkage” that calls for downsizing urban built environment in shrinking cities to cater to the declining population, has received increasing attentions. However, there is a gap between the concept and its practices in planning, especially in micro-level planning practices, i.e. neighbourhood planning. In shrinking cities, drastically reducing depopulation is often in tandem with real-estate market’s recession, which leads to massive urban vacancy and subsequent neighbourhood decay. Addressing these problems is pivotal to shrinking cities and is under heated discussion by scholars in the field of shrinking cities. This paper targets the City of Youngstown, the first municipality in the US that released “smart shrinkage” urban comprehensive plan, as well as its recent initiatives corresponding to the aforementioned problems: eighborhood Action Plans. Through a detailed analysis on City of Youngstown’s planning process, their two policy tools for implementing NAPs (tax foreclosure and code enforcement), and their managing agencies, this paper reveals how American shrinking cities integrate policy tools with neighborhood planning to fight with urban vacancy and abandonment, including the challenges tampering the combination’s effects. The last part is a discussion of NAPs’ suitability and enlightenment to China’s cities, with some suggestions for the country’s future policy reforms to tackle the similar problems of urban vacancy and abandonment in shrinking cities.


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