The Future of Cities in the Age of Pandemics

Senior Research Scholar Alain Bertaud participated in an AEI webinar "Unlocking the Potential of America's cities" along with Harvard University's Edward Glaeser, AEI's Stan Veuger, and Brookings Insitution's Jennifer Vey. James Pethokoukis moderated the discussion and also provided a summary of the event. On the question of what investments cities need to make to be able to remain resilient in the face of future pandemics, Bertaud said:

You know, the resilience of city is based on the rapid adaption to change. If it takes 10 years to change—and I’ve seen a case like that in Queens by the way, where it took 10 years in order to change a commercial zoning which didn’t allow the sale of appliances. It took 10 years to change it so that they could sell appliances. So, your drug stores could not sell, for instance, vacuum cleaners or something like that. So, if you have this type of rigidity and you are submitted to this type of shop, the cities are going to collapse because you are going to have high densities but none of the amenities will justify, you know, living in these high densities....So again, here our cities are not bombed out, you know. There are going to be a lot of changes, maybe some losers and winners. The attitude of cities should allow this very fast change and so our regulations in particular. And concentrate on managing what should be managed, which is the street space.

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