Shareable and the Sustainable Economies Law Center have released a fantastic new report surveying the ways in which cities can adopt policies to promote “sharing” in a range of areas -- food, housing, transportation and jobs. The landmark report, “Policies for Shareable Cities: A Sharing Economy Policy Primer for Urban Leaders,” pulls together “scores of innovative, high impact policies that US city governments have put in place to help citizens share resources, co-produce, and create their own jobs.”
What exactly is a “sharing city”? It’s one that encourages carsharing and bikesharing programs through specific policies, such as designating “pick-up spots” for ridesharing and altering local taxes to make carsharing more attractive. A sharing city is one that encourages urban agriculture on vacant lots and allows homegrown vegetables to be sold in the neighborhood. A shareable city supports innovations like shared workspaces, shared commercial kitchens, community-financed start-ups, community-owned commercial centers, and spaces for “pop-up” businesses. It also encourages home-based micro-enterprises by lowering permitting barriers.
What’s impressive about this 40-page report is that it provides a practical action plan that any city could pick up and implement immediately. Yes, there are larger federal and state policies that could help make cities more shareable and liveable, but it is a misconception that only such big, bold policy reforms will work. Municipalities can take a wide number of modest steps right now that, by supporting the "micro-dynamics" of social life, can have enormous macro-impacts on the affordability, social fabric and quality of life of a city. As a report focused on American cities, it’s unclear to me how far the policy recommendations may apply to non-American cities....but I suspect that many of the ideas could work abroad.
The report’s introduction explains the rationale behind the shareable city:
The sharing economy challenges core assumptions made in the 20th century planning and regulatory frameworks – namely, that residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural activities should be physically separated from one another, and that each single family household operates as an independent economic unit. The sharing economy brings people and their work back together through sharing, gifting, bartering, and peer-to-peer buying and selling. City governments can increasingly step into the role of facilitators of the sharing economy by designing infrastructure, services, incentives and regulations that factor in the social exchanges of this game-changing movement.