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A DISTINCTION BETWEEN PUBLIC AND PRIVATE PLANNING

It is true that public planning and nonpublic planning, such as that done by corporations, have much in common. However, there is at least one important difference. Public planning is often more difficult than private planning, and its results may sometimes appear to be less rational. The reason is very simple. Public planning must usually satisfy many different ends, some of which may be in conflict with one another. Private planning, very often, is directed toward satisfying a single or a very small number of ends. It thus often admits of more coherent solutions.

Consider the builder who is planning to build an apartment house. He or she is likely to have one major goal: profit.2 No one reasonably expects a builder to consider the effect of one building on the city as a whole. Society has formulated a variety of rules regarding zoning, construction standards, taxation, and the like. Within these rules the builder is free to follow his or her own interests.

Now consider a public body that is building housing. It has cost and revenue estimates to make, as does the private builder. But it has numerous goals to consider that the private builder does not. How does the project affect community goals regarding integration? How will the project affect the process of gentrification? If the project involves demolition, where will the residents of the soon-to-be-demolished housing live? How does the rent structure of the project square with what is known about the income distribution of the city's population? And so on.

There is also the political imperative. The public body operates in the open and is accountable to the entire body politic of the city—voters, labor unions, neighborhood groups, civic groups, tenant organizations, landlord organizations, ad infinitum. The plan that the public body finally settles on must satisfy many of these groups. The plan does not have to have something for everybody, but it must have something for a number of parties if it is to have a chance of survival.

 
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