Skip to content

Livable Lesson: Equitable Development

Community design and development expert Christopher Coes explains how equity can guide the creation of better neighborhoods and cities

Christopher Coes

Photo Courtesy Smart Growth America

Christopher Coes in 2018 at a Smart Growth America event.

Countless communities throughout the United States are filled with car-centric, unwalkable downtowns and neighborhoods.

Transportation Equity

Department of Transportation


In January 2021, Christopher Coes was appointed by President Joe Biden to serve as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy. As part of the executive team reporting to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Coes and his colleagues will, according to an announcement from the U.S. Department of Transportation, "work toward economic recovery, racial equity, and combating climate change."

Such land use and development practices have undermined the health of residents, led to the social and economic isolation of many, and increased both transportation and housing costs, particularly for low-income and other underserved groups.

According to Christopher Coes, land use planners and real estate developers can spur economic growth that benefits a community without leaving anyone on the sidelines.

Now an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Transportation (see sidebar), Coes was previously the vice president of land use and development for Smart Growth America. While there, Coes was also the director of LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, the only nationally-focused real estate coalition dedicated to building and advocating for equitable, walkable neighborhoods throughout the United States.

In the two videos presented on this page, Coes defines and provides a framework for equitable development. He also explains how land use decisions impact public health, safety and the environment.

Watch the subject-specific videos below — or view both segments in one video. 


Lesson 1: Equitable Development

Learn about equitable development in the built environment. Christopher Coes explores how current approaches often negatively impact communities of color and low-income populations.   

Lesson 2: Place-Based Equitable Development Strategies

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to equitable community development. Working through an equitable development framework, however, can help determine which strategies will be the most useful, provide tools for accountability and help establish metrics for success.

Equitable Development: The Complete Collection

Watch both videos with a single click.

The videos on this page were created by an external organization so might not reflect AARP’s public policies or advocacy positions, which can be found in the AARP Policy Book.  

The videos were filmed in 2020 | Page published May 2021

Stay Informed

The weekly, award-winning AARP Livable Communities e-Newsletter provides local leaders with information and inspiration for making their town, city or neighborhood more livable for older adults and people of all agesSubscribe today!

Our Free Publications!

See the complete list at

Follow Us

Contact Us

  • Email AARP Livable Communities at

  • Ask about the AARP Livability Index by completing this online form.

  • AARP Members: For questions about your benefits, AARP The Magazine or the AARP Bulletin, visit the AARP Contact Us page or call 1-888-OUR-AARP (1-888-687-2277).