Elliott Sclar


Elliott Sclar is the Director Emeritus of CSUD and Professor emeritus of Urban Planning at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. He is a member of the senior faculty of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He was the founding director of CSUD.

An economist and urban planner Professor Sclar has written extensively about the strengths and limitations of markets as mechanisms for effective public policy implementation. His latest volume (2020), Zoning: A Guide for 21st Century Planning is a co-edited textbook that locates zoning in the larger political economy of urban development. His 2000 volume, You Don’t Always Get What You Pay For: The Economics of Privatization is a definitive critique of the limitations of privatization to supply public goods. It won two major academic prizes: the Louis Brownlow Award for the Best Book of 2000 from the National Academy of Public Administration and the 2001 Charles Levine Prize from the International Political Science Association for a major contribution to public policy literature. An earlier book, Access for All: Transportation and Urban Growth, (1980) co-authored with K.H. Schaeffer is considered seminal in transforming the discussion of urban transport from a discussion about mobility to one about access. 

Sclar was co-coordinator of the UN Millennium Project Taskforce on Improving the Lives of Slum Dwellers. It was one of the ten taskforces set up guide the implementation of the United Nation’s 2000 Millennium Development Goals. The Taskforce Report, A Home in the City (2005, Earthscan), of which he was one of the three lead authors, is now a standard reference on the challenge of transforming the informal urban settlements of the rapidly urbanizing world into healthy and vibrant homes. 

In November 2007 he received the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the International Society for Urban Health in recognition of his taskforce work. Dr. Sclar was a member of the Advisory Board of the Global Research Network on Human Settlements (HS-NET), UN-HABITAT and of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Urban Management. In 2018 Dr. Sclar was named one of 2018’s Responsible 100 by the media company City and State NY. The company “honors New York’s most outstanding responsible executives, thought leaders, visionaries and influencers who are setting new standards of excellence, dedication and leadership in improving their communities and making transformative change.” 


Elliott Sclar has been a leading figure in a scholarly movement to reconnect the work of population health experts and urban planners in creating healthier cities. One of the main challenges he sees is the need to begin to develop more precise measurements of built environment impacts on population health. 

Sclar is presently writing a history of race, urban planning and neighborhood change in metropolitan New York over the last 100 years.