Housing

The Evolving Urban Form: Shenzhen

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No urban area in history has become so large so quickly than Shenzhen (Note 1). A little more than a fishing village in 1979, by the 2010 census Shenzhen registered 10.4 million inhabitants. It is easily the youngest urban area to have become one of the world's 26 megacities (Figure 1). Most other megacities were the largest urban areas in their nations for centuries (such as London and Paris) and a few for more than a millennium (such as Istanbul and Beijing).  read more »

CNU20: New Urbanism's Young Adult Angst

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Possibly the most earnest folks in the real estate development industry assembled for the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Congress of the New Urbanism in West Palm Beach, Florida this month. Among the excellent accomplishments of CNU20 attendees: a credible car/pedestrian strategy, some fine looking new communities, and perhaps best of all, a body of hard-won knowledge about town-making for citizen education.  read more »

Smart-Growth and Smarter Technology

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If you’re an enviro-regulator with a mission, preventing “sprawl” has been ideologically trendy in recent decades. You have successfully predicated your argument on past-history soils-management technological inadequacy, it must be enormously threatening to look back and realize that technology has been gaining on you and is now capable (in engineering terms) and affordable (in end-user cost terms) of enabling just the sorts of rural development the majority of the market-for-housing wants, but you’ve been trying so hard to prevent: Currier-and-Ives-tradition large-lot houses in the countryside.  read more »

London’s Social Cleansing

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Unscrupulous landlords are forcing poorer tenants out of their London homes, freeing them up to rent out to visitors to the Olympics this summer, according to the housing charity Shelter. At the same time, the government’s cap on rent subsidies (Housing Benefits) for those out of work or on low incomes threaten to force less well-off tenants out of the capital. Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales says that they will have to move people as far afield as Stoke-on-Trent if they are to meet their obligations to house the homeless.  read more »

Homebuilding Recovery: A Zoning & Planning Overhaul

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Part III of the Recovery Blueprint for homebuilding. Defining good zoning and good planning, and a look at how social engineering plays in.

What exactly is ‘planning’?

It can be government creation of an Interstate Highway, or a city council vote on a new park. For the purposes of this blueprint, planning refers to the design of a new land development or a design for redevelopment. In both cases, the land plan is the developer's business plan. The design will either be positive or negative for the sustainability — long-term health — of the city.  read more »

The Export Business in California (People and Jobs)

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California Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg countered my Wall Street Journal commentary California Declares War on Suburbia in a letter to the editor (A Bold Plan for Sustainable California Communities) that could be interpreted as suggesting that all is well in the Golden State.  read more »

Homebuilding Recovery: How CAD Stifles Solutions

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The Recovery Blueprint is a multipart series on homebuilding. Part II addresses how a reliance on CAD software and a lack of collaboration stifle sustainable land development solutions.

The front cover of Engineering News-Record on March 12th, 2012 was about a technology survey conducted a few weeks earlier. Of 18 issues surveyed, the need for better software was mentioned most frequently. Under  read more »

Staying the Same: Urbanization in America

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The recent release of the 2010 US census data on urban areas (Note 1) shows that Americans continue to prefer their lower density lifestyles, with both suburbs and exurbs (Note 2) growing more rapidly than the historic core municipalities.  This may appear to be at odds with the recent Census Bureau 2011 metropolitan area population estimates, which were widely mischaracterized as indicating exurban (and suburban) losses and historical core municipality gains.  read more »

Homebuilding: Recovery & Red Tape

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The Recovery Blueprint is a multipart series of articles that offers suggestions on how to recover from the homebuilding recession.

Since the recession began, there haven't been any significant changes in how regulations could be improved to energize the housing market and foster innovation. Three areas where big regulation changes are needed? Environmental subsidies, density requirements, and zoning laws.  read more »

California Declares War on Suburbia II: The Cost of Radical Densification

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My April 9 Cross Country column commentary in The Wall Street Journal (California Declares War on Suburbia) outlined California's determination to virtually outlaw new detached housing. The goal is clear:    force most new residents into multi-family buildings at 20 and 30 or more to the acre.  read more »