Housing

Welcome to Ecotopia

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In this era of tea-partying revolutionary-era dress-ups, one usually associates secessionism with the far right. But if things turn sour for the present majority in Washington, you should expect a whole new wave of separatism to emerge on the greenish left coast.

In 1975 Ernest Callenbach, an author based in Berkeley, Calif., published a sci-fi novel about enviro-secessionists called Ecotopia; a prequel, Ecotopia Rising, came out in 1981. These two books, which have acquired something of a cult following, chronicle--largely approvingly--the emergence of a future green nation along the country's northwest coast.  read more »

The Heavy Price of Growth Management in Seattle

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The University of Washington Study: Economist Theo Eicher of the University of Washington has published research indicating that regulation has added $200,000 to house prices in Seattle between 1989 and 2006. Eicher told the Seattle Times that “Seattle is one of the most regulated cities and a city whose housing prices are profoundly influenced by regulations.”  read more »

Land Planning: Put Tech and Team on The Same Page

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Technological advances allow Civil Engineering and Land Surveying professionals to perform, in minutes, tasks that would have taken days or weeks before computer usage became widespread. I have been fortunate to have been part of the technology industry from its humble beginnings. In the 1960s, working for a Land Planning firm, I began inventing devices to reduce the time it took to draft plans. These contraptions would hang on the wall, jokingly labeled Rickometer1, Rickometer2, etc. My systems allowed me to get the plans out faster, but the designs were no better because of these devices.

Fast forward four decades and nothing has changed.  read more »

Atlanta: Ground Zero for the American Dream

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The Atlanta area has much to be proud of, though it might not be obvious from the attitudes exhibited by many of its most prominent citizens. For years, local planners and business leaders have regularly trekked to planning’s Holy City (Portland) in hopes of replicating its principles in Atlanta. They would be better saving their air fares.  read more »

The Gero-Economy Revs Up

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Green jobs? Great. Gray jobs? Maybe an even better bet for the new jobs bill. If there is a single graphic that everyone concerned with the nation’s future should have tattooed on their eyeballs, my vote goes to the one on your left. Here is its central message:

Forty years from now, one out of four Americans will be 65 or older.

Twenty million will be over 85.

One million will be over 100.  read more »

Our Exurban Future and the Ecological Footprint

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‘How shall we live?’ is a question that naturally concerns architects, planners, community representatives and all of us. It is a question that turns on the density of human settlements, the use of resources and the growing division of labour.  read more »

The Fed: Reappoint Captain Smith?

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The debate surrounding the re-appointment of Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve (the Fed) is not without historical parallel.

Just recall the RMS Titanic: It was April 14, 1912, when White Star’s “unsinkable” RMS Titanic, the largest and newest passenger liner in the world, was steaming from Southampton and Ireland to New York. The ship was traveling through a part of the North Atlantic where icebergs had been reported.  read more »

Housing Unaffordability as Public Policy: The New Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey

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The just released 6th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey shows some improvement in housing affordability, especially in the United States and Ireland but a continuing loss of housing affordability, especially in Australia.  read more »

Phoenix, Put Aside Dreams of Gotham

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Now that Phoenix's ascendancy has been at least momentarily suspended, its residents are no doubt wondering what comes next. One tendency is to say the city needs to grow up and become more like East Coast cities or Portland, Ore., with dense urban cores and well-developed rail transit. The other ready option is always inertia - a tendency to wait for things to come back the way they were.

Neither approach will work in the long run.  read more »

Suburbs & Cul-de-Sacs: Is The Romance Over?

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The Virginia Department of Transportation does not like cul-de-sacs. You know, those little circles that suburban home dwellers worship so much and pay a premium to be located on? Under its regulations, all new subdivisions must have only through streets. Essentially, no more cul-de-sacs. Getting rid of these desirable dead-ends, according to the DOT, will improve safety and accessibility for emergency vehicles.  read more »