Planning

The Private Business of Public Art

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Like many cities coming out of the downturn, Orlando is jonesing for a recovery. To promote a sense of new prosperity, City Hall leaders recently added eight works of art to its downtown core, amidst much fanfare. Before we start whistling “Happy Days Are Here Again,” however, we would do well to examine the circumstances of this renewed interest in public art. Its surprising return was trumpeted as a new way to enrich the city and benefit its residents; many, including this author, applauded the effort. This has certainly happened. But has the result been a barrier, as much as a connection, to its citizenry?  read more »

Affordable Housing in Suburbia

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Like many older suburbs in high priced regions, Long Island faces two great crises: a loss of younger residents and a lack of affordable housing for the local workforce, including those employed as nurses, teachers and other professionals.  read more »

Fighting the Vacant Property Plague

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The term 'walking away from the property' usually refers to owners who leave a home when they can't make the mortgage payments. In Youngstown, Ohio, it may gain a new meaning: to describe banks that abandon a vacant property in foreclosure, and leave neighbors to cope with the blight. Now banks that walk away from their properties are being reigned in by a local community organization.  read more »

Urban Containment and the Housing Bubble in Ireland

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Economist Colm McCarthy says that urban containment policy played a major role in the formation of the housing bubble. In a commentary in the Sunday Independent, Ireland’s leading weekend newspaper, McCarthy relates how urban planning regulations led to higher house prices in the Dublin area (Note 1).  read more »

American Cities May Have Hit 'Peak Office'

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Despite some hype and a few regional exceptions, the construction of office towers and suburban office parks has not made a significant resurgence in the current recovery. After a century in which office space expanded nationally with every uptick in the economy, we may have reached something close to “peak office” in most markets.  read more »

Bridges Boondoggle, Portland Edition

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A couple weeks ago I outlined how the Ohio River Bridges Project in Louisville had gone from tragedy to farce. Basically none of the traffic assumptions from the Environmental Impact Statements that got the project approved are true anymore. According to the investment grade toll study recently performed to set toll rates and sell bonds, total cross river traffic will be 78,000 cars (21.5%) less than projected in the original FEIS.  read more »

Cities and Sustainability: Is Intensification Good Policy?

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This post examines the idea that we can promote sustainability by increasing the densities of large cities around their centres.  This compact city paradigm presumes that we can reshape the consumption of citizens in environmentally benign ways by reshaping the cities they live in.    read more »

You Say You Want A (Metropolitan) Revolution?

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[Book Review] The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy, by Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley. 2013, Brookings Focus Book

It's now decades after deindustrialization, and several years since the Great Recession supposedly ended. Yet too many American cities are still struggling to recover from the losses of jobs, population, taxes, and identities. Detroit’s declaration of bankruptcy in July drew new attention to the problem, and it helped fuel the extensive marketing campaign  read more »

“Unblocking Constipated Planning” in New Zealand

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One of the National Party’s principal objectives since coming to power in New Zealand has been to address that nation’s terribly deteriorated housing affordability problem.  Deputy Prime Minister Bill English explained the problem in his Introduction to the 9th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey:  read more »

Health, Happiness, and Density

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The proponents of currently fashionable planning doctrines favouring density promulgate a variety of baseless assertions to support their beliefs. These doctrines, which they group under the label of “Smart Growth”, claim, among other things, that from a health and sustainability perspective, the need to increase population densities is imperative.

With regard to health these high-density advocates have seized upon the obesity epidemic as a reason to advocate squeezing the population into high-density. This is based on a supposition that living in higher densities promotes greater physical activity and thus lower levels of obesity.  They quote studies that show associations between suburban living and higher weight with its adverse health implications. But the weight differences found are minor – in the region of 1 to 3 pounds. Nor do the studies show it is suburban living that has caused this.  read more »