Suburbs

Traffic Congestion, Time, Money & Productivity

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It is an old saying, but true as ever: “Time is money.” A company that can produce quality products in less time than its competitors is likely to be more profitable and productive. An urban area where employees travel less time to get to work is likely to be more productive than one where travel times are longer, all things being equal. Productivity is a principal aim of economic policy. Productivity means greater economic growth, greater job creation and less poverty.  read more »

Vertical Urban Farming? Pull Your Head from the Clouds

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Dickson D. Desposmmier, in a recent op-ed in the New York Times, argues that the world, faced with increasing billions of mouths to feed, will soon run out of land. According to Mr. Despommier, “the traditional soil-based farming model developed over the last 12,000 years will no longer be a sustainable option.”

Despommier’s answer to this ‘problem’: “move most farming into cities, and grow crops in tall, specially constructed buildings.” Such vertical farms, argues Despommier, would “revolutionize and improve urban life,” while also addressing issues such as agricultural runoff, air pollution, and carbon emissions.

To sophisticated urbanites with little or no exposure to agriculture, vertical farming may seem to present a sort of utopian panacea. But first one must look at the underlying problem Mr. Despommier claims to address: land shortages.  read more »

Hard Times In The High Desert

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The High Desert region north and east of Los Angeles sits 3,000 feet above sea level. A rough, often starkly beautiful region of scrubby trees, wide vistas and brooding brown mountains, the region seems like a perfect setting for an old Western shoot 'em up.

Today, it's the stage for a different kind of battle, one that involves a struggle over preserving the American dream. For years, the towns of the High Desert--places like Victorville, Adelanto, Hesperia, Barstow and Apple Valley--have lured thousands of working- and middle-class Californians looking for affordable homes.  read more »

Cookie Cutter Housing: Wrong Mix For Subdivisions

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Nobody likes the taste of “cookie cutter” development. In the forty years that I’ve been in the land planning industry, at meeting after meeting I hear planning commissioners and city council members complain about the same thing: That developers submit the same recipes to cook up bland subdivisions over and over.

But while the developers are the scapegoat, it’s those who sit on the council and planning commissions that are as much, if not more to blame. They are also the ones with the power to change the status quo.  read more »

Florida Drifts Into the Morass

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By Richard Reep

Regarding Florida’s new outmigration, “A lot of people are glad the merry-go-round has finally stopped. It was exhausting trying to keep up with 900 new people a day. Really, there is now some breathing room,” stated Carol Westmorland, Executive Director of the Florida Redevelopment Association at the Florida League of Cities. Now that surf and sand are officially unpopular, the urban vs. suburban development debate has caught developers and legislators in a freeze frame of ugly and embarrassing poses at local, regional, and state levels.  read more »

New Feudalism: Does Home Ownership Have a Future?

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In mid August, as we were beginning to feel a pulse in the nation’s housing market, an academician and housing expert from the University of Pennsylvania named Thomas J. Sugrue wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal proposing that, for many people, the new American Dream should be renting.  read more »

Do Home Energy Credits Need A Remodel?

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With the home building industry in peril, you would think that legislators would come up with immediate solutions to help foster new home construction. And there are now two well known Federal programs regarding housing: one is the $8,000 tax credit for first time home buyers, and the other is the 30% energy tax credit for a select few components of home remodeling.  read more »

Online Neighborhood: The Front Porch Forum

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Last summer, Sharon Owens had a problem. The Burlington, VT mother of three was trying to satisfy the wishes of her soon-to-be 14-year old daughter who wanted to celebrate her birthday with a canoe outing with friends. The problem was that renting the necessary canoes would have cost hundreds of dollars. Interestingly, it seemed that nearly ever other house in Sharon’s neighborhood had a canoe in the backyard, or parked under a tarp next to a garage. But Sharon, like many of us, did not know her neighbors, and felt uncomfortable asking them.  read more »

The New Industrial City

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Most American urban economic development and revitalization initiatives seek to position communities to attract high wage jobs in the knowledge economy. This usually involves programs to attract and retain the college educated, and efforts to lure corporate headquarters or target industries such as life sciences, high tech, or cutting edge green industries. Almost everything, whether it be recreational trails, public art programs, stadiums and convention centers, or corporate incentives, is justified by reference to this goal, often with phrases like “stopping brain drain” and “luring the creative class”.

The future vision underpinning this is a decidedly post-industrial one. This city of tomorrow is made up of people living upscale in town condos, riding a light rail line to work at a smartly designed modern office, and spending enormous sums – with the requisite sales tax benefits – entertaining themselves in cafes, restaurants, swanky shops, or artistic events.  read more »

Immigrants Are ‘Greening’ our Cities, How About Giving them a Break?

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Debate about immigration and the more than 38 million foreign born residents who have arrived since 1980 has become something of a national pastime. Although the positive impact of this population on the economy has been questioned in many quarters, self-employment and new labor growth statistics illustrate the increasingly important role immigrants play in our national economy.  read more »