Homebuilding Rebound… Or Boredom in the Burbs?

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The economy might come back – but will the housing market return? And in what form?

Right now, builders are jumping into the low end of the market because of the $8,000 first time home buyer tax credit. This tax credit cannot survive indefinitely. Compared to homes sold in 2006, today's are bare bones in size, materials and finishes in response to current, temporary market conditions. But the scrimping only makes the homes built in yesterday’s developments more attractive to potential buyers. The next wave of home buyers will have a choice: stay where they are, move to a more recently built (devalued) home, or buy new.  read more »

How Smart Growth Disadvantages African-Americans & Hispanics


It was more than 45 years ago that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. enunciated his “Dream” to a huge throng on the Capitol Mall. There is no doubt that substantial progress toward ethnic equality has been achieved since that time, even to the point of having elected a Black US President.

The Minority Home Ownership Gap: But there is some way to go. Home ownership represents the core of the “American Dream” that was certainly a part of Dr. King’s vision. Yet, there remain significant gap in homeownership by ethnicity.  read more »

The Crisis of Academic Urban Planning


A wide gulf has opened up between mainstream Australian values and the prescriptions of our urban planning academics. So much so that the latter are at risk of degenerating into a cult. While it’s usually unfair to criticise a group in generalised terms, there are ample grounds in this case. Anyone who doubts the existence of an urban planning “establishment” in and around the Australian university system, and that it’s in thrall to ultra-green groupthink, should revisit some recent correspondence to our newspapers.  read more »

Losing Touch With the Changing Definition of "Community"


Mathew Taunton opens his review of “The Future of Community – Reports of a Death Greatly Exaggerated” (Note 1) with the observation that:

“Community is one of the most powerful words in the language, and perhaps because of this it is frequently misused. A profoundly emotive word, it is also a coercive one, and a key political buzzword in modern times. That community is being eroded in modern Britain is a matter of cross-party consensus, and it is also widely agreed that one of the state’s roles is to devise means of counteracting the decline of communities.”  read more »

Traffic Congestion, Time, Money & Productivity


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


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


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


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?


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 »