Homebuilding: Recovery & Red Tape

Red Tape Tools.jpg

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.

Environmental Incentives: Repeating the mistakes of the Carter era, federal and state governments have thrown vast sums of tax money at ‘green’ solutions likely to fail. A massive amount of our nation’s total energy use seeps out of inefficient housing, draining families of income at a time when they can least afford it. The subsidization of inefficient construction that incorporates energy saving alternatives is as flawed today as it was 25 years ago. Federal and state credits allow funding for improvements such as insulation, solar panels, wind generation, geothermal systems, and the like. These tax credits have to be balanced against taxes paid by families who are barely surviving this recession, if they are still in their homes making mortgage payments.

Who benefits? Not the mortgage companies that repossess energy inefficient homes. Not the families in traditional homes burdened with high energy costs. Only those wealthy enough to need tax breaks can benefit. But a household at the income level where it makes financial sense to upgrade an existing home can easily afford the upgrade without burdening the already overtaxed public.

In a low income, possibly downtrodden neighborhood, upgrading a home for energy efficiency results in an expense (even after tax breaks) not likely to be recovered at the sale of the home. It would make more sense to use the same amount of funds to replace older, inefficient homes with new construction. New construction essentially replaces homes with the least efficient HVAC (heating/ventilation/ air conditioning) and insulation with new ones that operate the most efficient systems. But new construction gets almost no tax benefits; only geothermal or solar systems on new construction are subsidized. Does that make sense?

Density Targets: Making funds available to cities on the condition that certain higher densities are met is not a solution, either. What I hear most often is that we need to provide high-density housing and public transportation so that poor people can get to their jobs, assuming, of course, that all people of low income work downtown.

Are multi-billion dollar light rail projects and heavily subsidized low-income high-rise towers justified by such rhetoric? A low-income family on the 6th floor of a high-density building will not have the same quality of living or the pride-of-place that a home with a yard would provide. Travel dependent on a train or bus schedule does not offer the independence of owning a vehicle and travelling on one’s own schedule. Travel by foot or bike makes perfect sense for some of those who live in San Diego, but in the rest of the world those alternatives are viable only for the few nice weather days.

When the recession began, urban architects and planners celebrated the death of the suburbs and the coming advent of an urban rebirth. While the suburbs were certainly hard hit, urban areas did not receive the expected mass migration.

There is a myth that sprawl was the result of large lots and low density in the suburbs. Over the past 20 years, the firm I founded has planned over 730 developments in 46 States and 15 countries. I would estimate the average density of our suburban developments at between four and five units per useable acre. Today’s suburban development must preserve wetlands, steep slopes, wooded areas, and most often contain a minimum percentage of the site in open space. None of those requirements were in place when our core cities were built. One simply gridded streets through swamps (the previous term for wetlands) and bulldozed slopes and woodlands. Had our existing core cities been built under today’s regulations, they would likely sprawl 30% or more beyond the areas they currently occupy.

Density targets that must be hit in order to receive government financial assistance not only doesn't increase the quality of lower income life, it doesn't result in more sustainable and affordable cities. Instead, most funding has resulted in displacing low-income neighborhoods with gentrified, wealthy development. Many of these projects were initial financial failures. The next developer — the one who picked up the project at bargain prices — realized the profit. Successful, affordable urban redevelopment remains elusive.

Ordinances & Codes: The designer of any development, suburban or urban, will squeeze every inch out of the site to stay within the most minimal dimensions allowed by local ordinances. This effort to maximize the client’s profits can only result in monotonous, cookie-cutter development.

Many city planning boards have been manipulated into believing the illusion that a ‘forms based' or ‘smart-code’ approach is a solution. These new regulations simply increase the number of minimum standards, and restrict innovative solutions. What a ‘forms based' or ‘smart' code does accomplish is to significantly increase the consulting income of the firm that promotes this alternative.

Many engineers and architects base their fees on a percentage of the final construction costs. A consultant who charges on a percentage of infrastructure costs has an incentive to introduce excessive sewer pipes, retaining walls, or other non-needed construction. A fee structure based upon increased profit derived on the least efficient design is a huge roadblock to developing sustainable cities.

Innovations in land development and in methods of design now allow a reduction of both environmental and economic impact from 15% to over 50%, compared to conventional or New Urban planning methods. While these new methods take more time and effort to design, the reward is more attractive, affordable, and functional neighborhoods.

What's the blueprint for better planning? For starters, two ideas: government aid should be based on a ‘plan’ showing how the resulting development will enhance the living standards, and not be tied only to density levels. And agencies should reward contracts to the consultant with the best solution. This means creating a financial mechanism to increase – not decrease — profitability for sustainable planning and engineering solutions that require the least amount of construction costs.

Photo by Stripey Anne: "I am an NHS Bureaucrat…These, dear friends, are the tools of my trade: red tape, pen, ink…"

Rick Harrison is President of Rick Harrison Site Design Studio and Neighborhood Innovations, LLC. He is author of Prefurbia: Reinventing The Suburbs From Disdainable To Sustainable and creator of Performance Planning System. His websites are rhsdplanning.com and pps-vr.com.



















Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Civil constructions

Nice post!!
In your post you said about Sewer installation.You are right, as far as my view is concerned i have seen that many civil contractors charges its fee on the basis of final construction cost which includes plumber sunshine coast, water main installations, storm water drainage.

great post

Chlorella Chlorella Phylum Chlorophyta

This is a tough product to utilize, because the best use of it is pretty much looking at yourself with more "hair" in the bathroom mirror after you put it on. I haven't used this cartridge yet but it shipped timely and is a oem product so i don't expect any problems. I published some photos to show the effect. This is my first serger so I'm learning how it works. Spirulina Dosis Tinggi http://www.afrdh.org/3001/spirulina-zrob-sobie-krem/
I used this at home for a few weeks before we left on vacation. The diet really works and the book not only gives the how to and recipes, it gives the scientific information to back up the evidence. This product was a lifesaver for me when I had surgery on my foot. Where Can You Get Chlorella http://www.afrdh.org/1/chlorella/ What Is Chlorella Vitamin

AC

Ac repair Ontario TApe is the material of JOined the some soft things.Like as a Cover paper,soft Plastic material, e.t.c.It has made by many type .Many different type tapes have different color like as a : _white, black brown etc..

Awesome things here

A good informative post that you have shared and thankful your work for sharing the information. Got some entertaining information and would like to give it a try. Appreciate your work and keep sharing your information. Call Girls

kravmagaofalbrightsville

Krav MagaFormality is unnecessary regulation or inflexible adaptability to formal decides that is recognized repetitive or bureaucratic and obstructs or avoids activity or choice making. It is as a rule connected to governments, companies, and other vast conglomerations.

I enjoyed reading through

I enjoyed reading through this publish. This became truly very helpful site. I truly enjoyed what sort of written content had been published. I will be content to help save this web site in to our folder. Many thanks! The way you express yourself is awesome.Hey, your blog is great.. - Online Booking Hotel di Semarang

Travel by foot or bike makes

Travel by foot or bike makes perfect sense for some of those who live in San Diego, but in the rest of the world those alternatives are viable only for the few nice weather days. cell phone spy software
cell phone spyware

underground drainage pipe -

underground drainage pipe - Our position as one of the leading independent distributors of pipeline materials to the trade has been built on a commitment to customer service.

This is quite informative

This is quite informative Environmental subsidies, density requirements, and zoning laws.

Regards,
Woodworking Power Tools For Sale

Awesome!! I really like this

Awesome!! I really like this subject. It really grabs my interest onto it. I will bookmark this website as it is an santury of knowledge. - hotel bandungan

Door stops - Home

Door stops - Home Accessories & unique gift ideas for the contemporary & design led home including vintage home & decor accessories, stylish home kitchen accessories, Homeware ideas vintage furniture, Home & Garden decor.

replacement vertical blinds

replacement vertical blinds - Buy replacement vertical blinds slats online, 89mm and 127mm slats in many shades including whites,cream and with blackout properties.

The Recovery Blueprint is a

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 manga comic 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.
Environmental Chihayafuru 2 watch online Incentives: Repeating the mistakes of the Carter era, federal and sta

alat pemadam api : I agree

alat pemadam api : I agree with you

Great post.Thank you for taking the time to posting this information very helpfull!. I discovered so many interesting things inside your blog especially.

best cupcake melbourne :

best cupcake melbourne : Greetings from Idaho! I'm bored to tears at work so I decided to browse your website on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the knowledge you present here and can't wait to take a look when I get home. I'm surprised at how quick your blog loaded on my phone .. I'm not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, great site!

check out here

Thank you pertaining to giving this excellent content on your web-site. I discovered it on Hotel Semarang. I may check back again if you publish extra articles..

I appreciate you sharing

I appreciate you sharing this blog post.Really looking forward to read more.Great.

web design company