Don’t Be Fooled: The Urban Movement Is Not Your Friend
Will at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen posted to this NY Times article, taking off on Chris Leinberger’s anti-suburb rant from 2008. He quotes this passage summing up the general attitude of disgust towards unregulated suburban sprawl:
Second, look at the cities with stable and recovering home markets. On this coast, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and San Diego come to mind. All of these cities have fairly strict development codes, trying to hem in their excess sprawl. Developers, many of them, hate these restrictions. They said the coastal cities would eventually price the middle class out, and start to empty.
It hasn’t happened. Just the opposite. The developers’ favorite role models, the laissez faire free-for-alls — Las Vegas, the Phoenix metro area, South Florida, this valley — are the most troubled, the suburban slums.
Come see: this is what happens when money and market, alone, guide the way we live.
Respectfully, this is a crock. I’m not sure what is meant by the statement that San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and San Diego have “stable” home markets. According to the 6th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, those markets have the 6th, 24th, 18th, and 13th most unaffordable housing markets in the world, respectively. This is undeniably the result of the artificially inflated values caused by over-exuberant regulators. If the foolhardy home borrowing/lending mess did not hit these markets as hard as the suburban markets, this is only because the foolhardy borrowers were more interested raising their families in a real home in a real community (see Joel Kotkin’s piece here, noting that “[o]ne recent University of California at Irvine study found that density does not, as is often assumed, increase social contact between neighbors or raise overall social involvement. For every 10 percent reduction in density, the chances of people talking to their neighbors increases by 10 percent, and their likelihood of belonging to a local club by 15 percent.”)
To suggest the regulators who price working families (particularly minorities, who have increased from 5% of the suburban population in 1970 to something like 27% today (see id.)) out of these markets have some sort of public service is pure rubbish.
[Wendell Cox just posted a more detailed analysis of Seatlle’s spike in housing unaffordability in the past decade due to smart growth regulations, and its particular impact on minorities.]
[The LandUseProf blog posted this same article. A couple of the comments offer interesting insight—that onerous regulations galvanized sprawl into unregulated markets in the first place, and that some markets, like Miami-Dade, Detroit, and Cleveland, all dense and highly regulated, were not spared the harsh effects of the bust.]