October 2009 Archives

New EPA Tool for Sustainable Urban Development

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At the White House Urban Affairs sustainable communities forum, Administrator Jackson unveiled a new EPA tool to help local governments identify specific zoning code and land use ordinance fixes that would improve access to affordable housing, provide additional low-cost transportation options, preserve community character, and protect the local environment. This tool is available at http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/essential_fixes.htm.

The EPA tool include 11 "essential fixes "

1. Allow or require mixed-use zones
2. Use urban dimensions in urban places
3. Rein in and reform the use of planned unit developments (PUDs)
4. Fix parking requirements
5. Increase density and intensity in town and city centers
6. Modernize street standards
7. Enact standards that foster walkable places
8. Designate and support preferred growth areas and development sites
9. Manage stormwater with green infrastructure
10. Adopt smart annexation policies
11. Encourage appropriate development densities on the edge

Please select at least one of the "essential fixes" and elaborate on how they can help us reach the heart of the sustainability prism and which type of conflicts the "fix(es)" may mitigate.  Please also point out caveats of your selected "fix(es)". 

No Blogging Request for the next class. 
Created by Our Guest Blogger Justin Dahlheimer

Did planners cause the housing bubble?  The Cato Institute's resident rabble rouser, Randal O'Toole, thinks so. In his latest of many shots at the discipline of planning, - "How Urban Planners Caused the Housing Bubble," (PDF Link Here) O'Toole blames a historically bad housing market solely on planners.

At the core of O'Toole's argument is a discussion over the impacts of growth management policies (i.e. Oregon's urban growth boundaries) on the supply of housing.  O' Toole argues that growth management policies restrict the supply of housing so much so that housing prices inflate.  Citing housing prices in states without growth management policies, he contends that housing bubbles were avoided because the supply of housing was able to respond to the housing demand.

O' Toole is able to focus sole blame on growth management by finding that nearly all housing bubble states (using questionable methodology, especially in the case of Nevada) have growth management policies. "Housing prices bubbled in 16 states, virtually all of which has some sort form of growth management," claims O'Toole.

While this is not the first (and last) time someone has argued growth management leads to increased housing prices, it is a novel attempt to pin the blame of the housing bubble and foreclosure crisis on planning. Most other explanations of the housing bubble and subsequent foreclosure crisis point toward lax mortgage lending standards and an over-speculative real estate market.  

Keeping in mind that O'Toole is specifically criticizing growth management, not land use regulation in general, answer the following question: Is O'Toole's optimal scenario (no limits on growth) the best way to keep housing affordable and prevent communities from foreclosures resulting from volatile housing prices?  

In your response, you may want to consider some elements O'Toole does not discuss in his article:

  • Rental prices have remained stable, and are even falling in cities
  • The fiscal impacts of sprawl
  • Many urban areas, specifically in the Southwest (with and without growth management policies), over built their housing stock, leaving numerous developments empty
  • Whether the housing market is a perfect market absent growth management policies
  • Homeownership rates in growth management states vs non-growth management states (Go here)

No Blogging Request in Week #6

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In Week #6, each group will deliver a powerpoint presentation on plan evaluation.  Good luck!
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