Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Smart growth costs quantified and a sprawl debate

A couple items today. First, an attempt to quantify "the costs of smart growth", by which they mean from housing supply restrictions that usually accompany most "smart growth" programs - whether or not that's the true spirit of the movement (it is often hijacked by no-growthers). Fortunately, according to this study, the cost penalty is generally not a problem in Texas. An excerpt from the Planetizen summary:

The report estimates that planning-induced housing shortages in more than fifty metropolitan areas penalized homebuyers by increasing housing costs by $100,000 to $850,000 per median home. In fifty more, costs are increased by $25,000 to $100,000.

More than 90 percent of the total $275 billion cost is in just twelve states (CA, NY, FL, NJ, MA, IL, WA, CT, AZ, CO, OR, MD) whose cities have the most restrictive land-use rules. The report recommends that those cities relax their rules and urges other cities not to adopt similar rules.

Second, an Orski op-ed on the continuing dispersion/sprawl trends in recent census stats. He talks about a Bruegman vs. Katz debate on sprawl and whether it's the result of natural human choice from affluence or the result of government policy distortions. I like the concluding paragraph:
Neither man saw the "smart growth" movement as having much influence on the future demographic patterns or playing much of a role in reshaping America's urban landscape. Absent from the discussion was the conundrum posed by Anthony Downs, senior economist at Brookings and echoed by David Brooks a columnist for the New York Times, two of the most astute observers of demographic trends. "The biggest factor influencing future population movements," wrote Downs, "is the projected addition of some 64 million people by 2020. It is hard to conceive that this population bulge could be fitted into already built-up areas where neighborhood opposition to increasing density already is fierce." ("Can We Tame Sprawl," Innovation Briefs, March/April 2002). Adjusting to this population bulge has already begun, noted David Brooks in an April 2004 article in the New York Times. "We are living in the age of the great dispersal," he wrote. "Americans continue to move from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West, but the truly historic migration is from the inner suburbs to the outer suburbs, to the suburbs of suburbia. From New Hampshire down to Georgia, across Texas to Arizona and up through California, you now have the booming exurban sprawls that have broken free of the gravitational pull of the cities and now float in a new space far beyond them." ("Our Sprawling, Supersize Utopia," The New York Times Sunday Magazine, April 4, 2004; see also, "The Age of the Great Dispersal," Innovation Briefs, May 2004). Note: Latest US Census Bureau data continues to show heavy domestic losses in the largest metropolitan areas. From 2000 to 2005, metropolitan areas over 5 million lost 2.7 million population through domestic migration. Metropolitan areas between 250,000 and 5,000,000 gained approximately the same amount. The heaviest domestic losses have been in the core counties. New York City has lost more than 800,000 residents or nearly 10 percent of its population since 2000. The city of San Francisco has lost more than 13 percent of its population. For a detailed analysis by county, see "Domestic Migration: US Metropolitan Areas: 2000-2005,"
As I've mentioned before, Houston is one of only three cities in the twelve 5m+ metros that are still attracting domestic migration, along with DFW and Atlanta.


At 10:30 PM, April 19, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obviously I don't have numbers, just emperical data, but it seems to me that sprawl will not continue indefinitely. Not because of interference, but because of market choices due to changes in demographics. New downtowns (Houston included) have been described on this blog as playgrounds for young professionals and empty nesters. These groups however are the rapidly growing demographics of the US. People are putting off marriage and children later and later (obviously the second has a limit), and empty nesters will only grow as golden age seniors enjoy better health and mobility.

Obviously the scale is not the same, but when I see that Perry Homes has 9 neighborhoods going up inside the loop it makes me think that at least a part of Houston is going to get dense.

Much as the drop in crime popularized certain demographics to move into the city like they have I think that school vouchers may eventually do the same thing. Instead of looking at some inner city school that is percieved to be horridly malfunctioning and dangerous one could choose amongst private schools with little to no out of pocket expense. Will this lead to a full stop on sprawl? Of course not, but it will change the way that Houston and other cities are carved up by market forces in the future.

At 10:31 PM, April 19, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I said emperical in the first sentence when I meant anecdotal. RJ's disease is contageous.

At 9:08 AM, April 20, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Houston's core will certainly densify, but I've heard numbers like: for every one empty nester moving into the core, nine are buying their suburban or exurban dream home.

At 9:43 AM, April 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Houston's core will certainly densify, but I've heard numbers like: for every one empty nester moving into the core, nine are buying their suburban or exurban dream home"

I agree with that kind of figure, but what was that ratio in 1985? I doubt it was 9:1, probably 50:1 because of rampant crime. Do you have any data on the trend of that ratio?

At 10:05 AM, April 20, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

> Do you have any data on the trend of that ratio?

Unfortunately I do not, but I agree: it is far better than it was 20 years ago, and may continue to improve, but I think it will always be much smaller than the suburban/exurban group.

>Why do you like the last paragraph?

Clarification: I don't necessarily like the trends, but I thought the paragraph made a lot of good points in not much space.

At 2:52 PM, April 20, 2006, Blogger Adam said...

A lot of the time, the discussion tends toward "what is THE right direction" and looking for individual, unified visions of growth.

I can think of two pretty good examples of city goal-setting that look for a mix of strategies. In Austin, less their 90's smart growth and hyper active zoning, but in the last three or four years, thir envision central texas proposal. Here in Houston, Mayor White is clearly pretty supportive if higher density intown development, suburban infarastructure maintenance, and filling the blank spots on the map in terms of development.

How can we start to talk about hitting the right MIX of strategies for an area, instead of just promoting density, sprawl, or whatnot?


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