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Thread: Economic effects of design standards

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    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Economic effects of design standards

    Does anyone know of any studies documenting the economic effects of commercial design standards? Do they depress values as people don't want to go through the trouble of complying? Do they enhance values as the aesthetic quality of the area is improved and controlled? Anything? Anything at all?

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    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    I don't know of any studies, but have a PhD economist / professor friend that would jump on this topic.

    My short answer absent of a real study: It depends. In some affluent communities with strong markets, they can do good. In weaker communities or those at risk of annexation, they are a deterrent.

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    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet View post
    I don't know of any studies, but have a PhD economist / professor friend that would jump on this topic.
    You are authorized to turn him/her loose on this.

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    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    It would be an excellent study but I'm not sure how you hold a constant for comparison.

    For a community like Bar Harbor, imho, design standards are essential. We are a gateway community to a national park and we host literally millions of tourists every year. Our tax base is in the hotel industry. It makes sense, then, for us to care about how we look because we are the product to sell as the town. We compete now with off island towns, even Bangor, for hotel space so we have to stay competitive. The key for us, which is implied in your question, is to ensure our standards are not so cost-prohibitive that we push out business and feed our competition that can offer the same goods and services for less money.

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    Cyburbian
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    I gave a presentation at my alma mater earlier this week. One of the topics of discussion was design standards that I helped to create. An international student asked me if design standards help affordable housing. I responded that my consulting firm does not specialize in affordable housing, so I did not know the answer to that. What I didn't tell her is that the phrase "affordable housing" is somewhat of a buzz word, most developers don't really like to do it. Funny that an international planning student brought this up.

    None of our clients come from economically depressed areas, so I don't know the negative impacts of design standards. For average to above-average communities they indirectly raise the perceived value of the land. Conservation subdivision design standards, for instance, will have smaller lots with larger areas of open space. People are more willing to pay a higher price to have smaller lots in exhange for natural areas, bike paths, and a more neighborhood feel, and developers use this as a selling point. I think the primary intent of design standards is not to raise property values (you also run the risk of gentrifying an area) but to preserve/promote a desired character of the area).

    I am sure there is a direct relationship between design standards and economic impacts. With enough case studies, I imagine someone down the road could create formulas to determine the impacts of each improvement within the standards.

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