I'm working on an article describing why NU is nonexistent in Buffalo, and rare in the Great Lakes region: "No NUs in Buffalo: Why The Rust Belt Rejects New Urbanism". A summary of the major reasons I think NU is not part of the planning and development picture in the region:
* Negative associations with urban-like built environments are still stuck in the heads of much of an insular and aging population, thanks to lots of cultural baggage left over from years of decline, flight, and racial tensions.
* Very low land values offer no incentive for compact development. Developers can build $200K houses on 1/2 acre lots and still make a tidy profit.
* Outdated zoning codes often have no PUD requirements, or mandate very low maximum densities in PUDs and even multi-family districts. We're talking about codes that still mention telegraph offices and haberdasheries.
* Conservative local developers and builders are leery of straying from a "tried and true" formula of single family houses on large lots in a cul-de-sac filled subdivision. There's nothing on the ground in the area, so they're leery of being the guinea pig for NU.
* Conservative lenders/bankers. See the above.
* Land ownership/platting pattern: there are few large parcels available for a good-sized NU development, and it's very difficult to acquire and agglomerate smaller parcels.
* Possible cries of NIMBY because of the much smaller lot sizes associated with NU are likely. The small lot suburban development (5,000-6,000'^2 lots) that is the norm in California, Colorado and the Sunbelt is rare or nonexistent in post-1960 Rust Belt suburbia; those in the Rust Belt aren't accustomed to the sight of higher density suburbs. In the eyes of many, small lot sizes = cheaper houses and more intensive traffic.
* In New York state, there is the possibility of opposition from local governments if developed as single-family condominiums, due to lower property tax rates.
* There is widespread belief that cities should copy the built environment of its suburbs. The roots of this may be a spurious relationship logical fallacy. "Amherst is growing. Amherst is dominated by low-density residential development. Therefore, Amherst is growing because it is dominated by low-density residential development on winding drives and cul-de-sacs. For Buffalo to grow, it needs to be more like Amherst, and have plenty of low-density residential development in loop-and-lollypop subdivisions too."
* Desperate local officials have low expectations and a fear of scaring developers away from their communities by asking for more than the bare minimum. "Any development is better than no development."
* Perceptions of design limitations; not just the usual concerns about emergency vehicles but also about snow storage.
What do you think? If you're in the American Rust Belt, why do you think New Urbanism and traditional neighborhood development has been slow to take off there?