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Affordable Housing & Sprawl

djmadnan

Member
Messages
9
Points
0
Hey All,
I work for a non-profit organization on Long Island, and one of their main tenets is that urban sprawl begets an affordable housing problem. I had to read a paper which basically countered the opposite - and as we all know, the charge against UGBs like Portland's is that they drive up the cost of living and squeeze out affordable housing.
How can it be both?
Obviously, when people began departing cities for exclusive bedroom communites they zoned out multifam housing and poor people. On LI, it remains this way for the most part, as towns and residents are independently wealthy and shun development, commercial or residential. With the lack of any available land in this region, as we have a natural UGB of sorts, prices have skyrocketed. You can't find a studio for less than $1000 a month anywhere in the NYC boros or LI. In the poorest census place on LI, the median house value is $275,000. A 1BR 600 sq. ft. co-op (God forbid you can find an actual condo) apartment in a decent neighborhood of Queens or Brooklyn runs between $200 and $400k. Our housing cost is approx. 4 times the national average.

It's amazing how someone as anti-growth as me has flipped top-to bottom supporting any kind of growth and development! I'm looking to places like Atlanta for guidance!

Any opinions on the matter? What is the key to keeping housing prices down? Expand supply? How does Europe keep prices reasonable with relatively little growth?

Any insights welcome.

-djmadnan
 

pete-rock

Cyburbian
Messages
1,550
Points
24
Good question.

I think it's mostly because in the US we generally have a "top-down" system of creating housing supply. There's not much effort (and usually little incentive) for developers to create housing at more affordable levels. Typically, "affordable" housing supply is created when people who have the means to move trade up and sell to someone else, who is also trading up, and so on, and so on...

Developers can argue that a sprawled, virtually unregulated environment provides little incentive to build affordable housing. They can also argue that highly regulated UGBs drives land prices up and keeps them from building affordable housing.
 

green lizard

Member
Messages
133
Points
6
I have done some studies on Urban Growth Boundries and
their affect on a number of things. I went to places like
Portland to see their UGB and transit and other stuff. (Nice
place, and very compact) So here goes...

UGB are a must. Even though Portland has expanded it's
UGB 52 (+-) in the last 10 years and pepole make some good
cash beating the UGB for development, it is still a must. Here
in South Florida there is constant pressure to bust the Growth Boundry to the west (into the Everglades). I see it as a last
protection for some environs under overwelming develpmental
pressures. Not everywhere needs a UGB. UGBs will not ever be
a totally fixed line. But they will force infill.

Now the bad news (sort of). The UGBs do effect affordable housing stock. But so do other development pressures. There
is some reasearch to show that as the jobs/housing inbalance
grows, market pressures will compensate, sometimes by
forcing companies to go elsewhere for affordable employees.
So what must places do is require that X number of affordable
housing units are built along with any X number of unaffordable
housing units. (problem is that in South Florida affordable
housing is like 170 thousand $$$)

But forcing the developer by ratio to build affordable housing
seems to be a workable solution.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
I think the answer to both is simple because it's the same answer.

UGB's drive up the cost of housing because it drives up the cost of land by creating an artificial shortage.

Sprawl is created by an artificial separation of uses and drives up the price of land by creating an artificial shortage. todays suburbs, by design, use 5 to 20 times more land than pre-war suburbs to accomodate the same amount of housing and retail/office space.
 

Seabishop

Cyburbian
Messages
3,838
Points
25
You’ve got quite a battle ahead of you. Long Island has zoned itself into an being extremely unaffordable place. It’s a shame that in an area so geographically constrained people back in the day saw no problem with covering just about the whole island with such low density uses. Its also a shame because some of the traditional waterfront villages (Port Jeff) are so nice. Have people proposed increasing densities in these types of traditional areas?

My cynical take is that an urban growth boundary would be supported by people in the Hamptons who just want to channel growth somewhere else – its not like this is some midwestern city surrounded by farmland.

My guess is that no affordable housings proposals would be welcomed because 1) Long Island is such a stong example of people escaping the city, and 2) Residents would fear millions of people currently in NYC who might “invade” the island if given the chance . . . and they might be right because LI is only one part of a very expensive metro area 3) People in both the historic villages and the more modern suburbs will want to preserve the characters of their areas at all costs and will resist urbanization. Affordability is not a perceived as a problem for those already living there.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
Nassau County is already "urban" as is most of western Suffolk.

I just don't like the terminology. I think we need a common language.

In the northeast if you don't live in the central city then you live in the suburbs no matter how dense your neighborhood is. It seems like in most of the rest of the country if you can walk anywhere then you live in "the city"

So IMHO infill development in existing suburbs, teardowns, etc. don't constitute "urbanizing" an area. Unless you're making every neighborhood mixed-use you're just making the suburbs more dense.
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,463
Points
29
And, just making the suburbs more dense does nothing more than increasing the Ford Excursions/Square Mile ratio -and does nothing more than increase traffic congestion.

That's one thing that Richard Carson has right. You can build all the townhouses and faux "town centers" you want, but the average suburbanite will still choose to drive everywhere.
 

Budgie

Cyburbian
Messages
5,270
Points
30
Growth Management and Housing Affordability

Here's a couple of papers that may shed some light to the dichotomy of housing affordability and growth management.

http://www-agecon.ag.ohio-state.edu/class/AEDE680/Irwin/pdf/ugb_price_effects.pdf

http://www.smartgrowth.org/pdf/epa_ah-sg.pdf

I personally think that with the right combination of density, inclusionary zoning, rent subsidies, job housing balance and Location Efficient Mortgages (see Patrick Hare's Viewpoint in this months Planning Magazine), affordable housing can be achieved. As with most things in planning, examples of a cooridnated strategy that implements regulatory, policy and fiscal approaches are hard to find.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
BKM said:
And, just making the suburbs more dense does nothing more than increasing the Ford Excursions/Square Mile ratio -and does nothing more than increase traffic congestion.

That's one thing that Richard Carson has right. You can build all the townhouses and faux "town centers" you want, but the average suburbanite will still choose to drive everywhere.
I agree completely with the first part but i disagree that the second part is even a problem.

If a household's VMT goes from 60 miles a day to 30 miles a day you've just given yourself a 50% reduction in VMT - if they're staying off the arterials that's even better.

I think that driving everywhere is a habit that will take a generation to break but really it doesn't matter how often people hop in their car. How far they are driving is what matters.

. . . but as long as dodge commercials begin with "Want power? REAL POWER?!" People will continue to car shop.
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,463
Points
29
Certainly, reducing VMT is an important goal. I'm not sure you will be reducing localized congestion, though, particularly if the town center attracts shoppers and employees from outside the denser enclave. People react to that localized congestion.

My problem with the whole jobs-housing balance issue is that most middle class families are now two-income households. Even if, say, the husband is able to find a housing unit near his job, it is often likely that the wife will have to commute. Or, they will choose a midpoint location and each commute outward.

But, this is getting off topic so. . .And, you are right about needing generations to change habits.
 

green lizard

Member
Messages
133
Points
6
jresta said:
I
I think that driving everywhere is a habit that will take a generation to break but really it doesn't matter how often people hop in their car. How far they are driving is what matters.
A habit... like smoking... or gambling.....
a habit to break....

Sounds like we will make driving a morality issue...

And I know you love to make that aurgument.

Maby a thread on the morality of driving would be
a good place for the same old aurgument.

(Can you feel the fire?)
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,463
Points
29
Well, gluttony is a sin in most religious traditions. One could easily argue that excess driving is gluttony. :)
 

green lizard

Member
Messages
133
Points
6
BKM said:
Well, gluttony is a sin in most religious traditions. One could easily argue that excess driving is gluttony. :)
BKM,
Do you actully have a job and do work? You seem to be
here all the time!

Excess driving, yes. How will we decide what is
excessive? If I am old and feeble, do I get to drive
more than when I am young and able to ride a bike?

(before I take to much fire, I agree that as a nation we
drive to much. I just want to hear resonable ideas on
changing this. I don't think the morality route will work.
Fire away!)
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,463
Points
29
Hey, I do post too much :) Its a good break from when I am bored with something I am working on.

But, I am not even in the top ten!

I was kidding about driving as gluttony.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
BKM said:
Certainly, reducing VMT is an important goal. I'm not sure you will be reducing localized congestion, though, particularly if the town center attracts shoppers and employees from outside the denser enclave. People react to that localized congestion.

My problem with the whole jobs-housing balance issue is that most middle class families are now two-income households. Even if, say, the husband is able to find a housing unit near his job, it is often likely that the wife will have to commute. Or, they will choose a midpoint location and each commute outward.

But, this is getting off topic so. . .And, you are right about needing generations to change habits.
The majority of VMT are accumulated in non work-based trips. So even if homegirl had to commute 100 miles r/t to work everyday if it allowed the family to be a one car household and/or ESPECIALLY if it allows little johnny and suzie to run their own errands, visit friends, walk themselves to school and the soccer field THAT alone is huge reduction in VMT.

Congestion in the town center will only cause a reaction if driving is the ONLY reasonable way to get there. Traffic is inevitable because people are lazy. As long as there's room for one more car someone will take advantage of it. Masochism is a personal issue that I don't have a problem with.

People who value their time and health will realize that 3 blocks really isn't that far to walk.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
green lizard said:
A habit... like smoking... or gambling.....
a habit to break....

Sounds like we will make driving a morality issue...

And I know you love to make that aurgument.

Maby a thread on the morality of driving would be
a good place for the same old aurgument.

(Can you feel the fire?)
smoking - gambling - habits, are references that you used to conveniently segue into the morality bit. It's not at all what i meant.

I called driving a habit like turning off the light when you leave a room or putting the toilet seat down. Or depending on your neighborhood, remembering to lock the front door when you leave.

If you've never done either they're rather difficult to pick up. Some people never get the hang of it. Usually their kids do. It has nothing to do with morality or any other reactionary arguments.

and yes - It may take a generation or more.
 

green lizard

Member
Messages
133
Points
6
jresta said:
inevitable because people are lazy. .
I personally am lazy...

But are all people lazy? Are you mabey hyper?

Is VMT an accurate mesurement of how lazy
we all are? If one city has the same population as
another, but higher VMT, are they MORE LAZY?

(just kidding)
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,463
Points
29
In today's hyper-frightened America, how many parents will allow their kids that much freedom? Sad but true.

Otherwise, you have some points. We could argue about the degree to which behavior will change (the auto-centric can be amazingly masochistic-and angry when their every whim is not catered to-I certainly am-even when I know better)

Don't get me wrong, I am fully supportive of a walkable, denser mixed-use community. I am sincerely hoping that where I live now evolves into a stronger town center with more opportunity to walk to services. A new library is opening in a couple years, my coffee is available ten minutes away, and I can walk to an ok grocery store. It has a way to go, and its still pretty sleepy. We need more housing in downtown Vacaville to replace the blah 1965 bank buildings and their parking lots.

Oh well, off to do my favorite-code enforcement!
 

mike gurnee

Cyburbian
Messages
3,066
Points
31
Who among us has not suffered a public hearing to introduce more dense living into otherwise single family suburbs. The citizens do not want it. And that is the crux of the sprawl issue. The end result is that citizens want it.
 

japrovo

Member
Messages
103
Points
6
Here is a link to a paper I really like on this question.

http://www.brookings.org/es/urban/publications/growthmanagexsum.htm

Their bottom line, notwithstanding any growth control efforts, is that the market is real driver on housing costs---even in Portland. Housing costs in western cities, some of whom are sprawling to the ends of the earth, all pretty much went through the roof in the 1990s.

Another thing to think about is that as management tools all of these things function very differently state to state. The Portland region's UGB was created with expansions in mind. Growth is managed over time and not to protect a defined space. Greenlines drawn around a special resource to protect it for good may be a trickier political proposition.

Finding the good planning science, the mix of policies to balance growth management and affordability that someone mentioned earlier, is only half the battle. Portland's UGB happened for a lot of reasons very specific to Portland one of which was a confluence of interests in enviromentalists, farmers and yes developers who despite griping about the details have often managed to make money---not just through UGB expansions but on infill projects within the UGB.

Hitting the mark on all of this is obviously not an easy task. People may want what they know in terms of housing, in some cases the only option that has been offered in their city for a couple of generations. And yes they may get cranky about change. But let me tell you about a recent trip to Mexico. We we touring the boundaries of a huge Pre-Cloumbian ruin that is supposed to be protected from development by something like a greenline. It gets complicated given the way land title systems do/don't work there, but anyway our host who was in charge of the day to day management of the boundary avoided one village in particular explaining that his survey crew had been chased out by machette wielding residents the previous week. So take heart out there it could always be worse.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
BKM said:
In today's hyper-frightened America, how many parents will allow their kids that much freedom? Sad but true.

Otherwise, you have some points. We could argue about the degree to which behavior will change (the auto-centric can be amazingly masochistic-and angry when their every whim is not catered to-I certainly am-even when I know better)

Don't get me wrong, I am fully supportive of a walkable, denser mixed-use community. I am sincerely hoping that where I live now evolves into a stronger town center with more opportunity to walk to services. A new library is opening in a couple years, my coffee is available ten minutes away, and I can walk to an ok grocery store. It has a way to go, and its still pretty sleepy. We need more housing in downtown Vacaville to replace the blah 1965 bank buildings and their parking lots.

Oh well, off to do my favorite-code enforcement!
As far as parents "allowing" their kids that kind of freedom - unless you live in an upper tier ($350k+) housing development - a certain level of mobility for suburban pre-teens is matter of course in this part of the country. Kids walk, they ride their bikes, they take the train.

The Southern New Jersey Light Rail from Trenton to Camden will be up and running soon and it will link 15 or so victorian villages with substantial downtowns of their own between the two cities.

Although low ridership is predicited for the line the private investment started with the groundbreaking. Some towns have embraced it and others have fought it. All the downtowns were more or less in the same shape - dead. The towns with more upscale residential fought it and the towns with lower end housing support the development. I think you're likely to see a similar scenario anywhere.

People who are worried about their property losing value will fight any new development. Period.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
green lizard said:
I personally am lazy...

But are all people lazy? Are you mabey hyper?

Is VMT an accurate mesurement of how lazy
we all are? If one city has the same population as
another, but higher VMT, are they MORE LAZY?

(just kidding)
to answer your question seriously -

No, just because a region has more VMT per capita doesn't mean that people there are necessarily more lazy. It probably means that there are no alternatives.

So what i meant by the laziness thing is that - even in a place like Manhattan where transit and sidewalks go EVERYWHERE the streets are still clogged with cars. Those cars belong mostly to drivers from New Jersey and Brooklyn and Queens who despite the options choose to drive. They can drive all they want. I just don't think we should be digging new tunnels for them.

My point is simply - as long as there is capacity there will be users. You won't see a reduction or at least a halt in VMT growth until you put a cap on capacity and start finding better ways to move people around.
 
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