Smart growth raises housing prices?

Our region ought to learn from other regions’ mistakes …

Thanks to the Washington Times:

Economists increasingly are concluding that the shortage of affordable housing in Washington and other major U.S. cities on the East and West coasts is a result more of man-made restrictions on development than high construction costs or other market forces.
    “It simply takes too long and is too expensive to move through the development process,” said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wachovia Securities, pointing at “smart growth, slow growth and no growth” movements in many of the same areas where the population and demand for housing are growing the fastest.

The referenced study by the National Bureau of Economic Research remarks:

The key underlying reason for rising house prices, though, is supply, according to economists Edward Glaeser, Joseph Gyourko, and Raven Saks. Since 1970, homebuilders have faced increasing difficulty in obtaining regulatory approval for the construction of new homes. Local residents — more educated, more affluent — have had a greater ability to block new projects should they be deemed harmful to their own interests, for example to the value of their homes. As a result, cities have changed from “urban growth machines to homeowners’ cooperatives,” the authors write in Why Have Housing Prices Gone Up? (NBER Working Paper No. 11129).

What is the County’s goal with regards to the Neighborhood Model? It might seem silly, but I think a simple “mission statement” or something to that effect would be a good guide for the Board of Supervisors, et. al. If the goal is to limit development and drive up the cost of housing, then it seems to be working. I will be watching the progress of “Fox Ridge” over the next several years. If implemented efficiently, the Neighborhood Model would probably be a good thing; unfortunately, it has not been.

Equally troubling is that the County continues to encourage growth around the City without planning or implementing any form of transit or infrastructure improvements. Shall we wait until all of the County’s roads look like 29 North or the Hydraulic Road/Emmet Street intersection?

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And then, from this week’s C-Ville:

In 2001 the County adopted a set of rules for growth-area housing developments called “The Neighborhood Model.” The Neighborhood Model includes a list of 12 so-called New Urbanist principles—rules for building setbacks, sidewalks and parking—that are supposed to make neighborhoods more pedestrian friendly. But the County tends to apply the rules inconsistently, and the resulting Neighborhood Model developments are hardly paragons of progressive design. Further, developers claim that getting a project approved in the growth area is so complex that it’s actually easier to build in the rural areas, where there are fewer rules. Granted, developers can be notorious whiners when it comes to government regulation, but that’s the point. The Neighborhood Model clearly needs some tweaking both to protect Albemarle from sprawl and to satisfy developers. (Note:I really with that C-Ville would publish with permanent links immediately)

There was a good discussion at cvillenews during the recent election about this.

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  1. steve December 21, 2005 at 18:37

    bad development is happening all over this great commonwealth. I just posted at my blog about a 6800 home development in beautiful Prince William County Virginia

  2. Ray Hyde December 30, 2005 at 12:04

    Bad development is exactly the result of the laws we have passed to control development. We have put locaal builders out of business because only the huge developers with money, lawyers, and time can get past the development process.

    In turn, they have to depend on Wal-Mart scale developments in order to make a profit.

    e are going to have 2 illion more people. they are already clogging all those new schools we complain so much about paying for. Soon, they will be looking for a place to live. We can make it beautiful, we can make it smart, we can make it new-urbanist, but one way or another, we are going to pay.