Smart growth news – January 6, 2012

Ben Bernanke’s Solution To The Housing Crisis: Renting Foreclosed Homes
Huffington Post – January 5, 2012
While millions of foreclosed homes languish on the market at lower and lower prices, new data supports the idea that renting out these foreclosed homes could be the long-sought solution to the housing crisis. Rental units are leasing quickly, and the vacancy rate for apartments is at its lowest level in a decade, according to data released Thursday. In many areas, rents are rising.

Washington Wades Deeper into Housing
BusinessWeek – January 5, 2012
Lawmakers began 2011 with sweeping ambitions to shrink the U.S. government’s involvement in mortgage finance. They ended the year enacting policies that increase it. An 11th-hour extension of the payroll tax cut, signed into law on Dec. 23, will for the first time divert funds from Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC), the two mortgage finance companies under U.S. conservatorship, to pay for general government expenses. Congress also took steps that are likely to increase the role of the Federal Housing Administration in the market—at the same time that the agency’s reserves hit a record low. And some economists are charging that the FHA’s finances are even worse than they appear.

Conservative Pols Hate Government Subsidies, Unless They Subsidize Sprawl
DC Streets – January 5, 2012
For a place that’s on the forefront of a heavily-subsidized brand of taxpayer-funded suburban sprawl, Celina is steeped in the kind of conservative politics that generally eschews government subsidies.

Schumer: ‘I’m going to lead fight’ on commuter tax break
The Hill – January 6, 2012
Schumer suggested that Thursday that lawmakers should use a package of pending tax breaks to extend a provision from the 2009 economic stimulus package that allowed public transit users to set aside $230 per month before taxes for commuting expenses. Because Congress has not yet extended the provision, which expired on Jan. 1, the limit was reduced to $125 at the beginning of the new year.

California Redevelopment – Views and News

Rescuing redevelopment
Los Angeles Times – January 6, 2012
As California lawmakers struggle to respond to the dire economy, one way they have tried to raise revenue is by eliminating an economic tool that helps spur development — but withholds some taxes from the state and is susceptible to abuse. Last week, the California Supreme Court upheld legislation that ended redevelopment agencies; now, lawmakers should find ways to build a better method of encouraging development without the problems that undermined the former system.

California Redevelopment Agencies: Counties Split On Supreme Court Ruling
Huffington Post – January 5, 2012
As cities statewide bemoan the California Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the abolition of redevelopment agencies, counties are divided about the potential consequences.

Redevelopment mess: Possible city fire sale
The Record Metro (Stockton) – January 6, 2012
What do the Bob Hope Theatre, DeCarli Plaza and Children’s Museum have in common? Stockton’s Redevelopment Agency may have to sell them off.

Rancho Cordova abandons large blight-fighting projects
The Sacramento Bee – January 6, 2012
The state Supreme Court decision supporting California’s abolition of redevelopment agencies is forcing Rancho Cordova to quit large blight-fighting projects along Folsom Boulevard, the mayor said Thursday … Mayor David Sander said the high court’s Dec. 29 decision means the city instead will pursue grants and other forms of funding aimed at community revitalization.

Loss of Redevelopment Dollars Sets Local Projects Back
Capital Public Radio (Sacramento) – January 5, 2012
Rancho Cordova is one of the California cities where redevelopment plans have been halted…or even reversed by last week’s California Supreme Court decision …The city says there is $3 million worth of property that was going to be used to revitalize a portion of Folsom Boulevard near Mather Field Road. Unless legislation changes things, Mayor David Sander says any properties or assets acquired with redevelopment funds will be sold.

Our Voice: Redevelopment ruling is regrettable but right
The Desert – January 6, 2012
The California Supreme Court decision allowing the state to dismantle redevelopment agencies is a shocking blow to cities and counties. But it’s hard to argue against the logic of the 83-page decision released on Dec. 29. California is virtually bankrupt. In its struggle to erase a $25 billion budget shortfall last year, the Legislature saw the opportunity to save $1.7 billion.

Crony Capitalism Rebuked
City Journal – January 5, 2012
On December 29, the California Supreme Court handed down what the state’s urban redevelopment agencies (RDAs) and their supporters called a “worst of all worlds” ruling—first upholding a law that eliminates the agencies, then striking down a second law that would have allowed them to buy their way back into power. This was great news for critics who had spent years calling attention to the ways modern urban-renewal projects distorted city land-use decisions, abused eminent-domain policies, and diverted about 12 percent of the state budget from traditional public services to subsidies for developers, who would build tax-producing shopping centers and other projects sought by city bureaucrats.

‘Urbanized’: sprawling views on urban planning
Seattle Times – January 5, 2012
For all its uncertainties, “Urbanized” may open your eyes to the deliberate way some cities are designed — and the accidental ways in which others become distorted.

Local News

Brown talks up Md. infrastructure projects, avoids taxes
Washington Post – January 5, 2012
Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) pledged Thursday that the O’Malley administration would support “robust” spending on transportation and other infrastructure improvements during the legislative session that starts next week — but provided no new details about how the projects would be funded.

Developers, environmentalists fight for lawmakers’ support on sewerage legislation
Asbury Park Press – January 6, 2012
TRENTON — Legislation to delay new limits on sewer service areas appears to be gathering momentum for passage in the Statehouse despite a fight by environmental groups to save the plan that would fence off some 300,000 acres from intensive development.

City to be part of Department of Transportation’s feasibility study on passenger rail travel
The Ledger Enquirer (Columbus, OH) – January 5, 2012
Among those details will be how extensive the state study will look into the Columbus concept specifically, and how the local commission’s study might “dovetail” with the state study … The commission’s first meeting included two long-distance live presentations via the Internet from Geoffrey Anderson, president and CEO of Smart Growth America, and former Charlotte, N.C. Mayor Pat McCrory, who spearheaded passenger rail service in that part of North Carolina.

Little Rock gets high marks, University of Arkansas gives back, tops the list
THV (Arkansas News) – January 5, 2012
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has given the City of Little Rock the highest grade possible – an A – for its progress in using 8.6 million dollars in Neighborhood Stabilization grant money.

Transportation advocate says cities like Jacksonville should spend more on infrastructure
The Florida Times Union – January 6, 2012
Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown sat in a packed hotel ballroom Thursday with 500 other attendees hearing former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell’s rallying call for spending more on roads, rails, airports and seaports.

Erie nonprofit studies housing, other issues in city’s downtown
Erie Times-News – January 6, 2012
The Erie Downtown Partnership, a nonprofit organization that works to improve the image and environment of the city’s downtown, is conducting a housing survey that asks people what amenities are important to them, what type of housing they’re interested in, and how much they’d pay to live in the neighborhood, among other questions.

Real Estate May Begin to Come to Life in 2012
The Ledger (NJ) – January 6, 2012
The multifamily market — especially for rentals — is the only area where construction has started to pick up again.

Lawmakers Must Step Up to Meet Commitments to Clean Water
The Bay New (MD) – January 6, 2012
The Chesapeake Bay region is more than half way to meeting its goals for water pollution reduction. A coalition of 14 Maryland environmental groups has announced a legislative agenda to finish the job. Several critical policies must be enacted during the 2012 session of the Maryland General Assembly in order for Maryland to make good on its commitment to make local water safe for all Marylanders.

Legislative Democrats want to focus on jobs
The Gazette (Iowa) – January 5, 2012
He said the other two parts of the three-part jobs program include investing in education and job training and, third, work on specific legislation that has stalled in the House … “Bills like brownfields legislation to bring land back into production and greenfields legislation, things like that,” he said.

Dems call for gas tax hike, fees to pay for transportation infrastructure
Pocono Record – January 5, 2012
HARRISBURG — House Democratic leaders joined the growing number of voices calling for transportation infrastructure to be a 2012 legislative priority, even if Pennsylvania drivers must pay more at the pump in an election year.

Building Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington
Port Washington News – January 6, 2012
Today, Residents For a More Beautiful Port Washington operates primarily through its three standing committees, Environmental Health, Environmental Education and the most popular Smart Growth. The Environmental Health Committee works with the U.S. Geological Survey to monitor the aquifer and super fund sites on the Peninsula. That work is ongoing and very important

Chicago program turns vacant condo buildings into affordable rentals
Chicago Tribune – January 6, 2012
As the housing market enters a new year of watching and waiting for stability to return, there is also some action afoot: Efforts are expected to take shape to tackle the vast swath of empty homes and fill them with residents — and in many cases, renters.

Vacant houses swamping city
Columbus Dispatch – January 5, 2012
He called it a “restoration partnership.” The city alone can’t bring back neighborhoods, Pfeiffer said … The city has been using about $50 million in federal neighborhood-stabilization money to deal with the foreclosure crisis in its hardest-hit neighborhoods: Franklinton, the Near East Side, the Hilltop, Linden and the South Side.

Des Plaines offers tax incentives to lure businesses
Daily Herald (Ill.) – January 5, 2012
Des Plaines is trying to be more business-friendly by offering tax incentives to new businesses that improve vacant properties and relocate into town.

Rochelle Riley: Fixing Detroit’s crisis means city, state must give 100% effort
Detroit Free Press (Mich.) – January 6, 2012
“Part is getting the fiscal house in order. Part is getting city services up to speed so the city can attract new residents. And part is creating more jobs in the city.”

Land-use changes in store for growth area north of High Point
High Point Enterprise – January 6, 2012
A tweak in the long-range land-use planning for an area north of High Point would take effect under a proposal making its way through the city’s approval process.

Planning board proposes changes to land use plan
Marietta Daily Journal (Ga.) – January 6, 2012
“Basically, if you put this as low density residential, you’re taking away any value this property could possibly have for the family that’s owned it for 80 years,” Mills told board members. “My request is not to do anything that takes away flexibility from what this property may be used for.”

Government and CRE Community React to Cuomo’s Plan – January 5, 2012
Cuomo, in fact, used jobs as a big selling point for the plan and said that the Queens convention center would “bring to New York the largest events,” driving demand for hotel rooms and restaurants and creating tax revenues “and jobs, jobs, jobs.” The creation of “tens of thousands of jobs” was the estimate given.

Supervisors propose land-use changes
Reading (PA) Eagle – January 6, 2012
The Ontelaunee Township supervisors voted 3-0 Thursday to advertise zoning, subdivision and land development ordinance revisions to promote conservation and cluster housing.

Letters to the Editor and Opinion

What do you think of your township’s vision?
Pocono Record – January 6, 2012
What do you think? How would you like your township to develop along these main corridors? Do you think of it as a walkable community or one where there are no connective walks or roadways between businesses? It would be interesting to see what you want.

Fed’s White Paper on Housing: Might Uncle Sam Become a Landlord?
Business Insider – January 6, 2012
Housing and labor remain the cornerstones of our economy. In fact, the health of our labor market follows that of housing just like night follows day … The near term prospects for both housing and labor remain decidedly challenging. The success of assorted federal programs to support housing so far have obviously been underwhelming.

Open Letter to the Residents of the Village of Farmingdale
Farmingdale (NY) Observer – January 6, 2012
The first of many applications for new smart growth projects will be coming to the Board this winter. Don’t let naysayers like my good friend John Venditto in Oyster Bay claim “urbanization” to scare you. Tearing down old warehouses and blighted vacant buildings is not urbanization, its revitalization. The village will have more green space; a much more beautiful downtown and a new lease on life. As other downtowns die a slow death due to high taxes and rents, Farmingdale will be a model and a roadmap to change.