Listen to market demand, says The Economist's Ryan Avent

To create jobs, drive innovation, attract talent and keep housing costs affordable, American cities would be right to address the growing demand for smart growth development, says The Economist’s Ryan Avent in a recent interview with Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino.

“Well, my tendency as an economist, working for The Economist, my inclination is to say build with what the market will demand,” Avent says. “And so that’s why I think we have a great opportunity here, because what the market is increasingly demanding are homes that are within walking distance of job centers.”

Avent, a resident of Arlington, VA, and the author of The Gated City, emphasized that in building with market demand in mind, it’s also crucial to change common misperceptions about density. In his book, Avent uses the phrase “hogs stacked on hogs” to describe what makes people afraid of added housing units. The realities of increased density, however, are radically different and the addition of in-demand housing options contributes to robust regional economic growth.

“If you think about the sort of density that might work, if it builds around transit and a walkable environment, you don’t add a lot of the downsides that are typically associated with density, like congestion,” Avent says. “When you build in a sprawling pattern and force people into cars, that’s what actually causes congestion.”

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Smart growth news – November 29

The city that floats
Salon, November 28, 2011
Whether out of High Line envy, Olympic fever or a pining for its days as a naval superpower, London has hatched a plan — a big, wet one — for the north bank of the river Thames. A sleek, kilometer-long floating promenade running from the Tower of London to the Millennium Bridge, London River Park will create an instant walkable waterfront in a stretch of the city where there is none.

‘Brain Hubs’ Like Austin, Texas, Create More Work for Less-Educated Residents
Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2011
In recent decades, a select number of brain hubs like Austin have attracted a higher percentage of well-educated workers and a lopsided share of new investment and young companies. In 1970, the top 10 most-educated metropolitan areas among the nation’s 100 largest had an average of 23% of workers holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 10% in the bottom 10, according to an analysis of Census data by Harvard University economist Edward Glaeser. The 13-percentage-point gap has widened every decade since, and had doubled by 2010. Beyond creating new middle-skill jobs, such brain hubs have generally higher incomes and for the most part have performed better through the recession. In Austin, the 7.1% average unemployment rate in 2010 was well below the nation’s during the same period.

Manheim Township ordinance allows for increased density
Lancaster New Era (Pa.), November 29, 2011
Manheim Township commissioners approved a revised zoning ordinance that will allow for increased density in hopes of guiding development using “smart growth” principals on Monday night.

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