Smart growth gaining traction during economic downturn

Smart Growth America’s President and CEO Geoff Anderson and Vice President of Policy and Research Bill Fulton sat down last week with the San Diego Union Tribune‘s Roger Showley to talk about places using smart growth strategies in a tough economic climate and the state of the smart growth movement. From ‘Smart Growth’ gaining traction in downturn:

Q: What is the state of smart growth at a time of slow growth and economic stagnation?

Geoffrey Anderson: Smart growth is gaining traction, particularly if you look over a 15-to-20-year perspective. If you think back to the mid-’90s when cities were almost assumed to be dead — relics of a past age that were overtaken by the domination of auto-oriented suburbs — the contrast between that view of walkable neighborhoods, of smart growth and what we see today, is striking by any measure, and nowhere more so than how the market views it. There was a lot of skepticism among the private sector that this was something people wanted, and now it’s practically a given by a lot of the development community.

Q: What’s driving this change?

Anderson: We’d be fools to discount the impact of changing demographics. The difference between the 1960s, when half the households had kids and today’s (is that) it’s 30 percent and headed downward — you can’t overstate that difference in the population. We’ve built up a regulatory, financial and development infrastructure to serve that market. Look away for a second and it’s changed, and we forgot to change with it.

Q: How has smart growth played out in the real estate recession?

Anderson: Part of what we’ve learned is where we have really overbuilt. Virtually every place around the country forms a concentric circle. Moving out, values have been dropping. You see center areas and walkable areas holding values best, and large-lot, drive-only places are losing value.

Read the full article: ‘Smart Growth’ gaining traction in downturn (San Diego Union Tribune, February 13, 2012).

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Anderson: Address the Housing Crisis's Underlying Issues

The following op-ed was crossposted from Roll Call.

President Barack Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke seem enamored with renting foreclosed properties to blunt price decreases and to stir economic recovery, but that’s a bandage for symptoms as opposed to a real cure.

Instead, we need to learn from the problems that landed us in this mess in the first place, working to bring government policies in line with good business sense and to incentivize market-driven development.

Or, in the words of investor Warren Buffett, “Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.”

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Smart growth presents opportunities for homebuilders in a struggling housing market


North 14th St. at Crown Square in Old North St. Louis, part of the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group‘s revitalization work in the city. Photo by Old North St. Louis via Flickr.

Rising demand for smart growth development might be a key strategy for turning around the housing industry.

Speaking to Builder magazine earlier this month, Smart Growth America Vice President Ilana Preuss explained that strong demand for walkable neighborhoods is an opportunity home builders can take advantage of.

LOCUS

“The Death of the Fringe Suburb” and the next wave of real estate development

This past weekend, Christopher Leinberger wrote a provocative op-ed in the New York Times about why exurban America – which has been hard hit by foreclosures in recent years – won’t rebound, even if the economy does.

Leinberger, who is President of Smart Growth America’s project LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, went on to explain why the future is so dim for these places, and what Americans are looking for instead.

High home values and low vacancy rates in the country’s city centers and inner suburbs mean that Americans want to live in mixed-income, pedestrian-friendly areas that “support the knowledge economy, promote environmental sustainability and create jobs.” Outer fringe areas are failing to offer these features – and they will fail in the marketplace as a result.

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Smart growth news – June 22, 2011

Are There Too Many Homes in America?
The Atlantic blog, June 21, 2011
Estimates of the number of vacant houses are hard to get a handle on. The census bureau tracks that number. However, its month-by-month estimate was well out of whack with the preliminary data coming in from the formal 10-year Census. Still a credible guess is that there might be in the range of 1.5 million “excess” vacant homes. That number includes empty rentals as well as homes for sale. Even in the best of times some homes are vacant, but there are roughly 1.5 million more than there were in 1990, adjusted for population changes.

Green literacy new graduation requirement in MD
Baltimore Sun (Md.), June 21, 2011
Maryland public school students will need to know their green to graduate under a new policy adopted today by the state board of education. State officials and environmental activists called the vote “historic” and said Maryland has become the first state in the nation to require environmental literacy to graduate from high school. Under the rule, public schools will be required to work lessons about conservation, smart growth and the health of our natural world into their core subjects like science and social studies.

U.S. DOT awards $175 million in ‘livability’ transit grants
Smart Planet, June 21, 2011
The U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday announced the availability of $175 million in what it calls “livability grants” intended to help urban, suburban and rural communities develop transit options to better connect their residents. Local transit agencies are eligible for the funds; the program will begin accepting applications this week.

Panel proposes changes to planning laws to improve downtown Mays Landing
Press of Atlantic City, June 21, 2011
The Smart Growth Committee made several suggestions for the township to adopt that could significantly change areas like downtown Mays Landing and improve the condition of rental homes.

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