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.

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Smart growth news – December 9

As U.S. road deaths drop, more pedestrians getting struck
USA Today, December 8, 2011
The USA is getting riskier for people on foot, and experts aren’t sure why. New data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that pedestrian fatalities rose 4.2% in 2010 over the previous year. The number of pedestrians injured in motor vehicle crashes soared 19%, to 70,000.

Smart Growth conference to focus on sustainability
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 9, 2011
Pittsburgh’s rise from the ashes of a decimated steel industry and collapsed job market has caused some planning experts to refer to its story as a road map for post-industrial recovery. But organizers of the upcoming Southwestern Pennsylvania Smart Growth Conference say sustainable business strategies designed to revitalize existing resources are the models that ultimately will determine the future of the region and nation.

Governor Cuomo Announces $785 Million in Economic Development Funding Through Regional Councils
NBC 34 (N.Y.), December 9, 2011
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that $785 million has been awarded through the Regional Economic Development Council initiative, continuing the Governor’s efforts to redesign the way state government works in order to drive economic growth and create jobs. … In its plan, “A Strategy for Prosperity in Western New York,” the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council focused on preparing the region’s workforce for employment in key industry sectors, driving innovation and commercialization, investing in smart growth infrastructure, and attracting more visitors.

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Smart growth news – November 28

The Death of the Fringe Suburb
New York Times (Op-Ed), November 25, 2011
Simply put, there has been a profound structural shift — a reversal of what took place in the 1950s, when drivable suburbs boomed and flourished as center cities emptied and withered.

HUD Awards Bring ‘Bittersweet’ End to Sustainability Program
Streetsblog, November 23, 2011
“The communities selected to receive these grants have a great opportunity to put their plans for smarter development and economic revitalization into action,” said Geoffrey Anderson of Smart Growth America in an email. “These grants are bittersweet, however, since they come just days after Congress passed legislation that did not include specific funding for another round of HUD grants next year.”

How should we design the cities of our dreams?
Salon, November 27, 2011
This is the first story in a new series called Dream City, which will explore the way we’re designing our cities of the future, cities in which we want to live, right now. Two more stories will follow this week. Tomorrow, we’ll examine the way cities are growing with creative use of their waterfronts. And on Tuesday, we’ll look at the growing trend of removing freeways from downtown to create new pedestrian spaces.

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Smart growth news – November 3

Obama Says Crumbling Infrastructure Is Costly to Economy, Threatens Growth
Bloomberg, November 2, 2011
President Barack Obama said the deterioration of the nation’s highways, bridges, airports and ports is costly to U.S. business and threatens future economic growth.

US House speaker promotes transportation projects
Businessweek, November 1, 2011
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner spoke in favor Monday of pumping federal money into transportation construction and speeding regulatory review of those projects — comments that seemed to resonate in a region longing for new bridges to ease traffic snarls.

Transportation secretary ‘optimistic’ about infrastructure’s chances in Congress
The Hill, November 2, 2011
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday he’s optimistic legislation funding infrastructure projects could pass the Senate. “I’m optimistic, I think that if senators — both Republicans and Democrats — really are listening to people in their states they know that people are hurting,” he said Wednesday on MSNBC.

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Smart growth news – October 27

Apartment Values Rise, as Do Rents
Wall Street Journal, October 26, 2011
While concerns about the economy are cooling the market for most other types of commercial real estate, apartment rents and occupancies continue to be boosted by demand from millions of people who are victims of foreclosure or are unwilling or unable to buy their own homes.

NYU eyes former MTA headquarters for urban grad school in Bloomberg’s contest for new university
New York Daily News, October 26, 2011
Downtown Brooklyn would become a global hub for urban sciences if a noted local university wins a contest to develop a new applied sciences graduate school in the city.

A new look for East Riverside? Austin to highlight plan
American-Statesman (Texas), October 26, 2011
“The vision is to transform the area from an auto-dominated, aging corridor to a people-oriented destination with lots of people living, working and playing within walking distance of transit,” said Erica Leak with the city’s Planning and Development Review Department.

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Smart growth news – September 26

East Liberty finds formula for success
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 25, 2011
When East Liberty Development Inc. officials were roughing out strategies to improve the Pittsburgh neighborhood, a big question was what to do with some 50 vacant properties. The properties were robbing tax-paying homeowners of their equity, discouraging investment and exacerbating crime and other factors. This had led the neighborhood to become what Rob Stephany, director of the city Urban Redevelopment Authority, calls “below the line” — a place you don’t visit. They decided to buy them all, rehabilitate some themselves, sell others to rehab-minded buyers and tear down the rest.

Suburban Ghetto: Poverty Rates Soar in Suburbia
Time, September 26, 2011
For well over half a century, the American dream has typically centered on life in the suburbs. A move to the idyllic suburbs—picket fences, sidewalks, cul-de-sacs, the whole deal—has traditionally signified success, a move up the economic ladder. Lately, however, the ‘burbs host millions more residents living below the poverty level than do America’s “poor” inner cities, and poverty rates in suburbia are rising faster than any other residential setting.

In-fill proposal looks to give Stockton a greener image
The Record (Calif.), September 23, 2011
With the right kind of development, downtown Stockton could become the kind of place where people live in apartments or condominiums, commute by train to Silicon Valley jobs before returning home, where they can bike or walk to do their shopping or run other errands.

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Smart growth news – August 31

Stat of the Day: The Rise of the Renter
Advertising Age, August 29
One surprise from Census 2010 was the skewed distribution of household growth by age. Except for a small increase in millennial renters, virtually all of the 11 million unit household growth from 2000 to 2010 took place among baby boomer and older households. Towards the end of the decade leading up to the Census, millennials sharply slowed their rate of household formation. Adverse economic conditions meant that millions of them just remained living with their parents.

$1.4 Million Ranson-Charles Town Plan Making Major News
The State Journal (W.Va.), August 31, 2011
Federal grant money from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation will pay for a seven-day series of intense workshops that begins Sept. 8 and will include a bevy of international experts. The end result, Brown said, will be a blueprint that makes Ranson and Charles Town thriving, green, livable communities for the coming century.

City plots plan for vacant properties
The Independent (Ohio), August 29, 2011
Plots of vacant land across the city likely will be turned over to adjacent property owners under the city’s proposed Vacant Land Re-Utilization Program.

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Smart growth news – August 25

Is this the world’s greenest neighborhood?
NRDC Switchboard, August 24, 2011
I am on vacation in Victoria, British Columbia, a wonderful city that – among other good things – is home to Dockside Green, which some people are calling the greenest development in the world. At least with respect to new, highly urban developments-in-progress, they may have a case to make: for starters, when NRDC, the US Green Building Council and the Congress for the New Urbanism first announced the LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot program to honor smart growth, the developers of Dockside Green made a point of being the program’s very first applicant. It has since earned a platinum rating under LEED-ND.

A building spurt in Minneapolis
Star Tribune (Minn.), August 24, 2011
It’s been one of the worst years in history for home builders, but not in Minneapolis. The city expects to issue permits to build more than 1,500 new housing units — mostly rental apartments, according to the Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development Department…It’s a boom that’s being fueled by the convergence of two trends: a return to city living and a growing preference for rental housing over homeownership.

City vision for downtown: better parks, urban rail, cheaper housing
The Statesman (Texas), August 24, 2011
Picture downtown Austin with spruced-up parks, urban rail, more tree-lined and wider sidewalks and moderately priced housing. Those are some of the ideas described in a $1.6 million master plan that the City Council may consider today . The plan lays out a vision for transforming downtown that would cost as much as $350 million to carry out over the next decade. It’s not clear where the money would come from, but the likely options are fees, bond elections or partnerships with private companies.

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Smart growth news – August 10

Detroit’s downtown ‘starting to fight back’
Washington Times, August 7, 2011
For the past seven months, geologist Dan Ten Brink has made his home in a loft in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, working at an upscale cafe to make ends meet while on the lookout for a more permanent job. He is part of a trend of young professionals who are relocating to Detroit.

Camden touts ‘Live Where You Work’ program
Courier-Post (N.J.), August 10, 2011
At a City Hall press conference Tuesday, city and state officials announced the availability of low-interest, fixed-rate home mortgages to prospective buyers who work in the city.

Young professionals drawn to urban living
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wis.), August 6, 2011
Bryan Cooper didn’t give much thought to where he’d live while working as an intern at GE Healthcare in Waukesha. But Cooper found that when he wasn’t at the office, he was spending a lot of time around downtown Milwaukee instead of hanging out at his suburban apartment.

Incentives, planned apartments heat up downtown rental market
Detroit News, August 10, 2011
With the launch of a major incentive program to lure more people to live in downtown Detroit, the rental market in the 48226 area code, which covers the central business district, promises to be competitive for at least the near future.

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Smart growth news – July 22, 2011

Expert: Commuter rail will drive development
The Telegraph (Ga.), July 21, 2011
Folks need to re-learn that “transportation drives development,” a nationally renowned transit specialist said Wednesday during a transportation meeting in Macon. “The transportation comes first and it sparks development. … It’s how cities have been built for centuries,” said Chris Leinberger, professor and founding director of the graduate real estate development program at the University of Michigan.

Sale of New Rochelle Site Revives Development Talks
Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2011
Efforts to revive New Rochelle’s downtown have gotten a boost from the sale of a blighted former movie theater to a buyer who plans to rehabilitate the eyesore and, possibly, build an apartment building on the site.

Why Homes in the Exurbs Aren’t Built to Last
D Magazine (Texas), July 20, 2011
The next time you fly into DFW airport, have a look out the window. Somewhere down there—it could be Argyle or Double Oak or anywhere on the periphery of the North Texas sprawl—you’ll see half-built neighborhoods that look as if the assembly line simply stopped rolling. With names like Rambling Meadows, the developments have arbitrarily curved streets lined with tract homes, one after another. Different addresses, same house. What will become of these places in 20 years? How about 50?

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