• What’s New in Urban & Suburban News?

    The latest edition of the ADC Communicator is available here.

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  • Turnaround Housing Markets

    More data is coming out about the conditions of the housing markets in the United States.  Business Insider is the latest, offering its list of the Top 10 Turnaround Housing Markets based on the increase in price between late 2011 and the end of 2012 for a median priced home.  The percentage beside the city represents that change.

    1. Las Vegas   27.5%
    2. Seattle   24.0%
    3. Phoenix   21.8%
    4. Oakland   21.0%
    5. San Jose   20.8%
    6. Salt Lake City   20.5%
    7. Atlanta   18.9%
    8. Sacramento   17.9%
    9. Fresno   17.7%
    10. Tacoma   17.7%

    What’s not determined is what is behind the price escalation.  Is it a function of demand outpacing supply?  Is it the impact of excessive regulation?  More to come.

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  • Affordable Housing Markets

    The Street publishes the five most-affordable housing markets in the U.S.

    1. Detroit
    2. Atlanta
    3. Minneapolis
    4. Phoenix
    5. St. Louis

    The analysis looks at only the 25 largest cities in the U.S. and calculates the amount one would pay each month for a median-priced home, assuming 20% down and a 30-year fixed mortgage that charged the local average interest rate.  None of these cities would be considered a Smart Growth City although Minneapolis perhaps comes close.  Using similar methodology, we also see the five least affordable markets:

    1. San Francisco
    2. New York
    3. San Diego
    4. Miami
    5. Los Angeles

    Certainly San Fran and New York qualify as Smart Growth Cities, but there’s enough “plausible deniability” to keep the label off the others.  In fact, Miami and Los Angeles generally have a poor reputation among planners who see them as sprawling cities.  Yet, both Miami and Los Angeles share key characteristics of Smart Growth: Density and Public Transportation.

    A generation ago, both cities began building new roads less and invested much more in public transit, including rail transit.  Both cities have also promoted super high densities as a way to contain outward growth.  In fact, let’s look at these ten cities to show how the densities (i.e., people per square mile) relate to affordable housing.  Using 2010 Census data:

    1. San Francisco   17,179 people per square mile (unaffordable)
    2. New York City   11,138 people per square mile (unaffordable)
    3. Los Angeles   8,231 people per square mile (unaffordable)
    4. Minneapolis   7,088 people per square mile (affordable)
    5. St. Louis   5,157 people per square mile (affordable)
    6. Detroit   5,144 people per square mile (affordable)
    7. Miami   5,129 people per square mile (unaffordable)
    8. San Diego   4,020 people per square mile (unaffordable)
    9. Atlanta   3,154 people per square mile (affordable)
    10. Phoenix   2,797 people per square mile (affordable)

    If we were to broaden our search beyond the Top 25, the relationship between density and affordability would become even clearer.  Better yet, Wendell Cox has already published the 2012 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey.

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  • Affordable Housing Markets

    CNN Money is out with its list of affordable housing markets.  Smart Growth Cities … are not among them.

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  • Why Cities Go Bankrupt

    Santa Monica applies for funds to measure residents’ well-being

    Even if the grant Santa Monica is applying for covers all of the costs to develop the index, the final product will undoubtedly produce a list of things that will require more and more government.

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  • Sprawling, No-Zoning Houston … America’s Coolest City

    The Anti-Smart Growth city of Houston tops Forbes list of America’s coolest cities.  Somewhere, Richard Florida is crying in his martini.

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  • People Vote With Their Feet

    Smart Growthers love to claim that their policies reflect what people really want.  Despite evidence to the contrary, this proves to be an effective hook in getting local governments to adopt this coercive planning doctrine.

    The Fiscal Times looks at where people are moving.  Using Census data, they list the 10 cities that grew fastest between April 2010 and July 2011.

    1. Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, WA
    2. Austin, TX
    3. Hinesville, GA
    4. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX
    5. Raleigh, NC
    6. Warner Robins, GA
    7. Provo, UT
    8. Charleston, SC
    9. Myrtle Beach Metro, SC
    10. Yuma, AZ

    Not one of these cities could truly be considered a Smart Growth city although Austin would certainly object.  While many Austin leaders prefer Smart Growth, the city is in the most de-regulated state in the Union which inhibits much of their ambitions.

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  • Government Is the Problem … Still

    The Tampa Times is reporting on a new survey of small businesses in Florida.  More than 800 business owners were interviewed, and the results suggest that there are five issues inhibiting recovery in the Sunshine State.

    • Economic uncertainty
    • An inability to get financing
    • Florida’s growth management process
    • Government regulations
    • Taxes

    Of these five, only one is a private sector problem – what progressives might call a “market failure.”  But even that needs to be qualified, for as we know federal policy heavily influences banking decisions.  The other four are all government problems and particularly local government problems.

    Ever since Governor Rick Scott de-fanged the Florida Department of Community Affairs that oversaw the state’s stringent growth management laws, the decision to have or not have comprehensive plans rests with city and county governments.  Most of them kept things just as onerous as before.  As for taxes and regulations, Florida tends to score well relative to other states.  Again, it comes down to individual county and city taxes and regulations that create the uncertainty small business owners are worried about.

    In order to jump start the economy, local governments need to lighten the load.

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  • Best City to Live? Depends On What You’re Looking For

    Time magazine has produced a list of the world’s best cities.  It’s number one city is Hong Kong, based on an index called the Spatially Adjusted Liveability Index that measures seven characteristics – “green space, urban sprawl (or lack thereof), access to nature, availability of world-class cultural assets (measured by counting the number of U.N. World Heritage Sites nearby), connectivity (how easy it is to reach the rest of the world), isolation (measured by the number of other large cities nearby) and pollution.”

    An architect, Filippo Lovato, created the index and if you want to know how the measures skew his opening line gives the game away: “Hong Kong, the winner, is a very compact city….”

    If that matters to you, then maybe Hong Kong – population density is 25,900 people per square mile – is the place to live.  For other people, the best city may be some place that has a lot of amenities but is also one where the dollar stretches the furthest.  If that’s the case, then Joel Kotkin recommends Houston, Texas: “What puts Houston at the top of the list is the region’s relatively low cost of living, which includes such things as consumer prices and services, utilities and transportation costs and, most importantly, housing prices.”

    “Adjusted for cost of living, the average Houston wage of $59,838 is worth $66,933, tops in the nation.”

    With a population density of just 4,644 people per square mile, Houston won’t make many lists that put high priority on crowding and congestion.  But if I had to chose, I’d easily pick Houston over Hong Kong.  Plus, the barbeque is better in Texas anyway.

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  • Does sprawl make teenagers fat and lazy?

    No, just the opposite.  A new study finds that suburban youth walk and bike more than city peers.  Among its findings:

    • There is no relationship between the degree of sprawl and the extent to which young people are overweight or obese.
    • Children aged 12-15 years who live in more sprawled cities are more likely to engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity than those living in more compact areas.
    • Children aged 12-15 years who lived in more sprawled cities are also more likely to use active transport modes (i.e. walking, cycling, skating) as a means of transport.

    So another Smart Growth assumption bites the dust.

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