1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: Peter Meyer <pbmeyer@louisville.edu>
Date: Mon, 1 Nov 1999 11:46:13 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: [CPEO-BIF] Urban Growth Boundaries
I do NOT agree with Clay Carter and others that "urban affordable
housing is not a policy priority."  It HAS to be a priority, if we
that people are as important as "the environment," which we must do.
But I also disagree with the emergent line of argument linking growth
boundaries as causal  pressures on housing prices. (And before you
dismiss me as not understanding market forces, note that they are my
bread andf butter - I am an economist.)

My argument - and some indicative evidence:

Demand for market rate housing leads to genrtification, speculative land

hoarding and no incentives for moderate cost housing development or
rehabilitation. This demand comes from an array of different sources, of

which such things as growth boundaries are only one small element.

PORTLAND: The growth boundary has built into it the requirement that
there be enough open space within it to accomodate 20 years' expected
population growth and housing demand.  There is NO IMMEDIATE
SHORTAGE OF LAND that can explain the rising price of land and
of housing in the area. However, the very fact of a boundary may mean
that more people consider Portland a desirable place to live -- because
it bounds sprawl to some measure -- and this drives up real estate
Simultaneously, the boundary gives landowners and realtors excuses for
pursuing superprofits on their investments... windfall profits gained by

colluding to artificially inflate prices using the boundary as an

SAN FRANCISCO: Certainly the bay "has contributed to one of the most
expensive housing markets in the U.S." -- but is this because it limited

land available or because it provided a locational amenity that drew
people to the city by it and generated demand pressures from population

Neither of these examples (nor any other presented thus far in this
discussion) provides a strong case for the common assumption that growth

boundaries, urban infill strategies, brownfield redevelopment, etc.,
must necessarily disadvantage the poor in their search for affordable
housing. I grant that those with fewer dollars now need protection from
those with more dollars in the economy and society, but the diagnosis of

the problem needs to be correct if there is to be any prospect for
changing this imbalance. The worst thing we can do is provide simple but

inaccurate or incomplete explanations for the problems facing inner city

residents... those bad explanations can lead community groups to expend
precious limited resources on fighting the wrong battles.

The causes of sprawl, the demand for a response, and the consequences of

the various policy actions taken vary from place to place. We have to be

very careful not to overgeneralize at the same time as we remain very
sensitive to the local consequences of policies we propose or adopt.

This is a useful discussion, and I hope we keep it up.

Peter B. Meyer
The E.P. Systems Group, Inc.
P.O. Box 2736
Louisville, KY 40201
 502/896-9448 or 502/852-8032
 Fax: 502/852-4558

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