Thursday, September 28, 2006

Hood River Tackles Affordable Housing Problem 

Hood River, Oregon, which calls itself the windsurfing capital of the world, is dealing with the unaffordable housing issue that is caused by Oregon's strict land-use regulation. How is it dealing with it? By passing a bunch of new regulations.

First, the city is allowing homeowners in single-family neighborhoods to build "accessory units," i.e., apartments in or adjacent to their homes. These are very popular with New Urbanists and unpopular with residents as they add density. This will help make housing more affordable as it brings down the value of adjacent homes.

Second, the city tightened the rules for how big a house can be on a lot and to encourage garages in the rear. This means alleys, which increase crime, another sure way to make housing more affordable.

A third new rule would require bed & breakfasts to screen parking in back instead of allowing it in front where it is less vulnerable to crime. As more and more visitors suffer break ins, they will be less likely to want to move to Hood River, thus making it more affordable.

Just another productive day in the planner's paradise called Oregon.

Portland-area Schools Suffer Density Dilemma 

School districts in Portland suburbs that have followed the density fad are learning that it is very expensive. Land for new schools is hard to find, and more expensive when you find it. Packing students into small areas means there is no room for things like gym -- one school offers gym glass to its students just once per week.

"We've learned, along with everyone else, what density means," says one local school board chairwoman. "It can't mean dense schools. There are certain limits to adequate play space for kids."

But why should schools be exempt from the density problems facing families and businesses? Maybe if schools shouldn't be dense, neither should anything else.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Clearing the Air in Atlanta 

Some timely reading for those of us going to the PAD Conference in Atlanta next weekend. Courtesy of Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation, through his Surface Transportation Innovations newsletter (issue 33, August 2006), a link to this 2003 study of transportation and land use in the Atlanta region. The author, Alain Bertaud, concludes that the region’s strategy for addressing congestion and pollution problems through the typical smart-growth strategies of increasing densities and the supply of transit cannot succeed. Even if draconian land use measures were successfully implemented, “it is a geometrical impossibility for Atlanta to increase its density to reach the threshold level which would allow an effective operation of transit.” He concludes that, “Only after we abandon the illusion that new transit and innovative land use planning will decrease pollution and congestion, is it possible to look at more realistic solutions. We should look for solutions in areas that have a proven track record: technology and traditional economics, i.e. pricing.” While Atlanta may be at the low end of the density scale, these conclusions would also apply to most other U.S. cities.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Reason Foundation Introduces Mobility Project 

In twenty-five years, says the Reason Foundation, commuters in Denver, Portland, Seattle, and eight other urban areas will face congestion worse than is found in Los Angeles, the nation's most congested region, today. To prevent this, the Foundation's Mobility Project estimates that 104,000 new lane-miles of roads will be needed.

The full report details just where new roads will be needed, how much they will cost, and how they can be financed. A state-by-state analysis is included in an appendix.

The Mobility Project was covered in a USA Today story. Several contributors to the project will be speaking at the Preserving the American Dream conference in Atlanta on September 16.

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