A Call For Smart Growth-Based New Towns

It's politics, not planning, that drives up housing costs. Rather than back away from regulations, more professional planning is needed to create healthy and affordable communities.

A recent column in the Seattle Times refutes the idea that planning regulations increase the price of homes, and suggests that a new independent planning agency be established to focus on created healthy communities that are affordable.

"There is no mystery to the pricing of housing. A developer or owner estimates what the market will bear, or the maximum price for which a house can be sold, and sets a price based on competition. Negotiations may occur. The sales price is influenced, but only indirectly and sometimes very little, by regulatory costs. The control is the market estimate at that time, which can vary appreciably.

Regulations may require sidewalks, but it is not the rules that increase the cost; the increase reflects the value added by the sidewalks. If home insulation is mandated by the rules, then the value increase is due to the insulation, not the rules. Yes, the homeowner could have insulation blown in after occupation, but the estimated cost is almost double that of doing it when building the house.

The issue becomes: What amenities are to be provided, and when?"

"My conviction is that the best way to lower costs would be to develop a new community, in coordination with a government entity, as several states and European and Asian countries have done. Establish a nonprofit land-development corporation, acquire a huge parcel outside the congested Seattle area, and within it allocate land for desirable usages - housing for all incomes, and employment. Costs for utilities, transportation and amenities could be greatly reduced and convenience and a sense of community could prevail.

Does the will exist in Washington for such an endeavor?"

Full Story: Smart land-use regulations create a sense of community

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