Don't Regulate the Suburbs

The Heritage Foundation decries Obama's anti-sprawl policies, claiming that smart growth strategies have only managed to raise housing prices around the country.
March 6, 2009, 1pm PST | Tim Halbur
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"In a mid-February speech in Florida to sell his stimulus plan to Americans, President Obama used the forum as an opportunity to express his support for more public transit (trolleys and buses) and linked this preference to a need to deter Americans' number one housing preference: living in the suburbs. The President argued that:

I would like for us to invest in mass transit because potentially that's energy efficient. And I think people are a lot more open now to thinking regionally, in terms of how we plan our transportation infrastructure. The days where we're just building sprawl forever, those days are over. I think that Republicans, Democrats, everybody recognizes that that's not a smart way to design communities.

The "smart way," as the President suggests, is supposedly through the policies of "smart growth" and "new urbanism," which many communities in America have adopted in recent years to limit growth and upgrade their demographics by making housing less affordable. Under the guise of deterring sprawl-i.e., preventing additional neighbors- many suburban communities have adopted exclusionary zoning, impact fees, involuntary proffers, mandatory amenities, growth boundaries, service districts, infrastructure concurrency, and large-lot zoning to discourage new construction. Inevitably, these strategies raise housing prices.

As the record reveals, states and communities that have implemented the land-use regulations common to "smart growth" strategies are the same states and communities that have seen their housing prices soar over the past decade and have experienced the most severe delinquency and foreclosure rates, as well as the sharpest declines in house values in the past year. In sum, these "smart growth" strategies are an important contributing factor in the housing finance mess and severe recession that now confront the United States and several other countries that have implemented the same abusive land-use regulations."

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Published on Thursday, March 5, 2009 in The Heritage Foundation
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