From green building to the housing bubble, the editors of Planetizen review the most talked about stories of 2006.
Over the course of the year, the Planetizen staff editors review and post summaries of hundreds of planning and development-related articles, reports, books, studies, and editorials. Before we close the book on 2006, we like to look back through all the news stories and pick out the top planning issues and trends of the year, incorporating what Planetizen readers think is important from the popularity of each article we post.
What follows are the top planning issues –- five in all -- that we believe were most important in 2006.
Property-Rights: The Kelo v. New London Backlash
The Supreme Court's 2005 ruling in the case of Kelo versus New London was a call to arms for many landowners and property rights activists. Throughout 2006, numerous court challenges to the use of eminent domain by local governments were made across the country. This backlash culminated in November, when ballot initiatives or constitutional amendments in 12 states asked voters and legislators to decide whether the eminent domain powers granted by the Kelo case should be limited – some of them clones of Oregon's landmark Measure 37. All but three states passed these initiatives, boosting the rights of property owners and restricting the ability of local governments to seize private property.
- Jan 12 - Kelo Gets First Test In Ohio
- Feb 23 - The Impending Anti-Kelo Tsunami
- Jun 23 - Eminent Domain Backlashes 'Aren't Strong Enough'
- Sept 24 - 11 States To Vote On Challenging Kelo
- Oct 21 - The Case For California Prop 90: The Death of Eminent Domain
- Nov 9 - Voters Clamp Down On Eminent Domain
Downtown Redevelopment and the Problem of Gentrification
A trend appearing across the nation in cities big and small is the development or redevelopment of downtowns. These areas are gaining clout as a kind of "blank canvas", ready to be rejuvenated in the name of economic development. They are also gaining popularity amongst luxury loft and condo developers, who are rapidly buying up old office buildings and warehouses in the downtowns of some of North America's biggest cities. But while this recent revival of interest in often ignored and abandoned city centers is providing needed economic growth for their cities, the low-income residents of this formerly-unwanted real estate are seeing rents shoot far out of their price range. Gentrification has pushed thousands of downtown residents out of their low-rent housing, such as old warehouses, lofts, and single-room occupancy hotels. Though the cities see a downtown renaissance resulting from the influx of predominantly younger residents with money to spend, displaced lower-income residents are left looking for another place to go.
- Jan 15 - Is The First Wave of Gentrification Hitting The South Bronx
- Mar 9 - Gentrification Hits Middle America
- May 21 - So Exactly Who Is Moving Downtown?
- Jul 30 - Battle Over Gentrification Rages In Los Angeles
- Sept 6 - Are We In The Midst Of A Downtown Comeback?
- Dec 13 - Miami May Ease Downtown Affordable Housing Requirements
The Katrina Cottage and the Promise of Prefab Housing
The lack of affordable housing is a growing problem in many communities across the country. In no place is the housing shortage more evident than New Orleans. More than 300,000 homes were lost as a result of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. In the time since the devastation, efforts to house the displaced have been slow to progress. Many residents were forced to move out of town or even out of state just to find a place to live. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has reacted by sending out RV-like trailers to some residents as temporary housing, but the waits are long and the supplies are few. The architecture community has responded to the area's need by designing simple pre-fabricated housing, now known as "Katrina Cottages". These small, sturdy, storm-resistant homes have been designed to cost about $60,000 to build – a significant discount compared against the $75,000 FEMA trailers. Demand is high for these neo-traditional cottages, which can range from 400 to almost 1,000 square feet and house up to four people. While bureaucratic delays are hindering the dispersal of federal money to provide cottages for Katrina victims, prospective buyers from across the country are looking to get Katrina Cottages for their own less-than emergency use, such as guest houses, vacation homes, or even ski lodges. Responding to the demand, Lowe's Company -- one of the nation's largest home-improvement retailers -- began selling plans and materials for the cottages in about 30 of its Gulf-region stores. Affordable housing developers are also taking note, hoping to use this innovative new housing type to provide housing to lower income families.
- Mar 20 - For FEMA, The Katrina Cottage Is A No Go
- Jul 6 - The Katrina Cottage: A New Housing Type?
- Jul 12 - Will The Katrina Cottage Revolutionize Affordable Housing?
- Oct 2 - The 'Katrina Cottage' For Sale At Lowes?
- Nov 4 - Katrina Cottage Finds New Life
- Dec 3 - Katrina Cottages Not Heading For Katrina Victims
The Bursting Of The Housing Bubble
The 2006 trend with possibly the most widely-felt effect has been the bursting of the real estate bubble. The housing market experienced a significant cool-down in 2006, flipping poles from a seller's to a buyer's market. But this hasn't just meant that sellers are being forced to reduce their asking prices. Homeowners who used adjustable rate mortgages to get in the door are finding themselves on the threshold of defaulting. And homebuilders with growing inventories are slowing production and cutting jobs. As falling prices (equaling decreasing household wealth) and growing unemployment in housing-related sectors begin to detract from the nation's sense of economic wellbeing, some economists are concerned about a general economic slowdown or recession in 2007.
- Jan 5 - Millions Of Americans Will Face Bankruptcy When The Housing Bubble Bursts
- Mar 3 - Perilous Times For Housing Market
- Apr 8 - When The Bubble Bursts: 'Welcome to Housing Hell'
- Aug 9 - How Bad Will The Bubble Burst?
- Oct 26 - Housing Bubble: Who's Paying Attention
- Nov 30 - Do Falling Home Prices Mean A Major Recession Is On The Way?
Green Building Going Mainstream
2006 was what many environmentalists like to think of as the year everyone else finally started hearing what they were saying. From global warming to hybrid cars to alternative fuels, green thinking definitely got a little bit closer to going mainstream. This was especially evident in the fields of planning, architecture, and development, where green building saw a huge increase in use, affordability and acceptance. Green roofs and energy-efficient designs are becoming increasingly popular with big-name architects, and these environmentally sustainable designs and methods have become almost standard in any high-profile development. The U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building standards – known as LEED – have become highly sought. Some cities, such as Boston, Seattle and Salt Lake City, require LEED certification for all new public buildings. And many universities have made a pledge to operate their campuses at carbon-neutrality – meaning their facilities and campuses are or will be designed to reduce as much carbon-dioxide as they produce. And as the environmental effects of climate change continue to be seen, trends such as these are sure to continue.
- Mar 13 - Green Roofs: Efficient And Pretty, Too
- Jul 11 - The Greening Of The U.S. Building Industry
- Jul 22 - Green Building Technologies Becoming More Affordable
- Oct 17 - Green Buildings Go Residential
- Nov 11 - Salt Lake City To Require LEED For New Buildings
- Dec 21 - Boston To Require Green Building Standards
Did we miss anything? Can you predict the top issues for 2007? Write a comment below and let us know.
The Right to Mobility
As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.
Early Sharrow Booster: ‘I Was Wrong’
The lane marking was meant to raise awareness and instill shared respect among drivers and cyclists. But their inefficiency has led supporters to denounce sharrows, pushing instead for more robust bike infrastructure that truly protects riders.
Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability
The increased demand for walkable urban spaces could make them more and more exclusionary if cities don’t pursue policies to limit displacement and boost affordability.
Tacoma Developing New Housing Policy
The city’s Home in Tacoma plan is designed to address the region’s growth and rising housing prices, but faces local backlash over density and affordability concerns.
A New Paradigm for Stormwater Management
Rather than shuttling stormwater away from the city and into the ocean as quickly as possible, Los Angeles is now—slowly—moving toward a ‘city-as-sponge’ approach that would capture and reclaim more water to recharge crucial reservoirs.
Orange County Project Could Go Forward Under ‘Builder’s Remedy’
The nation’s largest home builder could receive approval for a 530-unit development under an obscure state law as the city of La Habra’s zoning laws hang in limbo after the state rejected its proposed housing plan.
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