Are Liberals and Conservatives Fighting Each Other's Land Use Battles?

In his book, <em>The Rent Is Too Damn High</em>, Matthew Yglesias encourages us to reexamine our assumptions about which urban policies our values really support.
March 23, 2012, 1pm PDT | Ryan Lue
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When it comes to local politics, it appears that many people have their ideologies confused, according to Yglesias:

"When progressives, for example, see a fight pitting a neighborhood activist against rich developers, their instinct is to side with the activist, even if all the developer really wants to do is erect a building that will allow a lot more people to live or work or shop in their neighborhood. Indeed, the vast majority of big city residents are deeply committed to liberal politics on the national level, but feel just as comfortable standing with entrenched interests seeking to block change on a local level."

Because liberal politics often advocate for greater economic equality, Yglesias writes, liberals can be distracted by the wealth of real estate developers, often at the peril of families who need a home and businesses that need patrons who live nearby.

And conservatives are just as culpable for crossing wires, he argues. Few are ever seen at the helm of efforts to eliminate parking requirements and reform anti-density land use regulation, in spite of loudly-proclaimed small-government values. "Ideological battles focus much more on questions of identity, and the conservative movement has strongly positioned itself as an anti-urban movement (see Rick Santorum's city-bashing over the weekend) for conformism-minded suburbanites."

Regardless of ideological arguments about the virtues and perils of cities, however, Americans are continuing to move into the urban core. The challenge for both sides, it would seem, will be to do away with government policies that artificially encumber life and business there.

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Published on Monday, March 19, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities
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