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Bringing Market Analysis to the Public Planning Process

In an op-ed for <em>New Geography</em>, Skip Preble argues why communities can benefit from incorporating market analysis and financial modeling techniques into their planning processes.
August 7, 2012, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Preble, a real estate analyst and land development consultant, argues why the tools commonly employed by private companies to make decisions about land development should be embraced by public agencies in order to avoid, "misallocated resources and fiscal difficulties that could have been easily prevented." Says Preble, "It's difficult to design profitable private development projects in a vacuum. The same principle applies to cities. The proper planning of cities - plans that meet the needs of both present and future inhabitants in a fiscally responsible manner - cannot be done properly without considering the needs of the market, and the impact that serving those needs will have on the fiscal health of the city."

Preble's premise will no doubt be controversial, as many planners will likely tell you it's their job to lead, rather than follow, market conditions to create the types of communities that reflect the shared values of residents and elected officials. And one can imagine scenarios where those values run contrary to existing supply or demand.

Furthermore, in the wake of the collapse of the country's housing market, analysts have some explaining to do. It's unclear how the market analysis that led some of the nation's largest banks and developers to overbuild and over-invest in the housing market in the last decade could have benefited municipal decision-making.

But alas, the more information that officials and planners have at their disposal when making land use decisions, the better. So perhaps, in a time of reduced resources for public sector planners, private developers would be willing to share their market data and insight with planners as significant land use decisions are being considered.  

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Published on Saturday, August 4, 2012 in New Geography
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