Thursday, November 6, 2008

The time for buying up land for the public?

100_0007    What benefits to land use policy arise by virtue of the housing price slump?  One answer is that governments and private organizations may be more able to buy the ownership of, or at least the development rights to, environmentally important areas, now that real estate prices are low.  In Hillsborough County, Florida, near where I live, the voters on Tuesday approved (here in Florida, citizens vote on just about everything, even things that most of them have no reason to understand) the extension of a program for the public purchase of environmentally sensitive lands in a rapidly growing county.  A national database of votes on such systems is here.
    True, governments are hurting for money these days, and proposals for new “non-essential” spending programs are unlikely to stir up much interest in many lawmakers.  But asking citizens whether they are willing to a pay a few dollars to buy land is more likely to get a positive political response than would a vote on raising taxes to do the same thing.  Just as it made sense for government to buy lands for parks in the low-value 1930s, now (and not when prices are high) is the sensible time to purchase (and make reasonable exercises of eminent domain) more public lands.

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November 6, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The changing hues of suburbs and city …

Princewilliam     If there were any doubt that the old model of a poor and diverse central city surrounded by affluent white suburbs is now thoroughly outmoded, here’s a fascinating story from the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, which have been some of the fastest growing in the nation.  In the new century, most of the growth in the outer suburbs, particularly in Prince William County –- once rural, but now in large part suburban –- has been due to the migration of minority residents, who are most often Latino.  In Prince William, now nearly half minority, new migrants have found lower prices (and, in too many instances, subprime loans), access to exurban jobs, and, eventually, backlash by more senior residents.  Meanwhile, older inner suburbs, such as Alexandria and Arlington, actually saw their percentages of minority residents fall in over the past decade.  Why?  These areas have become more popular for affluent families and singles who seek ready access to the big city; new and high-priced condo towers and townhouses have sprouted up everywhere.  Thus, the Virginia suburbs now resemble the model of many big European cities, in which the inner neighborhoods are prized by the wealthy, while immigrants must settle for the more distant suburbs.   
    What does this shift mean for land use law?  It means that outer suburbs must re-think their exclusionary zoning laws, designed when the idea of a exurb was a sleepy world of homogeneous and affluent citizens.  And it means reassessing the relationship between city and suburb, and between suburb and suburb.    

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November 4, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)