Thursday, March 12, 2009

The rise of tent cities …

  In another depressing parallel to the 1930s, there are more stories about tent cities –- the synthetic age’s equivalent of Hoovervilles or shantytowns –- popping up in the news.  One of the most striking stories is from Sacramento –- the second most important capital city in the nation --- where hundreds of people have congregated in a tent city along the American River. (See today’s editorial in the Sacramento Bee.) Some have lost their home to foreclosure; others are more traditional homeless that Sacramento suffer from psychological or physical problems.  What should government do about the tent city, if anything?  The location along the river is not a good one, and the conditions appear to beg for an outbreak of disease, fire, or other calamity.  Some are talking about having the government provide some services to improve conditions of the tent city. 
I welcome the idea of the government offering low-cost services to marginal living conditions for homeless people.  But the residents should have to go half-way; they should be forced (yes, I said it) to move to a more sanitary location that causes potential fewer hazards to the public.

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March 12, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What do homeowners want?

   What do property owners want from their local land use laws?  I read this week a good student paper on zoning, in which the student cited many economic analyses that stated, with only slight generalization, that what homeowners want from their land use rules is the maximization of property values at resale.  Period.   
Housestreet   This is surely is an oversimplification concerning land use law –- a theme that I touched on last week.  One of the points that economists are supposed to emphasize is that economics isn’t just about money; it’s about preferences of all kinds.  As most homeowners would tell you, there are a lot of things other than resale value that he or she wants from land use law.  The homeowner probably wants from government good schools, good roads, easy traffic, well-maintained parks, low crime, and other attributes of a pleasant community.  In truly private company, the homeowner might even tell you that he or she prefers a certain socioeconomic or racial makeup of the community, which may well be affected by land use law.  Many of these attributes indirectly affect property resale values, of course, but most are preferred for their own sake. 
   In defending restrictive lands use laws, local governments know that the tried and true defense of “maintaining property values” usually makes for a solid defense.  But let’s not forget that the other, more direct issues, are probably foremost in the minds of many property owners when they vote and make demands of local land use law.

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March 10, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)