Thursday, February 11, 2010

Has Regulation Saved Some Cities from Foreclosure Crisis?

From today's NYT Opinionator Blog, a piece on what's happend in California - the unregulated sprawl in the Central Valley vs. the strictly regulated urban core:

...[L]ook at the cities with stable and recovering home markets. On this coast, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and San Diego come to mind. All of these cities have fairly strict development codes, trying to hem in their excess sprawl. Developers, many of them, hate these restrictions. They said the coastal cities would eventually price the middle class out, and start to empty.

It hasn’t happened. Just the opposite. The developers’ favorite role models, the laissez faire free-for-alls — Las Vegas, the Phoenix metro area, South Florida, this valley — are the most troubled, the suburban slums.

Would stricter land use regulation kept us out of this mess?

Jamie Baker Roskie

California, Exurbs, Financial Crisis, Mortgage Crisis, Sprawl, Zoning | Permalink

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It's a very interesting point. But I'm still left wondering whether it was the strictly regulated cities that forced development out into the exurban fringes . . . i.e., the argument that some property rights types and new urbanists alike agree on: that overregulation causes sprawl. Even if the recent economic bust shows the limits of sprawl, did too much zoning help cause sprawl in the first place?

Posted by: Matt Festa | Feb 11, 2010 10:25:28 AM

It's an important point. The lack of consistency in zoning from locality to locality does argue for better regional, state or national standards. But, of course, the federal government regulating local land use makes folks incredibly nervous, so it doesn't seem too plausible.

Posted by: Jamie Baker Roskie | Feb 12, 2010 11:10:58 AM

I'm not sure that inclusion of South Florida as a "laissez-faire free-for-all" is entirely accurate, either as a description of our land use policies or as a cause of our own foreclosure woes. Miami-Dade County has refused to move its urban services boundary (at least for residential projects) for over a decade, and developers have to go through considerable process to obtain new entitlements within that boundary. Our boom occurred not just in the suburban fringes, but also in dense projects in the urban core - which have also suffered high incidence of foreclosure.

Posted by: Alan Krischer | Feb 16, 2010 7:47:31 AM

That's good perspective Alan. Thanks for reading and commenting. Certainly other dense urban areas, such as Detroit and Cleveland, have been suffering foreclosure problems for years, and for very different reasons. It's tempting, but probably faulty, to ascribe our current state to just one factor.

Posted by: Jamie Baker Roskie | Feb 16, 2010 10:58:59 AM