Monday, October 30, 2006
[American Resettlement – fourth in a series about how land use law is responding to changing residential patterns]
The big census news (since the news about 300th million person) is that “married families” now constitute a minority of American households, as Americans are more likely to be unmarried -– young people who put off or eschew marriage, single immigrants, and elderly widow and widowers. This change in population should be and is having significant effects on land use law, which was largely developed (especially in the suburbs in which a majority of Americans now live) under the assumption that the “typical” American household is a married couple with kids. The pro-family bias in zoning laws need to be re-examined.
As if on cue, the New York Times also reported recently about how developers are responding to the change in households. Perhaps not surprisingly, considering its role as a vanguard in battling “exclusionary zoning,” the example comes from New Jersey. In the affluent suburb of Livingston (median household income of about $100,000), a new development includes condominiums that appeal to both elderly couples and young people who can’t afford or don’t need a detached house. Zoning laws were recently changed to allow the non-traditionally suburban development and have also facilitated new townhouses near a downtown retail street –- not a typical scene in affluent suburbia.
Suburban governments and developers across the nation should and will eventually, I predict, respond to the changing America and amend land use laws to facilitate new housing demands and new kinds of residential development.