Monday, April 21, 2008

Density’s growing pains: Homestead … and homesteading the central city …

Orange    Is the idea of density really causing significant changes in land use law and practice in the United States?  One example of a possible missed opportunity has been the rapid development of Homestead, Florida, south of Miami.  As much as any metro area of the country, greater Miami holds nearly impenetrable boundaries of sea and enormous protected areas (the Everglades).  One of the last undeveloped locations has been around Homestead, which was until very recently surrounded largely by farms.  But population pressures have led to a rapid build up; by some estimates, Homestead grew faster than any other city in the nation of at least 50,000 people since 2000.  But most of this development has been in the form of single-family houses –- often small houses, to be sure –- but many more single-family houses than multi-family units.  If any place called for a change in thinking, and greater density, it would be Homestead …
    But maybe things are changing.  NPR reported today that high gas prices, combined with a downturn in the economy, is propping up the prices of houses in close-in neighborhoods in many metro areas, especially those areas close to public transportation.  If this trend continues, we may finally see greater pressure for truly dense in-fill in old American cities.

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