Suburbs Forever

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Billions to be spent on "Smart" Growth. Concern about urban growth in this country is an old story. So are frequent proposals to undo the pattern. Now comes $9.5 billion in tax-preferred bonds from the Federal Gov for "Smart" Growth and more funding for public transit, (also California has a  2.1 billion bond, half of which is for "Infill Housing"(prop 46)). Although meritorious, this "smart" growth scheme, like various others already tried by a number of local governments, is likely to be of modest consequence at best. Here's why:-

Why we prefer the Suburbs. In place, for more than half a century, Urban Sprawl in the United States is hard to slow, much less reverse, because numerous government policies actively encourage it. These inducements would have to be removed before the $9.5 bil. subsidized credit program or California's $2.1 bil. Bond AB1044, could hope to make much of a difference.

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Cool Census Data Mapping
Federal tax policy preferences home-buying, causing the exodus of population from cities to suburbs.      Families put all of their savings into as large a home as possible on which the mortgage interest is deductible. Why live anywhere but in suburbs where a mortgage will buy more tax relief and a home is more affordable? Although it will mean owning several vehicles and driving them more, automobiles and gas are so lightly taxed it scarcely matters.

Or look at the Fed's $200 billion highway bill (85 percent on roads).  No policies intended to infill (“densify”) cities:—  through planning, community reinvestment, "empowerment zones," urban renewal projects, mass transit subsidies, and so on   —stand a chance when it collides with this Bill, which removes the traffic congestion obstacle for government planners to allow  suburban expansion.

Plenty of other U.S. policies have suburbanized us more:- Mortgage guarantees by the Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Administration subsidized more than a quarter of all suburban single-family homes built after WW2. Meanwhile, the Federal Public Housing program concentrated the urban poor in the inner cities, turning more of them into social and violent degradations, accelerating the flight of the middle-class to safer locations in the suburbs.

Whether urban America's spread-out style of settlement is a national problem requiring a National or State solution is a complex and debatable question. To think it through, policymakers will need to envision a lot more than the US’s (and California’s) Smart Growth policy which concentrates on “densifying” (infill) housing.

In fact California has a healthy, balanced Jobs to Housing Ratio of 1.2 to 1, despite what our politicians have been told. 

California’s metropolitan areas’ roadway capacity increased in the same proportion as population growth since 1984. What did outpace both population and highway growth at both the regional level and statewide was the total growth in driving measured in vehicle miles traveled.

Time to Ask our Politicians to re-examine the data and let market forces and public demand govern the TYPE of housing development and repeal the "Infill" Housing Bills burdening all our cities' general plans.  Especially in this unpredicted time of recession. (Every city's General Plan is forced to include a state mandated quota of new housing)
Assembly members   

One major solution to any Affordable Housing shortage can be conversion of commercial property to affordable housing in cleaned up metropolitan areas, (among many other solutions other than Mandated Infill where its not wanted). Solutions might also include increasing minimum wage so people can more easily afford relative, quality housing. Instead of building down to their level, raise their standard of living to a higher capability of home ownership (providing many incentives).  California's climate makes construction of desirable AND affordable housing so much more feasible. Detached Manufactured/Mobile, garden housing on a reasonable sized lot is by far the more popular choice over apartments, at the same construction cost. These detached homes might readily attract our teachers, firemen and police away from suburb commuting (they frequently choose suburban life over apartment dwelling).   

There is no correlation between freeway funding and the development that congests it. 

US Congestion

CA Bills:-
Community and Environmental Defense Servicessaved more than 15,000 acres of farm and forestland, hundreds of neighborhoods and waterways

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