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April 29, 2012


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Thanks Margot, I found your post about the possible effects of urban growth boundaries on affordability to be quite instructive. I believe innovations like this in city planning are often criticized because of how solutions to one problem often create issues of an entirely different nature. It is important to acknowledge these relationships, and debate the trade-offs, so that they can be addressed.

I was first introduced to the idea of an Urban Growth Boundary when I visited Freiburg, Germany last summer. Their Urban Growth Boundary had been implemented years before and had anticipated some room for expansion. One of the reasons it gained popular support was because those who lived in the city did not want to morph into, or be subsumed by, neighboring cities as each expanded. Therefore, part of the effort to concentrate growth was meant to retain distinctiveness from the places around them. I had never thought of urban sprawl in this context, but in Germany, sprawl was a threat to local identity and character. Concentrating the city made sure that identity would not be lost in unending growth.

Another interesting way Freiburg approached the Urban Growth Boundary was how they planned to preserve a variety of lifestyles, while accommodating higher densities. There were areas where town houses shared a common yard and playground, so that the city would still be welcoming for families. Traditional cul-de-sacs were also preserved and well integrated into the transportation system. At the same time, easing height restrictions on apartment buildings encouraged new construction. This allowed for increased density in targeted areas, while respecting the existing housing stock as valuable.

In regards to affordability, the city planner was a big promoter of mixed income housing. Many new developments combined low income housing, or housing for the elderly or handicapped, with traditional housing. This reduced the stigma of living in a low-income house because it was virtually indistinguishable from the other houses around it. Furthermore, it was assumed that low-income residents or the elderly would benefit from having relationships with the larger community. These efforts to experiment with how housing could influence social relationships were not just limited to the poor or elderly. One apartment complex was built for single mothers, with a common area where mothers could take turns watching the children, or share in household duties. In this way, preserving good places for the underprivileged to live, was part of the changes that had accompany instituting an Urban Growth Boundary.

In light of all this I think your conclusion is right, Margot, to say that a growth boundary must be paired with other strategies to avoid price hikes and gentrification. I think though, that as Freiburg shows, some of the solutions may be more unique than simply accounting for a certain number of affordable housing options. Certain underprivileged groups should be accounted for, and ways of life, like living in a single family home, should be preserved. Any city’s health is dependent on having a rich and diverse population, and an artificial control of the market should not threaten that.

Emily Bacha

There are two sides to every story, and Margot does a good job of capturing the benefits and challenges of Urban Growth Boundaries (UGBs) in this post. Specifically, Margot points out that there need to be additional controls established along with the UGB to allow for affordable housing development. This is true of any policy; policymakers should address all stakeholders involved in the process. Inclusionary zoning does the best job of requiring developers to build affordable housing units. However, I think the notion of building affordable housing units within transit oriented development, truly addresses the multiple needs of low-income households we discussed in class this semester. It helps families easily commute from home to school, work, and community facilities and connects these people to the surrounding community.

I am left wondering:
• Are East Coast and Midwest cities are experiencing the safe difficulties with securing affordable housing within UGB and smart growth communities? Maryland has an extensive smart growth policy, but does not present the same feel as the elite-dominated communities like Napa and Portland mentioned in the article. Also, are UGB limiting affordable housing on the international front?
• The larger housing market collapse increased the need for affordable housing, particularly rental units, nationwide. How did the housing market collapse affect those communities with UGBs, especially given the higher land values?
• A large role of the UGB is to preserve natural resources and land outside of its boundaries. Oftentimes, localities derive revenues from these protected parcels, as is the case in Albemarle County. Are there ways to direct such revenue to developing affordable housing units? Are there examples?

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À la lumière de tout cela, je pense que votre conclusion est juste, Margot, de dire que la limite la croissance doit être couplé avec d'autres stratégies pour éviter les hausses de prix et de gentrification.

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