Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Thursday, June 29, 2006, 6:59 AM
On a global scale, modest North American urban growth is in sharp contrast to patterns seen in Asia with China expected to be 50% urbanized (city versus rural) by 2015.
The US coasts are expected to see the largest growth over the next 10 years. That comes as little surprise and consistent with the significantly higher housing appreciation rates seen in the west and the northeast over the past 10 years.
Here is an amazing interactive map [BBC] that shows the global population patterns from 1955 projected through 2015.
However, according to the census bureau, despite the macro trends for urban renewal, including new urbanism, the suburbs are actually flourishing as homeowners look for cheaper housing and better schools. The top five fastest growing cities were suburban (defined as having less than 200,000 in population).
New York remained the nation’s largest city, with 8.1 million people. The city has added 135,000 people since 2000, but it lost 21,500 from 2004 to 2005, more than any other city.
Detroit, with its struggling economy, has lost 65,000 people since 2000, the most of any city. Philadelphia, which has lost about 50,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000, has lost 54,000 people during the same period.
San Francisco, with the highest real estate prices in the country, has lost 37,000 people since 2000, according to the Census Bureau.
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Thursday, June 8, 2006, 12:01 AM
In Amir Efrati’s The Suburbs Under Siege [WSJ] or here homeowners love their cul-de-sacs while city planners find them to be a nightmare for traffic.
I lived on a classic cul-de-sac when I was a kid in the 1960’s when they were all the rage in new suburban tract housing. Our neighborhood was full of them. All the houses faced the street and there were no windows on the side of the house (that I remember), providing a sense of privacy (or isolation, depending on your perspective). Of course I remember losing control of my bike on the downhill leading into the cul-de-sac and splitting the bottom of a split rail fence (as well as my knee).
The term cul-de-sac is French for bottom of the bag. Their objective was to limit traffic through residential neighborhoods thereby promoting quiet and enhancing safety for children. Today developers charge a premium for properties located on them for this reason and they remain popular. Their existence in a subdivision allows more houses to be squeezed into the land parcel.
But the New Urbanism movement says they promote driving by separating streets, making it impractical to walk, isolating neighbors from each other and encouraging crime because of limited pass-through visibility.
Here’s an interesting NPR segment released yesterday called Cul-de-Sacs: Suburban Dream or Dead End? [NPR]
Their safety has been a big source of comfort for many buyers.
“The actual research about injuries and deaths to small children under five is that the main cause of death is being backed over, not being driven over forward,” he says. “And it would be expected that the main people doing the backing over would in fact be family members, usually the parents.”
Armed with such arguments, critics of the cul-de-sac have won some victories in recent years. In cities such as Charlotte, N.C., Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas, construction of cul-de-sac-based suburbs has basically been banned. In other places, cul-de-sac communities have been retrofitted with cross streets.
They still remain popular with homebuyers and I suspect they are so engrained into our suburban culture that they will remain a staple of design for generations to come.
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Monday, June 5, 2006, 12:05 AM
I have never done this, but I made the review of a book the topic of a post. The book is American Green and the review was called America’s Obsession With That Green Patch In The Yard [CS Monitor] via Planetizen, whiched hooked me and I wanted to share it.
An environmental historian ponders the cultural significance of the lawn in suburban America.
With the explosive growth of suburbs and sprawl and Americans obsession with housing and its fever pitch of the recent housing boom, I have always wondered why a green lawn was so important to many (self-included). Its not about the evils of fertilizers and chemicals, but more about the social dynamic. The review is quite thorough and a good read.
…When read through this cultural lens, lawns become an instrument of planned homogeneity. As Americans sought to fit in with one another during the cold war, writes Steinberg, “…what better way to conform than to make your front yard look precisely like Mr. Smith’s next door?”
…In his story of the lawn, the social and ecological factors often worked in coordination. Perfection became a commodity of post-World War II prefabricated housing such as Levittown, N. Y., in the late 1940s. Mowing became a priority of the bylaws of such communities.”
Its not just a suburban phenomenon:
Even in this weekend’s NYT article by Tracie Rozhon Opening Up a Duplex, Letting the Sunshine In, grass seemed to be an important design element in the reconfiguration of a duplex apartment.
In the new design, the terrace becomes the platform for yet another staircase, which leads to â€” guess what? â€” a third-level terrace built on top of what had been a second-floor bedroom. This third level is planted entirely in grass, a party oasis that has a lovely view of a nearby church.
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Wednesday, March 22, 2006, 12:01 AM
One of the most important municipal considerations of new housing development is the adequacy of the surrounding infrastructure, specifically sewers. The rapid pace of housing development over the past several years has taxed the ability of municipalities to handle the extra volume (er..sorry). In rural areas, property owners are reluctant to bear the cost of installing new sewers, but many of the new units that come on line are higher in density, like condos, PUD’s and multifamily properties. Here’s a collection of recent news articles to illustrate the point.
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Thursday, February 23, 2006, 12:26 AM
In this Planetizen post the author Leonardo Vazquez postulates:
He told James Madison: “I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries as long as they are chiefly agricultural; and this will be as long as there shall be vacant lands in any part of America. When they get plied upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, they will become corrupt as in Europe.”
As a writer, philosopher and leader, Jefferson was able to hard-wire an anti-urban bias into the culture of the United States. Consider the U.S. Constitution. What power does it give to cities and towns? None, nada, zip. In fact, the Constitution doesn’t even mention cities and towns. It does give a lot of power to states. And states get more power — through representatives — by increasing their population.
It’s a formula for urban sprawl and weak cities. States need to grow to get more representatives and more political power. State politicians could try getting more people into urban areas by encouraging compact development. But that would risk giving more electoral power to cities, which Jefferson and his friends and followers (the “Jeffersonians”) thought were corrupt. The result? Encourage people to scatter on large plots of land — of course after removing the Native Americans who happened to be living there at the time.
Its a good article. We have had recent posts on sprawl and new urbanism (bringing town centers to suburban areas). Here’s a good resource that covers sprawl [National Geographic].
Sprawled In The Suburbs, There Is Hope For The New-Urbanist [Matrix]
Creative Brain Drain Weakens Long Term Urban Revitalization [Matrix]
Development Is Goinâ€™ Downâ€¦town [Matrix]
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Wednesday, February 15, 2006, 12:01 AM
With the rapid run-up in real estate prices over the past several years, its probably not a bad idea to make sure that your insurance coverage is adequate especially if you did a major renovation or expansion. This Real Estate Journal article Taking Inventory of Your Home To Get Adequate Insurance applies more to personal property within the home.
However, insurable value, the value of your home should catastrophy strike, is the amount needed to replace the existing improvement (the house). It is NOT the purchase price of your home because a large portion of the value of your property is found in the land. This concept applies to condos and co-ops as well.
This is one of the most misunderstood aspects of housing – values that appreciate and depreciate relate largely to the land value, not the value of the house. Yes, sure, the cost to replace your home will increase due to higher labor costs, higher cost of materials, inflation, etc. during a tight housing market and renovations and extensions or expansions may also impact value as well, but the value largely runs with the land.
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Tuesday, February 14, 2006, 12:30 AM
The story about the House valued accidentally at $400 million causes problems [News Sentinel] was a simple compluter glitch gone bad.
The homeowner of this house [NWI Times] got an $8M tax bill when they usually pay about $1,500 because the property was erroneously appraised for $400M [Chicago Tribune].
Thats not the story.
How did this sort of thing slip through the system? It seems like very little budget or financial oversight in this process was involved.
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Wednesday, February 8, 2006, 12:01 AM
National Geographic has a really cool image gallery that compares New Urbanist and Sprawl suburbs [NG]. Wait a sec…National Geographic? Here’s a cheesy interactive page of the same info [NG].
Here’s more discussion from the City of Austin:
-Residences far removed from stores, parks, and other activity centers
-Scattered or â€œleapfrogâ€ development that leaves large tracts of undeveloped land between developments
-Commercial strip development along major streets
-Large expanses of low-density or single use development such as commercial centers with no office or residential uses, or residential areas with no nearby commercial centers
-Major form of transportation is the automobile
Uninterrupted and contiguous low- to medium-density (one to six du/ac) urban development
-Walled residential subdivisions that do not connect to adjacent residential development.
I was specifically interested in National Geographics definition of the residential components and how they differ between the two types of suburban growth:
Different housing typesâ€”apartments, row houses, detached homesâ€”occupy the same neighborhood, sometimes the same block.
People of different income levels mingle and may come to better understand each other.
A family can â€œmove upâ€ without moving awayâ€”say, from a row house to a single-family home.
Property values donâ€™t necessarily suffer when housing types are mixed. New-urbanist neighborhoods are generally outselling neighboring subdivisions, and some of the United Statesâ€™ most expensive older neighborhoodsâ€”Washington, D.C.â€™s Georgetown, Bostonâ€™s Beacon Hill, for exampleâ€”are marvels of mixed housing.
Developers often fill whole subdivisions with one type of residenceâ€”say, $300,000 ranch houses.
Zoning often outlaws apartments and houses in the same development.
Sequestered in a narrow sliver of society, people may develop or maintain intolerance of those outside their ilk.
It seems logical that New Urbanism is more appealing (to me on first glance anyway) based on the points made above, but look at the discussions raised Suburban Dystopia[Polis]. Suburbs are experiencing a renaissance [LA Times]. Actually I think nearly every fad or movement in housing is being seen now. When the market is as strong as it has been, more expensive alternatives gain in popularity. Here’s another California pro-Suburb article that came out on the same day. [SF Chron]
The correction of a 50 year old housing pattern is not so easy. In addition, restrictions on use, such as zoning, transportation, building codes, etc. tend to drive the prices up. The move toward New Urbanism means a potentially better living experience but at higher prices.
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Thursday, December 29, 2005, 12:01 AM
In the headline: Western Mass. sees strong housing growth[cbs6Albany.com] a study by the Warren Group out of Boston showed that the sharpest rise in real estate prices in Massachusetts were to be found in the western part of the state.
Real estate experts say the numbers indicate that
demand for housing is pushing buyers into western
Massachusetts where prices are still relatively
- Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire Counties recorded the largest median increase in condo prices in 2005.
- Franklin County condo prices spiked almost 29 percent.
- Hampden County condo prices shot up by almost 20 percent.
- Hampshire County recorded an increase of just over 18 percent for condos.
- Price jumps of at least ten percent for single family homes were also seen in those three counties.
Housing prices in Western Mass are surprisingly affordable compared to Boston and NYC standards. The trend from urban to suburban is a common phenomenon as city prices rose sooner than their rural counterparts.
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Friday, December 16, 2005, 12:30 PM
Source: The Washington Post
“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” summons visions of racial brutality in another place and time. But Uncle Tom’s Cabin stands today in Rockville, shaded by a row of trees from the speedway that is Old Georgetown Road.”
Its now for sale according to a story in Marc Fisher’s column [Washington Post].
“Its owner, Hildegarde Mallet-Prevost, died in September at 100, and her family is selling the three-bedroom colonial (literally) with the attached log cabin that was once home to Josiah Henson — the slave whose 1849 autobiography was the model for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s classic novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
“A century and a half later, an Uncle Tom has come to mean a black man who obsequiously seeks white approval or betrays his race. But the cabin in North Bethesda, just south of the city of Rockville, is also a symbol of the strength and savvy that enabled Henson to rise from slavery to build a pioneering life of learning and achievement.”
I was really surprised that a typical house has been adjoined to a property with historical significance. I imagine that the property would be difficult to establish a value for.
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