It’s getting kind of, well, ridiculous. I understand that people can be afraid of density because it represents change. I understand that lots more people moving in can create a level of discomfort. I also won’t go into all the well proven benefits, broadly, of dense urban development over sprawl. But when I read the kind of comments being made by elected officials these days about density it makes my head hurt. Here’s the latest in the seemingly endless discussion over Roosevelt in Publicola:
Clark responded that she worries that neighborhoods will end up “derelict and underused” if the city approves too much density and no one moves in, and Burgess responded by citing Barcelona, where existing residences and businesses have been preserved while density has increased around them. Clark responded: “Maybe we can apply to the European Union,” she said. “Private-property interests complicate our world.”
Owwwww! I can’t stand it. So we’re going to intervene in the market place to ensure that new development doesn’t end up “derelict and underused.” Please, think for a second. Let’s say that happened. What would the price of those “derelict” units be? Let me go back to supply and demand 101. If the developers over build around light rail and nobody shows up, the price of those units will drop. I promise. I do.
On the other hand, we can keep larding up our code with all kinds of limits to the supply of new housing. Lower supply, increasing or steady demand, and then you have “unaffordable housing.” Why is this basic and iron clad rule of economics so hard to understand. I’m a philosophy major! Even I get this.
I have plenty of hair on my head, but I won’t for long if the City Council can’t get their basic economics straight. Developers will not overbuild transit areas if there is not market for the housing. They won’t. The banks won’t loan them the money. That would be stupid. But let’s say they goof up and over build. The price of housing will fall. For crying out loud folks, it’s pretty straightforward. More housing, office, and retail around transit means we can sustainably acomodate growth that is still happening in our city and region. If the people don’t come, and we have an over supply of housing, SHAZAM, we’ve just solved our affordable housing “crisis.”
And the main “private property interests” that are problematic are the interests of single family home owners who’s own property values stay high because of the lack of new housing supply. The only people who benefit from the attenuation of housing supply are current homeowners. Why aren’t their any tinfoil hat conspiracy theories about that narrow economic interest?
Good lord people. Let’s get with it.