Category Archives: Regional planning

Land-Use Intolerance

Netflix is advertising a documentary on the story of the Rajneeshee commune in Oregon. The trailer below makes it appear that the problem with the commune was religious intolerance on the part of rural Oregonians. In fact, the real problem was land-use intolerance on the part of urban Oregonians.

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was an Indian philosophy professor who decided to become a guru preaching free love and sex. The Indian government wasn’t too happy with his followers’ behavior, which included tax fraud and smuggling, so he decided to move to the United States. If they had moved to Texas, or Kansas, or some other interior state, land use would never have been a major issue. Continue reading


Economic Freedom & Property Rights

Libertarians and other free-market advocates agree that protection of private property rights is essential for economic liberty and prosperity. Yet none of the various freedom indices take property rights into account when comparing economic freedom in one country, state, or province to another.

For example, the only measure of property rights in the Fraser Institute’s index of world economic freedom is the “regulatory cost of the sale of real property.” But that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of property rights. What about the regulatory cost of the use of real property? What about regulatory limits on such use? What about the ease with which government can take property by eminent domain? All of these are much more important than the cost of selling property, yet are ignored by the index.

Last month, the Fraser Institute released its latest index of economic freedom for North America, comparing U.S. and Mexican states and Canadian provinces. Like the world index, this one does not measure property rights. Instead, it focuses on the size of government, taxes, and labor markets. The results are sometimes very different from an index of property rights. Continue reading


A Conservative Ecofascist

The left-leaning Guardian introduces us to someone who claims to be a conservative environmentalist, Sir Roger Scruton, author of How to Think Seriously about the Planet: The Case for Environmental Conservatism. Scruton worries that the global economy is not sustainable because so many things are heavily subsidized. At the same time, he recognizes that environmentalism today has “became a wholly owned subsidiary of the statist left,” becoming an “ism” as bad as socialism and Marxism.

“They come with massive, worldwide plans for a new form of government that will control our souls and will replace the old, inadequate ways of compromise,” Scruton argues. “It’s essentially the same mindset as imposed communism on the Russians and the Eastern Europeans and the Chinese. To me, that involves a complete misunderstanding of what our relation to the natural world really is and should be, because it’s a desire to control rather than to adapt.”

So far so good. However, he also rejects libertarianism, saying conservatives should not “advocate economic freedom at all costs, but recognize the costs of economic freedom.” In particular, he fears suburban sprawl, corporate farming, and global trade. Continue reading


Exurbanites Outnumber City Center Residents

An article of faith among urban planners is that people–especially Millennials and empty nesters–want to move to city centers. This belief is used to justify upzoning, subsidies to dense downtown housing developments, and restrictions on developments at the urban fringe.

Yet the Antiplanner’s faithful ally, demographer Wendell Cox, has repeatedly debunked this claim. His latest report shows that, not only are city centers not growing particularly fast, exurban populations–people with urban occupations living in essentially rural areas–are growing much faster and now outnumber city center populations by 3 million people.

Cox’s numbers might differ a little from other people’s because he doesn’t use political boundaries to distinguish cities from their suburbs. Instead, he relies on what he calls the “city sector model” that classifies land according to its history. Downtown is the really dense urban core (basically, the part with skyscrapers). The rest of the “city” is the area built before World War II. Areas built between 1945 and 1980 are the first-ring suburbs, while areas built after 1980 are the outer-ring suburbs. Populations in metropolitan areas outside the urbanized area (the area with more than 1,000 people per square mile) are exurbanites. Continue reading


The Next Insane Idea: The 30-Minute City

The prime minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, has come up with an idea that will no doubt soon invade the United States. He calls it the “30-minute city,” the idea being that everyone will be able to get to work, school, and “anywhere we need to be” within 30 minutes.

Instead of relieving congestion so people can travel further within 30 minutes, however, Turnbull wants to completely rebuild urban areas, relocating jobs and people so they will be less than 30 minutes apart even if congested. Essentially, he wants to promote polycentric cities in which most jobs are located in a few urban and suburban centers.

Following Turnbull’s plan, for example, Sydney is proposing to become a “metropolis of three cities,” meaning three major job centers. Three? Los Angeles has more than 100 job centers. You’d have to get down to urban areas of under 500,000 people (Sydney has 5 million) to find ones in the United States with only three job centers. Continue reading


New Tool Maps Housing and Transportation

For those who like to look at maps rather than databases, the Lincoln Institute has released a handy new tool mapping the United States using all sorts of criteria. Among other things, the map can show every structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridge, housing affordability, homeownership rates, conservation easements, and many other land-use and transportation factors.

The above map, for example, shows housing affordability, with darker colors representing more affordable. Though this is at the state level, you can zoom in and see it as close as the census tract level.

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Let the Property Owners Decide

The Houston flooding isn’t even over yet, and planners are already blaming it on urban sprawl. That’s absurd: if 30 to 50 inches of rain fell on New York City, Los Angeles, or anywhere else over a weekend, they would have flooded too.

The Antiplanner is not an expert on hydrology, but I do know a couple of basic principles. First, the way to minimize flooding is to minimize the percentage of each acre of land that is rendered impermeable by development. Second, high-density development leads to a higher percentage of land that is impermeable. This means that sprawl is a natural defense against flooding.

Planners would like you to believe that concentrating development on a smaller land base, even if that land is made mostly impermeable, is better because more land is left permeable. But all that does is concentrate the flooding in the developed area. Continue reading


The Antiplanner’s Library:
Richard Florida’s The New Urban Crisis

In a review of Richard Florida’s recent book, The New Urban Crisis, left-wing writer Sam Wetherell says that cities that have followed Florida’s “creative class” prescriptions “are becoming gated communities” for the rich, “or at least the college-educated children of the rich.” They suffer from increased inequality, gentrification pushing the poor out to the suburbs, and a disappearing middle class.

As a socialist, Wetherell believes the problem is a crisis of capitalism. But really the problem is a crisis of big government. Whatever the source of the problem, Wetherell claims that, in The New Urban Crisis, even Florida “all but admits that he was wrong,” though “he stops just short of saying it.” Continue reading


Richard Florida Supports Trump’s Urban Policies

Like so many urbanists, Richard Florida went into a “state of shock” on the election of Donald Trump. And yet, on reflection, he ends up agreeing with Trump’s basic principles regarding the cities.

Even if Clinton had won, he realized, “we would have been unlikely to see anything like the sweeping new set of urban policies that I’d recommended” in his books. As a result, he reached the “stunning” conclusion that, “When it comes to urban policy and much else, the federal government is the wrong vehicle for getting things done and for getting them done right.”

This, of course, is exactly why Trump and his supporters want to end federal funding of urban programs. Unfortunately, Florida doesn’t really understand the reasons for the blue-red divide, arguing it has more to do with gay rights and homophobism than economic stagnation and declining working-class jobs. Continue reading


Making Boulder Affordable

Boulder, Colorado is the least affordable city in America that is not in California, Hawaii, or the New York City urban area. Boulder’s unaffordability is directly due to a combination of land-use policies, including a greenbelt that is nine times larger than the city itself and limits on the number of building permits that the city can issue each year.

Click image to download this report. Click the link below to go to an executive summary of the report.

A new report published by Colorado’s Independence Institute argues that these land-use policies violate the Fair Housing Act and must be repealed. Thanks to these policies, the black population of Boulder is declining despite the fact that the city’s overall population is growing. Boulder also has one of the lowest homeownership rates of any city in the country, and it is especially low for blacks, who, more than whites, are increasingly forced to live in high-density, multifamily housing instead of single-family homes.

Continue reading