Ending Economic Apartheid

Thanks to its greenbelt and slow-growth policies, Boulder, Colorado is the nation’s most-expensive and least-affordable housing market of any city not in a coastal state. As a result, as noted in an op-ed in The Hill, the number of black residents in Boulder declined by 30 percent between 2010 and 2016, leaving less than 1.6 percent of the city with African-American ancestry.

Closer to my home, the Bend Bulletin argues that the state of Oregon “works against affordable housing by, among other things. . . artificially increas[ing] the price of land through its urban growth boundary system.” Although cities are required to maintain an inventory of developable land within their growth boundaries, the paper notes that permission to expand their boundaries takes years.

The Oregon legislature effectively admitted that this is a problem last year when it passed a law allowing two cities to develop land on up to 50 acres of land outside of their growth boundaries. But can anyone seriously believe that adding 100 acres of new housing will make housing more affordable in Oregon?

To make matters worse, the law is to be administered by the state Land Conservation and Development Commission, the same commission that wrote the rules requiring urban-growth boundaries in the first place. Even if 100 acres were enough, they certainly won’t be timely. Applications to be one of the pilot cities are due November 1, more than a year after the law is passed. Considering this is actually only a preapplication, it could take another year to get final approval. Once approved, the pilot cities will probably take a year or more to implement their plans. Those plans will no doubt be appealed by 1000 Friends of Oregon or some other group. So it may be several years in all before ground is broken for the first new home under this law.

This is the wrong way of dealing with land use in general and housing affordability in particular. Oregon needs to abandon urban-growth boundaries and Boulder needs to abandon its greenbelt and its limit on construction permits. These policies violate people’s property rights and freedom of movement. In the end, it will probably take a court ruling, not a legislative action, to strike them down.


8 thoughts on “Ending Economic Apartheid

  1. CapitalistRoader

    Meanwhile, Boulder’s toilet cleaners and grass cutters and roofers commute 30-some miles each way from Ft. Lupton. Boulderites like the cheap labor but don’t want those blue-collar types actually living in town. They wouldn’t fit in to Boulder’s carefully cultivated tony atmosphere.

  2. prk166


    On September 20, the Maryland Board of Public Works approved $225,000 to settle a six-year-old discrimination complaint against the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development. Under the so-called “Voluntary Compliance Agreement and Conciliation Agreement,” the state agrees to help finance development of at least 1,500 low-income housing units across Baltimore City and Harford, Howard, Carroll, Anne Arundel, and Baltimore counties. The settlement restricts those units to communities with low crime, minimal poverty, and highly-ranked schools

  3. prk166


    The first type of intervention, which is easiest to visualize, is often referred to as an
    “urban growth boundary.” Under such a policy, the government effectively draws a ring around
    a city and outlaws urban development outside this ring. The resulting urban growth boundary
    (UGB) may be allowed to expand over time in response to population growth, but its presence
    nevertheless prevents conversion of rural land that would otherwise occur. One of the bestknown
    examples of the use of UGBs is in Korea, where “greenbelt” zones constrain the growth
    of cities. Korean greenbelts and their effects have been widely studied, with the World Bank
    involved in some of the research. Key contributions are by Hannah, Kim and Mills (1993), Kim
    (1993), Son and Kim (1998), and Green, Malpezzi and Vandell (1994). These researchers
    conclude that Korean greenbelts are partly responsible, along with other elements of the
    country’s housing policy, for Korea’s relatively high housing prices. This conclusion is
    validated in the theoretical discussion presented in the next section.

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