Changing my mind about single family homes April 5, 2013

I used to believe that social justice required that a region be overbuilt [or at least over-entitled at law] in high-density housing and other locally undesirable land uses.  Now, thanks to Joel Kotkin’s influence, I believe that social justice requires that a region be overbuilt, or at least over-entitled, in ‘both’ high-density housing and single family housing.

The more housing available, the more affordable it will be.  The higher density housing does not necessarily have to be high-rise, as Edward Glaeser desires, except in some very expensive areas; I would prefer that be concentrated in ‘transit oriented developments’ around major transit stops and hubs, though you will still need lots of parking garages, because transit will not go everywhere for most people.  Similarly, single-family homes don’t have to be on large lots in inaccessible cul-de-sacs.  They can be on gridded streets, at least in flatter areas, as they are in older towns and New Urbanist developments.  [Most New Urbanist developments are not that dense; New Urbanists are not fond of high-rise.]  And they can have alleys in back and mother-in-law units; I live in an area that abounds in ‘1/2’ addresses, and I don’t think my neighborhood is less desirable because of it.

The issue is where to put all this housing, especially the single family housing.  There isn’t a lot of room left in the L.A. Basin and the San Francisco Bay Area narrowly defined.  And if we put this new housing out at the edges, we will want to find ways to encourage jobs to move in that direction as well rather than forcing long commutes.  We will always have some long commutes, for in this fluid job market, in which one does not hold the same job for 40 years, families cannot be expected to move next door to every new job; especially when more than one member of the family has a job, a reality that is driven primarily by housing costs, tuition, and health care anyhow.  Nevertheless, the key to prosperity in the Inland Empire and the Antelope and Victor Valleys is more jobs, especially good ones, in those regions, and if jobs are not following the people, we need to figure out why.

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