In 2002 the National Center for Public Policy Research put out a report calling smart growth (the current urban planning fad) "The New Segregation." The report, written by Portland economist Randall Pozdena, estimated that if all U.S. cities had Portland-style planning, more than a million families would not have been able to purchase their first homes in the last decade. [That report is presently being downloaded at the rate of four-hundred per week.]"Is is fair to blame these attitudes on environmentalists?" asks O'Toole. "I blame them,' he concludes, "on urban planners." Urban planners whose policies are strangling land use, and as a result are making housing even more unaffordable for first-home buyers than it would otherwise need to be.
In 1999, an Oregon planning group called Coalition for a Livable Future (closely associated with 1000 Friends of Oregon) did a study documenting how high housing prices had caused the dispersal of Portland's African-American population from the historically black neighborhoods of North and Northeast Portland to the suburbs. The report indicated this was a bad thing (more integration is bad?) but failed to acknowledge that the same land-use policies that the group
was supporting was causing housing prices to go up. The report, "Displacement: The Dismantling of a Community," is no longer available on line [but can be purchased here].
What is really happening, of course, is that poor black families are displaced from rental housing (often single-family homes) into section 8 housing (usually apartments built in response to subsidies for "New Urban" high-density housing) elsewhere in the region. The families may lose easy access to churches, community centers, and other support services, although I haven't seen this documented.
Nationally, nearly three out of four white families own their own homes while less than half of black and Hispanic families do. (You can download state-by-state and metro-area-by-metro-area figures from here.) Since 95 percent of the country is rural open space, it seems like people who regard themselves as "progressive" should be more interested in boosting minority homeownership rates than saving open space.
LINKS: The New Segregation - US National Center for Public Policy Research, [PDF report, 2002]
How Smart Growth makes housing unaffordable - American Dream Coalition [PDF download]
TAGS: Racism, Urban_Design