Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Buying Up Open Space -- Another View

Read a most interesting commentary in the Deseret News last week by Thomas Sowell, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He gives another whole viewpoint on the flood of programs that are now underway in many places around the country to buy up and preserve open space and farmland.

Sowell says that many such programs are promoted by those who find this a way to "do their part" to save some of the environment, but the effect in some places is to limit available land for new housing and thus cause substantial increases in housing costs and cut out all but the most wealthy from living there.

He says, "people who are sufficiently affluent can afford to move into places with severe restrictions on building. ... Among other things, this means that many young adults cannot afford to live near their parents, unless they actually live in their parents' homes. ... None of this just happened. Nor is it the result of market forces. What has happened essentially is that those already inside the castle have pulled up the drawbridge, so that outsiders can't get in. Politically, this selfishness poses as idealism."

Strong stuff, and an interesting perspective. I always think we need to be aware of the unintended consequences of many of the actions we push for as planners, as they become "chic" and gain a momentum of their own. While I support the purchase of property and development rights to protect critical lands, we need to be careful not to let this good program get too far out of hand.

6 Comments:

At 7:59 AM, Blogger Planner Perplexed said...

Wilf,

Sowell is one of the best political analysts out there. He is correct that conservation programs can be abused.

However, on the whole I think programs such as TDR, which is being implemented in Davis County, do more good than harm, especially if they result in cities allow higher densities in receiving areas. Higher densities, such as 5-7 units per acres instead of 1-4 should in theory make housing more affordable, not less.

 
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