Friday, April 07, 2006

Damned If You Do, and Damned if you Don't...

Story in this morning's Trib about a Sutherland Institute report saying that "smart growth" adds to the cost of housing in Utah. Interesting how this was presented, because I pulled the actual study itself off the web about a week ago. The study author is Randall O'Toole, a well-known conservative economist who is generally anti-planning and anti-government. The study was apparently funded in part by ten similar state-level organizations, including the Sutherland Institute here in Utah.

The Sutherland Institute's press release quotes Institute President Paul T. Mero saying, "Randal O'Toole has labored hard to make a simple point: government regulations significantly increase the cost of Utah homes. It turns out that so-called 'smart growth' planning isn't very smart after all."

So here's where the "Damned if you do..." part comes in. O'Toole and Sutherland are saying smart growth planning and regulation drives up the cost of housing. Yet critics of sprawl also say that sprawl is expensive and is caused by... government regulation! In this case, the regulation that maintains low-density, large lots, spread across the countryside. I guess government is to blame for it all, both ways.

Dan Lofgren, a long-time developer and also chair of the Utah Quality Growth Commission, says the kinds of restrictions O'Toole cites in his study as causing increases in housing costs are methods that are not generally employed in Utah, such as growth boundaries, extensive design requirements, and extensive acquisition of open space with tax funds. "If he can't point to the cause (in Utah), how can he point to the effect?" Lofgren said.

O'Toole's methodology for calcualting the smart growth penalty is also very subjective, at least from my standpoint. Take a look at the study itself and see what you think. Again, to me, the "truth," such as it is, lies somewhere in the middle between the two sides.


At 10:53 AM, Blogger google_PEAK_OIL said...

Randal O'Toole likes to charactarize smart growth advocates as liberal elites who want to take your cars and freeways and yards and big houses away.
I think a far more accurate description of a smart growth advocate is someone who realizes that irresistable forces of economics, resource depletion and environmental problems are going to gradually rob us of those things anyway, and wants to help prepare us to survive the trauma.

At 9:06 PM, Blogger google_PEAK_OIL said...

Separated at birth?


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