Tuesday, April 11, 2006

More On the "Price" of Quality Growth

Excellent opinion editorial in the DesNews this morning from Pamela Atkinson, Chair of the Coalition for Utah's Future, which sponsors Envision Utah. It was written in response to the recent press release by the Sutherland Institute about a study by Randal O'Toole (co-sponsored by several other conservative state organizations from around the country) citing the "costs" of smart growth (see the immediate previous blog entry, which is on this topic).

Pamela does an excellent job in describing the biggest flaw in the study as it relates to Utah, saying, "But the Sutherland study is not credible, objective research. The study went wrong when it compared Utah's quality growth efforts to mandatory 'smart growth' regulations -- such as urban growth boundaries, population growth caps, and open space mandates -- imposed in some communities outside Utah. The study concluded that these mandatory growth policies were increasing the housing costs in those areas. Then, incredibly, it made the leap that since Utah is pursuing quality growth principles, the same costs apply here.

"First of all, we are not aware of any mandatory growth regulations in Utah similar to those criticized in the report. Nor has Envision Utah ever advocated such policies. ... The irony is that current zoning regulations often prevent the sort of housing development that Envision Utah promotes, investors would like to build, and which would allow the free market to provide affordable housing options." Just the point in made before, proving that planners and local officials come under criticism from both the free-marketers and the smart-growthers.

Then Pamela states something I wholly agree with -- "The study also fails to adequately address the primary drivers of housing price acceleration -- population growth, strong economic activity, limited developable land and favorable quality of life -- all of which are operating in Utah to increase housing costs." At a level, I would argue, that far overshadows the kinds of factors the report blames for increasing costs. And all those factors are -- surprise! -- free market forces.

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