In case you have not noticed by now, I am truly an advocate of infill development. I think my fascination with this particular development was highlighted in this interview by CNN with Richard Florida. In the video he highlights how America bounced back after the Great Depression. The recovery was due in part to the flight from inner cities to the suburbs. That flight was a gift and a curse in that it took our best and brightest, along with their wealth, to the emerging suburbs. We effectively built our way out the Depression. Fast forward 75 years, here we are again at a crossroads where everyone from the President to economists are trying to figure out how we recover.
“[We] must get back into the game…[we'll] be condemned to high unemployment and sluggish growth, if the 35% of the economy real estate represents is not engaged.” Patrick Doherty, Washington Monthly
What do I propose? I’m so glad you asked.
America can recover by rebuilding our cities. The Urban Land Institute noted that there is a demand for attached housing to the tune of 25 million units by 2025; that translates into 3 million acres of infill sites scattered throughout America prime for redevelopment and new uses. If history is any indicator, we will recover-the question is how we will recover. Over the last decade we’ve seen a migration back to the city and the trend is continuing for a number of reasons. Some would argue because my generation, the Echo Boomers or Millennials, want to be near “life” and that tends be in urban centers. The game has changed. We no longer solely prefer the housing options our parents and grandparents had.
Progress has been made to raise awareness about the need to curb carbon emissions by changing the way buildings are built. I applaud the USGBC, Southface and others who are championing high performance building. I propose we shift gears. Now that we understand “green building” as means to curb emissions, we need to understand infill development as alternative to suburban sprawl. Many local governments don’t have policies in place that encourage infill development whereby developers opt for the lesser expensive suburban model.
“There’s a frequent obstacle: neighbors’ opposition to infill development and the extra density it adds. But neighborhood doubts can often be satisfied by collaborative planning and prospects of quality redevelopment near transit stops, as well as attractive makeovers of obsolete shopping centers and low-grade strip commercial corridors. Plus, downtowns, universities and medical centers are new magnets for quality redevelopment.”
From “Compact Real Estate: The Stimulus We Need” Citiwire.net
Construction jobs were halved in Florida, Nevada and Arizona. What if we took the charge to build more sustainable cities? What if we built out half of the 3 million acres with walkable, transit oriented developments? Millions would be put back to work. Instead of putting lipstick on a pig, yes, I’m talking about GM, let’s redirect those funds to help cities incorporate policies that incentivize developers to pursue infill developments.
There is a stimulus package for you.
About Yahya E. B. Henry
Merging his passion for cities, real estate, tech and travel, Yahya is introducing the world to a new model of real estate development that draws from best practices around the globe.