One common anti-housing argument runs something like this: “Doesn’t new housing increase traffic? The roads/sidewalks/subways are jammed. Therefore, my neighborhood can’t accommodate more residents.”
This argument fails for two reasons. First, it is a “beggar thy neighbor” argument: it could justify excluding anyone anywhere. If new people will crowd Los Angeles’ roads, they’ll also crowd those of suburbs or smaller cities. In fact, suburban infrastructure may actually be more burdened by new housing than city infrastructure, because several hundred new residents effect Manhattan far less than Manhasset. And new suburban housing might increase traffic even more than urban infill, because when suburbanites commute to cities they are burdening the roads (or rails) of both the suburb they live in AND the city they work in.
Second, exclusionary zoning fails on its own terms, in that it’s only partially successful in keeping people out. Some people who can’t afford high rent move to suburbs or other cities; however, others live with roommates or in homeless shelters or on the streets. This is why high-priced cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco keep growing anyway.
Michael Lewyn is an associate professor at Touro Law Center in Central Islip, NY. His scholarship can be found at http://works.bepress.com/lewyn , and he recently wrote the book "Government Intervention and Suburban Sprawl: The Case for Market Urbanism."
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Market Urbanism Report is sponsored by Panoramic Interests, a progressive developer in San Francisco. Panoramic, which is owned by Patrick Kennedy, specializes in 160 sqft micro-units (called MicroPads) that are built using modular construction materials. Panoramic has long touted these units as a cost-effective way to house San Francisco’s growing homeless population. But Panoramic also builds larger units of between 440-690 sqft. To learn more about Panoramic’s micro-unit model, read MUR’s coverage on the firm in its America’s Progressive Developers series. Or visit Panoramic’s website.