Affordability in Context: Part II

In the weeks before the Congress for the New Urbanism conference in Savannah, Georgia, May 15-19, we’re presenting interviews with experts contributing to a day-long exploration of “Affordability: The Intersection of Everything.” A three-hour morning forum on Thursday, May 17, kicks off the discussion, followed by two break-out sessions that afternoon. Below is Part II of a context-setting interview with Scott Bernstein, a founder of the Center for Neighborhood Technology and a former CNU board member. Part I is here.

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Community Affordability in Context: It’s not just about the house

Next month, May 15-19, when the Congress for the Urbanism holds its conference in Savannah, one day’s focus will be on “Affordability: The Intersection of Everything.” Between now and the beginning of the conference, we’ll present a series of Q&As with participants in that day’s discussion. Leading off is Scott Bernstein, a founder of the Center for Neighborhood Technology and a four-decade leader in analyses of the interdependent components of communities’ health. We’ll present the conversation in two parts, beginning with this context setter. 

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The Science Is In: The healthiest neighborhoods are both walkable and green

Kaid-BenfieldMost of us, most of the time, don’t make much connection between place – the neighborhoods where we live, work, and play – and our health. Not unless we’re thinking of such obvious local health concerns as an outbreak of infectious disease in the community, serious levels of pollution or toxicity nearby, or perhaps about local health care services and facilities. Absent those kinds of circumstances, we tend to take our neighborhoods for granted when it comes to health. But we shouldn’t, because there is a rapidly growing body of evidence demonstrating that the shape and character of our communities matters a great deal to our health.

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Good Side of the Downside: The end is (only) near

Chuck Marohn needs a hug.

That was my first thought reading this in his July 17 Strong Towns post :

Let me be clear about what I actually imagine is in store for us. I look at America’s cities, towns and neighborhoods and I see overwhelming levels of fragility. I see a development pattern that destroys wealth; the more we do, the poorer we become. I see municipal debt levels rising as a consequence, as well as an increased dependence on state and federal assistance. I see property values and consumption rates (property tax and sales tax) artificially manipulated higher by federal monetary and fiscal policy—a lofty perch I don’t see as stable. I see local governments overwhelmed with liabilities, from infrastructure maintenance to pensions and rising health care costs. And I see the people in the system — politicians, professional staff and residents — all with powerful short term incentives to simply increase the level of fragility.

 . . . I think we’re royally screwed.

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Land Use: Preserving the rural landscape with agrarian urbanism

As the harvest starts to come in here in Manitoba and conversations with my farming friends point to a good yield, I’ve been thinking about how to preserve these lands. Rural communities are often the ones with the greatest constraints, especially when it comes to finances. Without federal support, holistic zoning reform in agrarian places is rare. This, coupled with perverse incentives in lending practices, leaves some of the most valuable assets in North America – highly productive farm lands – with the least resources available for land use reform to protect them.
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CNU 25 Seattle: Highlights from the silver anniversary

Last week was the 25th annual Congress for the New Urbanism, where 1,400 city planners, architects, developers, economists, and mayors from around the world gathered to discuss the future of cities. Hosted in collaboration with the Urban Land Institute, comprised of an additional 6,000 developers and builders, the two events brought significant inspiration and insight to those working in the city building trenches. Here are a few of the ideas that resonated the most with me, along with some of my favourite spots in downtown Seattle, where the “unboxed” conferences were held. All images are clickable for a larger view, and have CreativeCommons ShareAlike License with Attribution to Hazel Borys. Continue Reading