Sanders: Do Social Concerns Trump Housing Warren, Impeach Gentrification?

An article in IndyWeek shows the tension in Raleigh (and other cities) in trying to find the right balance among the oft-conflicting goals of having affordable housing, avoiding gentrification, bringing in more housing to high-demand areas, and providing denser, more walkable neighborhoods.

I recently wrote about regulatory reforms to bring about more and relatively lower-priced housing options to an area in high demand. It highlighted how restrictive zoning regulations are doubly harmful to increasing housing options in high-demand areas.

More housing options (including granny flats, garage units, and multiple dwelling units per residence, not just apartments and townhomes) would relax  upward pressure on housing prices. But they would certain not prevent a neighborhood from changing.

IndyWeek writes of 75-year-old Mary Johnson, who bought her modest downtown bungalow for $45,000 in 1998, where newer homes built nearby are selling for half a million. They are also “big, boxy structures designed to maximize square footage on small lots.” There are a few designated, city-built “affordable” homes that are sold for “well below the market rate.”

And then there was a rezoning request to build a warren of ten townhouses on a half-acre lot:

Johnson was one of thirteen members of the North Central Citizens Advisory Council who voted against a rezoning request from developer Dayong Gan to add ten townhouses to an empty, half-acre lot at the corner of Tarboro and Boyer Streets, directly across from the Tarboro Road Community Center and a block and a half from a bus stop. Only three CAC members voted for it.

City staffers believed the project was consistent with the comprehensive plan’s vision to add density to walkable neighborhoods near downtown. Perhaps the project was a little too dense—the future land-use map calls for fourteen units per acre, while this plan would yield the equivalent of twenty—but it would ultimately produce more affordable units than single-family homes.

Johnson was horrified.

“A townhouse, no matter what it was priced at, would be hideous in our neighborhood,” she says.

She wants single-family homes and nothing else.

The developer has withdrawn the project.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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