4.07.2008

THE CANDIDATES ON URBAN ISSUES

My new blog friend over at Discovering Urbanism has a nice post about the candidates on urban issues.

* On energy, I'm with him on the efficiency of a carbon tax in sorting out who pays and how much gets consumed.

* On transportation, he rightly points out something I'd heard from a colleague of mine who used to work at Amtrak, which is that McCain has been an ardent opponent of Amtrak, much to my chagrin, since McCain is by far my preferred candidate of the three left.

* On housing, he's correct about how the mortgage interest deduction (in concert with massive subsidies of the interstate highway system) is a chief contributor to decentralization by making it cheaper to live farther apart.

Let me reiterate an idea of local interest, which intersects all three of these topics, which is the concept of providing developers with generous density bonuses to construct housing units near transit stops if they sell a percentage of those units at an affordable price. This would seem to be a sensible policy on a number of fronts:

* It properly incentivizes developers to build affordable units, which otherwise won't get built, especially in a down market.

* It fills in some of the inexplicable holes in our built environment near transit stops.

* It provides double affordability to families in need, who not only get a good price on a house but can more easily do without a car and related expenses.

* It costs the City nothing in public dollars.

There's more to this subject, but this level of description will suffice for now. To be sure, what folks decide at the polls in November, and what the man or woman in the Oval Office decides for the next four years, will most certainly affect the viability of these and other local plans; as will the state of the currently shaky real estate market. Regardless, though, I have to think that stacking residences at a variety of price points near transit stops is a sensible, win-win sort of way to go.
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