Daybreak Maps Pictures Archives Green Page Real Estate

Saturday, March 29, 2008

New Urbanism and Affordability

In a previous post I stated the 10 main principles of new urbanism. One of the most important of those principles is mixed use neighborhoods. This includes having affordable housing mixed in with the higher-end housing. This goal of new urbanism is a difficult one to realize as most of the affluent population of the United States have a biased fear of living in close proximity of lower-income households. It is a tough sale. I can just imagine the thoughts of many of the developers to whom Kennecott first pitched the idea of Daybreak when they heard about this goal. How well was this goal accomplished in Founders Village? I think that this goal was not accomplished that well in the first phase. I think Kennecott decided that this aspect of new urbanist communities had to grow on people. So Kennecott (and Calthorpe) decided to locate the majority of affordable housing on the outskirts of the community. The various shades of white town homes, the terrace condos, the row homes, and finally Garbett Homes' new complex are not located anywhere near the heart of the village. To give the planners credit, most of the housing was affordable when Daybreak was first introduced. However, Eastlake has definitely improved upon Founders in the integration aspect with most of the lower-end housing being integrated into the center of the neighborhood. In fact, Eastlake seems to be the opposite of Founders in that the expensive custom home lots and higher-end housing is located on the fringes of the village.

The difficulty of providing affordable housing in Daybreak has become evident. Only a select few condos remain below the median home value of Salt Lake County and demand for these units is starting to drive up price. This is not unique to Daybreak. The rapid appreciation of all real estate in Utah has rendered prices that the average income cannot afford. Nationally, new urbanist communities have had a difficult time remaining affordable. Seaside in Florida and Kentlands in Maryland have appreciated well beyond the range of middle-class affordability. Many even see these communities as elitist. Rich well to do people living in their own yuppy community fantasy. The Congress of New Urbanism, the main force behind the new urbanist movement, has admitted that affordability is a problem. In one of its conferences a speaker suggested that the only sure-fire way of keeping certain units affordable is bad design. They have been working on this issue for years, but have not really come up with a proper solution. Many proponents have suggested design attributes that may help affordability.

One of the solutions suggested by proponents is to have deed-restricted properties. Doug Cornish of Cornish Associates, a developer of a new urbanist community in the East, stresses,

Owners of the deed-restricted units still get the benefits of homeownership, including a share of appreciation. The rest goes back into a land trust, to help maintain a stock of affordable units in the community. Still, Storrs points out, for these first-time home-buyers, “the return is immense,” given that they may have put down less than $5,000,

Another way is to make sure that the exterior of affordable housing matches that of the higher-end housing. Make the dwelling as small as you like, skimp on indoor amenities, but do not make the outside of the house from inferior materials.

Bottom line: unless we can integrate affordable housing options into Daybreak, we will soon be known as a elitist society by many of our peers in other neighborhoods and diversity will not be truly achieved in Daybreak. Of course, many of the designs that I have seen in Daybreak might just keep it affordable. Many of you might ask the question: why should we try and keep housing affordable in Daybreak? One of the trademarks of a decent community is that property values go up right? Obviously this rings true, but the reason for the diversity is to eliminate the segregation that is a typical element of sub-urban sprawl. This in turn makes a community walkable and eliminates the poor or rich from having to commute out of their segregated neighborhoods.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, you've definitely done your homework. There are mixed use elements planned as part of the village center. You'll want to watch what happens with the large open area to the East of the main street retail just as you come out of the roundabout on 11400 S. It may not happen for a few years because you need the retail to make it work, but it is in the plan.