THE PRICE OF SMART GROWTH

May 31, 2006

Boulder, Colo., is one of the first American cities to curtail development with growth control and publicly-funded land preservations. But does the city represent an example to follow or a mistake to avoid, asks Eric Schmidt of the Boulder Daily Camera?

According to Randal O'Toole, author of "The Planning Penalty," Boulder's slow growth and open space policies drive housing prices past what average residents can afford:

  • The combination adds $117,000 to the median price of a home, even when adjusted to reflect affluent residents' buying power; for example, a house worth $210,000 in Colorado Springs -- where growth is less restricted -- would cost $335,000 in Denver and $545,000 in Boulder.
  • In 2005, a planned housing shortage added $3 billion to the cost of homes statewide.
  • Slow growth regressively benefits wealthy homeowners who already have property at the expense of low-income people who can't afford to buy into a growing number of markets.

However, many Coloradans disagree, says Schmidt:

  • The 1976 Danish Plan -- Boulder's landmark growth-control ordinance -- limited building permits to reduce the city's annual growth rate to two percent, and expansion is even slower today because of revisions over the years.
  • Since passing its first open-space tax in 1967, Boulder has spent millions of dollars acquiring about 30,000 acres of open space; the total is around 43,000 acres, including mountain parks and more than 100,000 acres when combined with Boulder County land.
  • Job growth, economic development and simple supply and demand have increased property value; it has grown from below the national average to well six figures.

Moreover, open space has been purchased because voters have decided that it isn't a waste of money; most open space programs have been funded by votes of the people, and there's certain weight one should give to the verdict of the voters, says Schmidt.

Source: Eric Schmidt, "The price of smart growth," Boulder Daily Camera, May 21, 2006; based upon: Randal O'Toole, "The Planning Penalty," Independent Institute, April 3, 2006.

For text (subscription required):

http://www.dailycamera.com/bdc/county_news/article/0,1713,BDC_2423_4715784,00.html

For O'Toole text:

http://www.independent.org/pdf/policy_reports/2006-04-03-housing.pdf

 

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