NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Results of New Urbanism

April 12, 2004

Cities considering New Urbanism as the guiding philosophy for their redevelopment policies should look at the real-life results such policies have had in other cities, says Pam Villarreal, an NCPA research associate.

For example, Portland, Ore., began putting New Urban design into practice decades ago, including growth boundaries and higher density development.

Portland is cited as one of the most walkable cities by the American Podiatric Medical Association and Walking Magazine. However, its dense and regulated environment has resulted in one of the least affordable housing markets and massive congestion in spite of mass transit:

  • Between 1991 and 2000, housing prices in Oregon almost doubled, from a median price of $75,100 to $146,500.
  • This 95 percent increase far outpaced the national median housing price growth of 39.8 percent during that time.
  • Moreover, Portland's Northwest 23rd Avenue, considered a chic walkable area, has one of the highest automobile densities in the nation because most people get there by car before they start walking.

Experts say Salt Lake City's New Urban plan -- called Envision Utah -- will have similar effects:

  • According to Wendell Cox, a leading expert on urban sprawl issues, housing affordability in Salt Lake City has declined by 21 percent during the past 10 years.
  • Cox argues that the Envision Utah plan will make the housing market even less affordable by reducing the number of single-family homes by 150,000 by the year 2020, as compared with normal development.

A recent University of Maryland survey confirmed that although people are enticed by living in smaller neighborhood blocks near walking and bike paths, they are deterred by close proximity to features typical of New Urban mixed-use projects: commercial buildings, high densities and mass transit.

Source: Pamela Villarreal, "When the renewal hits the road," Star-Telegram, April 12, 2004.


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