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Housing:  What’s Next

Housing: What’s Next Part II

Mary Nichols, Chairman of California Air Resources Board, says Ed's recommendation to getting rid of the unlimited home mortgage interest deduction has not yet been discussed as a solution to climate change.  California has been absent from the scene in land use for many years, but the desire to mitigate climate change is changing that.

Felicia Marcus, Western Director of the National Resources Defense Council, said at the end of the Bradley era, Los Angeles was poised to create a new environmental movement. But the Rodney King incident made it impossible.

Felicia dismissed Ed's policy recommendations.  "Too difficult," she said.  Go for the low hanging fruit. "Everyone packing into coastal California is not the answer, Ed," she protested.  "There is no water."

Location efficient mortgages make sense.  But localities "are on this issue, and the federal government needs to figure out how to encourage these local efforts" (and get out of the way).  A series of listening sessions around the country with people doing good things would help the feds understand how to help.

Ed is now pushing back.  San Francisco is not dense, he asserts. And water should not be an excuse not to build when water is being diverted in California to low value agricultural uses.

Enrique Penolosa has asked the panelists what they would tell the president.

Ed says dollars per capita for infrastructure are going 2:1 to less dense areas.  But it is more difficult to develop in more dense areas because neighbors protest.  We must change this ratio.

Mary is reminding us that the stimulus is not going to get us where we need to go.  In fact, it takes us backwards.  Everything that is shovel-ready is bad.  Salt Lake City is our shining example of helping people understand and accept more density.  You can't solve for one piece of land.

Shelley Poticia says we are at the end of the sprawl era and the centers of regions are holding their value.  We have a built a system that is focused on rural roads and build highway systems.  States get more if people drive more.  When communities are interested in building a transit project, they get more credit with feds if they build parking near station.  They get no credit for allowing low and moderate income to stay in place.  Communities even get dinged in transit formula if they build parks and other community amenities.  (And the President can change the formula with no action from Congress.)

Felicia says we know what works.  This movement is already happening. A lot of people want to do this.  So the President ought to start the convening to find out incentives that would be helpful and the barriers that need to be removed with an integrated vision in mind -- transportation, housing and climate (and I would add, community vibrancy and equity).

Enrique reminds us that Americans resist density.  We have to provide parks and other amenities that make density more appealing.

Ed says of course, people want to live in different ways.  But they need to be required to pay for their actions.  The problem is we don’t charge people for carbon emissions.  But state has a big role in making suburbs attractive – not just in how they spend, such as on massive spending on highways, home mortgage deduction but also in very essence of what localities provide. 

As Ed is arguing, government provides safety and schools.  And what makes cities great generally – choice and competition and sophisticated consumers -- should also make schools great.  We need to use the natural advantage of cities to make urban schools great.

We also need to focus on retrofitting buildings.  There is more advantage to retrofits than there is in making new buildings green. It’s actually not easy, but we should find ways to finance retrofits because it’s good for climate change and produces lots of jobs.

Shelley is advancing a proposal to invest revenues generated by charging for carbon emissions into transit.

--- from the Furman Center, Housing Policy Conference

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