On March 2, after a month of unexpected delays, the Senate confirmed Ben Carson’s nomination to Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in a party-line 58-41 vote. The lightly contested vote followed unanimous confirmation in committee, as Senate Democrats signaled that Carson’s nomination simply isn’t the hill they are willing to die on. With Carson now in the driver’s seat at HUD, what in the world could the soft-spoken neurosurgeon mean for U.S. cities?
As many have pointed out, Carson’s hearing testimony was vague, and his background in housing policy is sparse. Yet in Carson’s prepared testimony and at recent events, he has consistently stressed the problem of housing affordability and the need for land-use liberalization at the local level. In this regard, Ben Carson joins a cross-ideological, bipartisan consensus ranging from the progressive left to the conservative right on the urgent need for land use reform and new development in America’s cities. While HUD’s power over local land use regulation and housing is limited, here are three low-cost reforms HUD could pursue under Carson.
First, Carson could direct HUD officials to craft and disseminate model zoning reform legislation to the states. As urban history geeks may know, conventional “Euclidian” zoning began in 1924, when a committee of planning proponents drafted the Standard Zoning Enabling Act. The act provided state policymakers with readymade zoning legislation, and within a decade, most states had adopted some form of the legislation, and thousands of cities had adopted zoning ordinances.
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Hinga Mbogo is a Kenyan immigrant who has owned Hinga’s Automotive Company in Dallas for 30 years. But because car repair shops are inconsistent with the local government’s vision for an arts district, he may be forced to close. Even worse, there is no legal obligation for Dallas to compensate Mbogo for his property.
The saga began back in 2005 with Planned Development District 298. The city rezoned Ross Avenue, home of Hinga’s, and made car repair shops illegal there. All other mechanics in the area have left as a result.
“When I found out about the zoning change, I couldn’t believe that this was something that could happen in America,” Mbogo said in a statement released by the Institute for Justice. “I left a country where something like this could happen, but not here. I thought that America was the land of opportunity.”
The original law gave business owners three to five years to either sell their property or repurpose it as something more palatable to lawmakers, such as a hotel or restaurant. The ordinance did allow owners to file an appeal for a fee.
Read the full article at Reason’s blog, Hit & Run.
The latest Young Voices podcast features Nick Zaiac and Daniel Pryor. Today they will talk about Nick’s chapter in Young Voices’ new eBook, which discusses the challenges faced by millennials in US land use policy.
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As we take a look back, we can safely say that 2015 was a year of populism in Washington. News cycle upon news cycle documented the rise of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. It saw widespread minimum wage increases. It saw a highway bill which included no long-term solution for how to pay for the nation’s infrastructure, amid populist rage against both a gas-tax increase and increased tolling.
The political year ended with two Republican-led houses of Congress passing the most irresponsible, gimmick-filled spending increase since the TARP bailout. The people have spoken, and they have chosen to kick the can down the road.
Yet, while the nation’s legislators were ignoring important fiscal reforms, the Washington consensus on regulatory issues was changing. More environmental regulation is on the horizon. We know that. To keep it from destroying the economy, we need to generate growth by reforming something else, and 2015 was the year we figured out what regulations our economy could no longer afford.
Read the rest on the PanAm Post here.
US Supreme Court to Decide the Fate of Urban Planners’ Favorite Tool
Urban planners regularly refer to themselves with workmen-like terms. They seek to “build” communities, and to “make” places. They refer to their arsenal of regulatory mechanisms and rules as a “toolbox” and each rule is a “tool.” And now one of these regulatory tools, the blunt hammer known as “inclusionary zoning,” is being challenged at the Supreme Court.+
Last week, the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) announced that it would appeal a California Supreme Court ruling in California Building Industry Association v. City of San Jose, which found San Jose’s inclusionary-housing role legal. The PLF press release succinctly explains the regulation:
“San Jose’s ordinance requires developers of 20 homes or more to dedicate 15 percent for city-designated buyers at below-market prices. Alternatively, a builder must pay a fee, estimated by the city itself as [US]$122,000 for each unit that would otherwise have to be dedicated for the inclusionary-housing program.”
They argue that this rule is an unconstitutional taking of private property to pay for a public affordable-housing program which should be funded through tax dollars, rather than exactions from developers. PLF has famously fought and won other cases in this vein, Nollan v. California Coastal Commission and Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District. But while Nollan and Koontz were important, these cases have to do with regulations that have far less economic impact than inclusionary-zoning rules.
Read the full article at the PanAm Post.