May 26 • 02:50
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Study: City "planning" policies often do more harm than good

Which is exactly what we have seen in Washington

June 13, 2013
As the City of Washington continues on its quest to impose more and more burdens on property owners a new study in Charlotte shows that such policies cause bad problems for people and particularly for poor people.

Francis Whitehurst can tell you. Three years ago she live through the Christmas holidays in her car, homeless at the hands of the City of Washington. And that in spite of the fact that there is a strong case to be made, if Mrs. Whitehurst had the money to "fight city hall," that her lot in Northgate was not actually in the City. Search our archives and you'll find the stories.

Then there's Tim Evans story. He owns the Dairy Palace and the lot behind it. It had an old house on it that he rented out. But unknown to him, the renters trashed the place. When they moved out it was in such bad shape that he could not rent it as it was. So he had contractors give him a price to repair it. Turns out the bank would not lend as much money as it would take to repair the house so he petition the City to demolish the house. They refused to allow him to demolish it. But the house is now gone, with the city taxpayers footing the bill to clear the lot after the city took the property and put it on the auction block. Nobody would buy it. So the city dumped the demolition bill on the taxpayers. Now the city is eying other property it is going to seize.

The study from Charlotte shows that such policies do not accomplish what the "planners" claim they do. Dan Burley, writing for the Charlotte Observer, reports:
As home prices in Charlotte continue to rise, a study released Friday suggests that some city land-use regulations put affordable housing out of reach for Charlotteans earning a modest income.

The study, commissioned by the Piedmont Public Policy Institute, concluded that housing in Charlotte is unaffordable for families earning 90 percent or less of the city's median income, or around $52,000 a year from 2010 to 2012. That's about 140,000 households, according to Census Bureau data from 2010.

The federal government defines housing as affordable if the occupant pays 30 percent or less of his or her income.

The trio of city land-use policies examined in the study – the stormwater control ordinance, tree ordinance and urban-street design guidelines – add more than $17,000 on average to the cost of a home.

The stormwater control ordinance requires a builder to construct measures for water detention that reduce the risk of flooding. The tree ordinance requires, among other things, a 10 percent tree canopy in new single-family housing developments. The urban-street design guidelines limit lot space, requiring capacity for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Helping or hurting?

More than 70 people attended a presentation Friday at Johnson C. Smith University where the study's authors relayed their findings and opened the floor for a panel of city officials and private developers.

Pamela Wideman, the city's assistant director of neighborhood and business services, said there's a deficit of affordable housing, particularly in south Charlotte.

"People like firefighters, teachers and civic workers are finding it difficult to live where they work, in increasingly expensive areas like south Charlotte," Joe Padilla, executive director of Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition, said

Thomas Brasse, managing director of the development firm Faison Enterprises Inc., said that land-use regulations are well-intentioned but often increase the cost of housing beyond what the developer anticipates. Every $1 of money toward land-use regulation adds between $4 and $5 to the final cost of a home, Padilla said.

Nick Desai, a professor of business administration and economics at the university, said the study's intent was not to eliminate land-use regulation but to inform a dialogue that helps the community decide how much regulation is necessary.

"Too much regulation can hurt the people it was intended to help," said Desai, who co-wrote the report with Linette Fox, a JCSU professor of business administration, and attorney Sherrill Hampton.

Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon said the discussion provided good feedback between the public and private sectors and that it's important to consider flexibility when searching for a balance between land-use regulation and affordable housing for the consumer.
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