Perhaps sprawl cost us after all

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

From a commentary by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

Old Madison fave Richard Florida is back with a good piece in the New Republic titled Roadmap to a High Speed Recovery.

There, Florida opines that America needs to stop subsidizing what he calls the "auto-housing-suburban complex." Think McMansion, Kwik-Oil, Strip Mall Takeout and the rest of it.

Florida -- who gave Madison raves for its gays, music and urban tech scene in his 2002 "Rise of the Creative Class" -- wants to end government subsidy of the sprawl housing industry.

That means eliminating the mortgage interest tax deduction along with federal backing of the secondary mortgage market.

"Federal policy needs to encourage less home ownership and a greater density of development, along with the construction of smaller and more low-energy houses," he says.

That's not just green -- but it frees up capital to invest in technology development for a future economy.

Florida's reasoning is that homeownership worked well for a nation whose workers had secure, long-term careers like in the days before NAFTA and 401(k)s. But now, he says, being tied to a mortgage impedes the flexibility of a labor market that requires people to move around and change jobs several times.

Instead of new housing, Florida says the government should be promoting things like high-speed rail. He says modern rail can help create inter-connected mega-regions, like the Boston-Washington corridor and the Char-lanta region (Atlanta, Charlotte, and Raleigh Durham).