Spencer Gardner has been writing for Strong Towns since 2016. He is a transportation planner based in Spokane, WA, who spends his spare time chasing his children, riding bikes, and doing hobbyist computer programming. He's also getting started on his own missing middle development project in Spokane's West Central neighborhood.
Building an accessory apartment is one of the gentlest ways you can increase the housing stock in your town. But does that mean that states should be the ones making the rules about how you can do it—even if those rules are permissive?
Doing the math on a routine, uncontroversial street paving project reveals an investment that will never pay for itself, in a city that has thousands of such investments. That we do it anyway reflects the cultural consensus at the root of our towns’ financial problems.
Spokane is an excellent illustration of a “soft default”. Like virtually every other city in the US, it is functionally insolvent, but functional insolvency rarely results in legal bankruptcy—just diminished services and deferred maintenance.
The history of Spokane, Washington is a microcosm of what American cities as a whole have experienced. Spokane has lessons to teach us, including the power of incremental (but rapid) growth.
Unless we change the underlying rules that govern the design of our cities, we'll be fiddling with radio dials instead of zeroing in on exactly what we need.
We must work to reduce the negative impacts on our cities and towns before we try the next trendy planning intervention to solve our problems.
Our ancestors had the same impulse toward big, risky projects, but today we have the tools to amplify that impulse to even more dangerous proportions.
Our collective failure to make the bicycle a viable transportation option for most Americans says more about our confused approach to city management than it does about a movement to rid the world of bike lanes.
Here are the 5 immutable laws of affordable housing that cities must recognize if they want to move forward — plus 3 strategies for achieving true housing affordability.
Lasting change can only be accomplished through a shift in our collective culture.
A mechanistic approach to city problems exposes us to two harms: one is that we employ the wrong solutions. The other is that we actually make things worse.
To build strong towns, we need to adopt the ways of the ecologist, which involve far more observation and far less intervention than our current approaches to urban development.
The real impetus for the invention of zoning regulations was a desire to protect and enshrine the single-family home as the most virtuous and sacrosanct urban form.
With each new regulation, new justification for even more regulation tends to arise.
There’s probably no panacea for housing affordability. Here are 5 immutable laws of affordable housing that cities must recognize if they want to move forward. Plus 3 strategies for doing so.
These four steps will help you assess whether your town is a safe place for children to walk and bike on their own.
The task of moving from our bloated, modern zoning codes to ones that create Strong Towns is different from starting with a blank slate.
These low-cost strategies will make biking easier and safer in any community.
Like so much of our modern world, we seem to have boiled education down to a series of discrete inputs and outputs. This is convenient for making measurements, but I’m not convinced we have obtained any more wisdom about collectively raising productive, intelligent children in the last two centuries of public schools in the US than our distant ancestors.
What does Strong Towns have to do with Mormonism?
Zoning is often explicitly biased against renters. This creates challenges not only for the renting population, but also for small-scale developers who would like to build rental housing.
City-owned golf courses are no better than big box stores when it comes to tax revenue.