I've been asked to elaborate on the answer I alluded to at the end of yesterday's post regarding development in Rogers, Minnesota. In that post, we pointed out that the development code in Rogers was typical of low-density "sprawl" (their word) and was not going to bring about a walkable, transit-ready concentration of jobs and housing as they are telling federal funders they intend.
I offered that they could simply change their city code to allow all of their single-family homes to be turned into duplexes. That would allow them, at no cost, to more than double their population and close the financial gap between their tax base and their enormous long-term infrastructure maintenance liabilities.
Here is how we ended the post:
In a city with one of the highest foreclosure rates in the state, this seems a better (albeit less flashy) way to grow and help your residents. Certainly better than begging Washington for money or leveraging your future for shiny new stuff today.
This is so obvious, so why has it not been done already? The answer to that question is another reason why the federal government should not be wasting our money on places like Rogers.
So what is that answer? Why have they not already done this?
It's simple. They don't want to.
They like their single-family homes. They like their garages and cars. They like their cul-de-sacs and wide streets. They like their big boxes and their drive thru food.
They like their front yards. Their back yards. Their side yards. Both of them.
They like living in Rogers, and that means they like single-family homes on moderately-sized lots on the fringe of the metro area. They do not want duplexes. Not multi-family housing either. If they wanted that, they would live somewhere else. If you ask, they will say, "That's not why we moved here."
Our Strong Towns reply is: more power to them! In America the people of Rogers have the right to live in essentially whatever fashion they choose. If they want single-family lots, that is their choice. To each their own.
Our objection is paying for it. Why should the American taxpayer sink $34 million into supporting the Rogers lifestyle - or the lifestyle of any of the thousands of similar communities in the country? What is our return on this investment? Of all the places we could spend our limited resources, is subsidizing a development-pattern that is not financially viable, or even productive, really a priority?
As we argued with Randal O'Toole: Let Them Eat Lobster!
If we stopped subsidizing inefficient development, we would stop seeing inefficient development. This fact alone should unite fiscal conservatives (who abhor government waste) with environmentalists and urban advocates (who abhor a wasted landscape).
It is time for a Strong Towns approach.