In today’s WSJ, Wendell Cox argues that California’s housing regulation for limiting suburban growth will have the unintended consequence of making California housing less affordable and causing out-migration. He dishes out some punishment for the urban planners as he implies that powerful government officials are pursuing their own “smart growth” agenda and ignoring the desires of the California middle class who want to live in the suburbs at affordable prices.
Cox doesn’t discuss the state’s demographics. In the year 2050, what percent of the state’s population will be over age 50? Do such individuals want to live in the suburbs? As center city quality of life improves, I predict that the demand to live at higher density will rise. This trend creates a domino effect. As the non-poor live closer to the city center, this creates a dense cluster of purchasing power that attracts new restaurants and stores to open and the process feeds on itself. While I agree with Cox that it is important for urban planners to not superimpose their tastes on the residents of the cities, he over-states his case that the suburbs are an “endangered species”. In the greater Los Angeles area, there are millions of suburban homes. If in 2050, these homes are valued then investors will invest to repair these homes. Some of these homes are on big lots. If home owners are allowed to subdivide their lots then some home owners may sell part of their backyard to another home developer who will build a new home there. In this sense, density could increase in those suburbs where future suburbanites want to live. Urban planners must be consistent in allowing increases in density in both the suburbs and the center city.