Urban, walkable, mixed-use areas are the future of America. They’re more environmentally friendly, better for healthy people and strong communities, shorter commutes make people happier, and the market wants more of it.
Ezra Klein pulls out a key point from Alex Steffen’s piece: the density needed for “walkable urbanism” isn’t just apartment buildings—you can have a lot of trees and lawn and quiet at 9-12 units per acre and a FAR of 1.3. Areas around transit stops and downtown neighborhoods should be higher, but a walkable America doesn’t mean outlawing the front porch and the picket fence. It’s more about allowing the front porch to be next to the street, prohibited by many zoning codes.
Matthew Yglesias writes:
What’s particularly astounding about this stuff, in my view, is that fixing the problem would hardly require some totalitarian density police to come around and force us to all live closer together. Instead, the main step we would need to take would simply be to allow people to build more densely if they want to. As a secondary measure, scrapping or limiting the tax code’s weird and destructive subsidy of big houses would do some good.
Ezra Klein adds:
Indeed, there’s nothing natural about our current settlement patterns, and no reason preserving them should be seen as a nod to expressed preference rather than, as it actually is, a status quo bias in favor of the current subsidies and their associated winners. Nobody’s saying we should make suburbs illegal. But we don’t have to abide by public policy that makes them look far cheaper and more economical than they are.