Advocates Say Housing Policy Discourages Mixed-Use Development
But federal officials say they'll likely need more data before they can make any change.
Ask members of Generation Y where they want to live, and chances are you’ll hear a common answer: urban environments where there is plenty to do within walking distance. For younger people (and many other Americans, for that matter), the cul-de-sac is no longer key.
Yet national housing policy isn’t reflecting those changing preferences, say some advocates. These advocates are pushing the federal government to do away with practices they say discourage the type of walkable, sustainable communities – think condos and apartments on top of coffee houses, clustered around transit stops – that a growing number of Americans desire.
As it stands, the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and several Housing and Urban Development programs each limit the non-residential portion of projects they insure to anywhere from 15 percent to 30 percent of its value. Since private lenders take their cues from the federal requirements, those policies may be preventing the planning of walkable neighborhoods and mixed-use developments championed by those in the New Urbanism school of planning.
“If you build condos you’re trying to sell on top of a coffee shop, the residential [portion] is not going to be 80 percent,” says John Norquist, a former Milwaukee mayor and president and CEO of the Congress for the New Urbanism. “That’s Main Street America or Brooklyn.”
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