Whiting column: The pros and cons of developing new housing
In the last month, I received several requests for a column advocating denial of the recent West Glenwood annexation proposal and an equal number requesting a column advocating approval.
Given that numerous other valley development requests are already on the table and others are sure to emerge, the most productive approach would be to provide a pro/con discussion of the elements involved in a housing development decision.
<The more units built, whether rented or owned, increases supply, and will exert downward pressure on price.
<Assuming the people living in the units work in that community, there will be reduced traffic on the roads into town because fewer people will be commuting from up or down valley. Ramifications would include:
- Fewer accidents, reducing repair and medical expense;
- Fewer employees late getting to work or home when the road is difficult or closed due to weather, rockfall, snow, accident, etc;
- Reduction in the use of gasoline;
- Reduction in exhaust-caused air pollution and contribution to climate change;
- Reduction in household income spent on the commuting process;
- Increased opportunity for family time and involvement in school and community;
- 94% of people prefer to live where they work.
<An increase in the property’s valuation, consequently increasing property tax receipts.
<An increase in local sales tax revenue, which funds local infrastructure and amenities.
<An increase in local employment in construction, materials sales, and businesses servicing the additional local population.
<If the development is a condominium or apartment model, density is increased, which maximizes the use of the scarce resource — land — which also can facilitate additional open space.
<The possible increase in availability of desired retail products and services.
<Local population will increase.
<There will be an increase in local traffic. Not traffic to work, because that will be a wash, but traffic to schools, grocery store, other local businesses, etc.
<Increase in land occupied by residential parking and an increase in on-street parking.
<Increased need for a scarce resource: treated and untreated water.
<Increased need for police, fire and other city services, increasing the city budget.
<Increased population, requiring additional education and medical services.
<Increased infrastructure needs such as roads, streetlights and local traffic mitigation.
<The increased tax revenue resulting from increased population follows the increased need for services by 6-18 months, creating a short-term cash flow issue for the city.
<Potentially an initial lack of egress in relationship to increased population.
<The nature of the neighborhood may change.
This is not a comprehensive list of the pro/con elements, but hopefully enough to facilitate additional thought as we determine our individual opinion on a development proposal.
There are applicable concepts that are not pro/con, but universal economic concepts regarding development.
- The need for housing is unlikely to go away since the need has been around for decades and is a corollary to any desirable place to live.
- Development is not an origination function; it is a resultant function. The origination function is availability of employment. People aren’t coming here because we have housing but because the jobs are here. They desire to live where they work.
- Most locations without an affordable housing issue also have an employment problem, crime problem and insufficient tax revenue for desired amenities.
Development issues are a population issue. If we allow people to come here, there is an inherent responsibility to provide them with a job, a safe place to live and an education.
It doesn’t matter whether the population increase is a result of the availability of employment, birth rate or immigration from urban areas or another country; the only way to minimize development is to deal with population. The best way to deal with that is beyond my purview.
It is our responsibility to make an educated decision regarding development and other issues.
Bryan Whiting of Glenwood Springs believes in nonpartisan economics rather than government intervention. Comments and column suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This will be my 500th column — my final column in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.