Saturday, March 28, 2009

Housing Is A National Decision

Patrick McIlheran at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel pontificates on housing and how it must remain in the realm of individual decision-making. Somehow property and housing - wherever a person wants to build and live - is a right. There shall be no input from government, no growth boundaries, no planning involved in how we create our built environment, house our citizens, and construct our society and communities.

This McIlheran-thinking is really just another stunning example of selfish, greedy, base-instincts at their worst. These are some of the same driving forces and impulses that led to the current economic mess we're in.

Is McIlheran really that uninformed regarding the many environmental and economic issues involved in sprawling development? The upkeep of the new roads, additional sewer and water issues, policing, electrical grid infrastructure, commuter pollution, paved land, among many others. There are ecosystems, food sources, natural resources, animals, wet lands, and other natural systems that are destroyed in our continually destructive "build wherever land is cheapest and construct a highway out to it" mentality.

Can we all also agree on the point that just because we desire something or would like things to be a certain way, this does not mean that we automatically get what we want, nor does it mean that things should be our way, nor does it imply things will turn out a certain way? There are larger societal issues here than just each individuals wants and desires.

Although the advertisers and public relations hucksters may want it this way, we should not be aspiring to be a nation of hedonistic gluttons. Just because some developers want to sell the "American Dream" as a McMansion on 5 acres an hour out in the middle of nowhere doesn't make it so and it doesn't make it the most highly productive, efficient, or beneficial housing or development policy. It's a way to make a quick buck for the developers, while the negative externalities are passed on the public.

It's time for us to be more responsible to the environment and more sustainable in our development decisions. It's time to realize that what is right and just is not always cheap and easy.

Chris Caldwell, of the Financial Times, gives a nice primer on highway building, suburban sprawl, and the many negative consequences of both here.

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