Skip to Content

News & Resources

Urban populations often seek to fight population density, P.2

10/7/2011 | Real Estate Blog

In our previous post, we began looking at a Forbes article which made the point that urban populations often seek out government action in order to insulate themselves from increasing urban density. As our last post noted, this “down-zoning uprising” that occurs in various metro areas is evidence that urban populations do not always seek to promote the urban lifestyle, but often seek to control increasing population density.

Down-zoning has been pursued in many cities or sections of cities in an effort to maintain a certain desired feel, such as a “small, quiet neighborhood.” As can be imagined, these disputes can get heated, particularly in communities like Flushing, Queens, where the population is diverse. As the Forbes article points out, places of worship are often targeted in such disputes.

Many cities, in their efforts to limit population growth, rely on rather old zoning codes which serve to limit market development. Urban residents don’t always appreciate this approach, which is exactly what caused Philadelphia voters in 2007 to approve a ballot measure requesting the city rewrite its outdated code. The code, as our readers may be aware, has been heavily criticized for limiting development that would benefit the city.

As some have pointed out, one obstacle to rewriting the code has been the fact that it leaves too much room for “dealmaking” by Philadelphia lawmakers. As we noted in a recent post on this blog, the code has still not been revised, though hopefully it will soon.

One of the points that can be taken from the article is that government regulation of population density through rezoning is only as useful as the minds and plans behind it. Finding alternate means of regulating population density while leaving old zoning codes in place may be beneficial in certain cases, but it is equally as true that many city zoning codes are seriously in need of an update.

Source: Forbes, “The Downzoning Uprising and the Fight Against Density,” Mark Bergen, Sep 26, 2011.