[MissoulaGov] Fwd: Committee update 10-24-07

Steven Allison-Bunnell steve at allison-bunnell.net
Thu Oct 25 10:41:26 MDT 2007

The claim that infill causes sprawl is false purely on logical
grounds without statistics:

1. Total number of houses built as infill and sprawl = demand for
housing in the area.

2. Occupancy rates are overall high, right? Realtors aren't
complaining that they can't sell houses in the denser neighborhoods
are they? On the contrary, in town houses of all sizes are selling
for record prices.

3. Even if some people decide to build farther out to escape, someone
is buying both the house they leave behind AND the new infill house.
Neighborhoods experiencing infill are not turning into empty bombed
out ghost towns (as someone who recently decried the "slumification"
of Missoula due to infill suggested). If anything, the areas where
infill is taking place are being gentrified.

4. We do know that of course the more expensive houses are in town,
the more moderate income people move out to the edges. Ironically,
infill does not seem to have depressed in-town prices (see #2).
(There are of course a number of fallacies there, namely the added
significant expense of gas due to driving vs. a higher mortgage or
rent. So the saving can become a false economy very quickly).

So we should continue to be concerned about the fact that houses in
town are more expensive than houses farther out. But that is largely
due to overall high demand, not "tight flight" (that is, the
departure of people who are afraid of living close to their
neighbors). And that's where county wide impact fees would level the
playing field -- the price of a house should reflect the true cost of
its construction. If anything, we should offer subsidies to people IN
TOWN who cost less to provide public services to!

Having lived happily in town on a 30-foot wide lot in a house built
90 years ago, I find the claims that infill is not in character with
core neighborhood building patterns just plain baffling.

Steve Allison-Bunnell

Begin forwarded message:

> On 10/25/07, Ed Childers <echilders at ci.missoula.mt.us> wrote:

> Regarding the question: If density increases in the city's core,

> does that create sprawl at the city's edges? There's no need to

> look for any amount of data to support Jon's statement that infill

> creates sprawl. All it takes is one example and his statement is

> proved true. It's surely happened. Accept it as true.


> I wonder if that's all there is to it...


> Let's say the city has 10,000 acres in its "core," and average

> density of 4 du/acre for a total of 40,000 dwelling units;

> and some undefined a.k.a unlimited acreage at its "edge,"

> unpopulated, that we'll populate as we go in the most crammed-

> together fashion we can accomplish without wastewater treatment;

> i.e., 1 du/acre.

> Let's say for the sake of argument that growth has occurred and

> will continue. Note that unless that premise is accepted (and

> accepted without reservation), there's no point in continuing this

> exercise.


> OK: Let's say 2,000 homeseekers appear. They may appear from

> growth within the community ("children"); they may appear as people

> come here from elsewhere.

> Let's put those 2,000 homeseekers in the non-infill place,

> a.k.a the "edge." At 1/acre, somewhere not in town. We'll call each

> of them a "sprawl." 2,000 sprawls.

> NOW, let's say we cram those 2,000 homeseekers into the 10,000

> acres in the "core." Average Density in the "core" rises to 4.2/acre.

> Some unknowable number of people are disgusted and move to the

> "edge." Let's say it's 5 home occupiers. We've created 5 sprawls.


> So, Jon Wilkins is RIGHT! In this simplistic example, infill

> created 5 sprawls.

> On the other hand, infill prevented 2,000 sprawls.

> So: what Jon Wilkins is saying is, making (or encouraging, I

> guess) 2,000 sprawls is justified if it prevents the 5 sprawls.


> echilders at ci.missoula.mt.us 406.728.3751 406.546.7681 (mobile)


> Bob Jaffe wrote:


>> During the discussion there were some comments about encouraging

>> sprawl. Jon Wilkins said something to the effect that we shouldn't

>> be complaining about sprawl because those of us that have

>> supported infill have done more to create sprawl than anything

>> else that has happened. This infill has caused people to flee the

>> neighborhoods and build in the outskirts of town. Personally I

>> think this argument is bunk. But I have heard it repeated a lot.

>> Does anyone know if there is any data that supports or refutes

>> this position?

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