Urban Growth Boundaries Not so Smart for Growth (Letter to the Editor)

Urban Growth Boundaries Not so Smart for Growth (Letter to the Editor)

September 06, 1999
Originally published in The Washington Times

The Aug. 30 District Forum on revitalizing regional smart growth argued that "the challenges of growth can only be met successfully at the regional level." Notwithstanding the encroachment on liberty hastened by regional government, the "regional toolbox," which includes "urban growth boundaries" and "sharing growth revenues and preserving natural areas:' has proven to be disastrous.

Urban growth boundaries and similar land-use regulations limit the type and location of housing. By definition, these "tools" limit the quantity and characteristics of housing. Consequently,' many peoples' housing demands are left unsatisfied. In addition; because urban growth boundaries decrease the amount of developable land, housing prices rise. For example, urban growth boundaries helped make all four of Oregon's metropolitan areas rank in the top 15 least affordable housing markets in the country.

Regional revenue sharing, where tax-revenues are transferred between governmental jurisdictions, is equally preposterous. Because high-growth areas subsidize low-growth areas, this "tool" punishes areas that have proven to be entrepreneurial, innovative and successful, while rewarding areas with failed policies.

Logic dictates that decisions about natural areas are best left to local people with a personal stake in outcomes. Having a keen awareness of local concerns and information, local decision-makers are more likely to be adept in their understanding and responsible in their actions than are regional bureaucrats.

However well-intentioned regional proponents are and while they exalt stake holder involvement, "regional compacts" reflect only the interests of highly organized, politically effective groups. Ultimately, and unfortunately, low-income families that cannot afford to escape regional hegemony pay for these skewed decisions on growth.