Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Can the Real Estate Downturn Present an Opportunity?

This article suggests just that:
For communities that have endured years of real estate speculation and development, like Atlanta, New York's Hudson Valley, parts of Florida, the Southwest and California, the slump is an opportunity. Unchecked sprawl in fast-growing regions has carved up farmland that might otherwise provide local food, leveled forests that might otherwise store atmospheric carbon and provide habitat for wildlife and created the need for new networks of roads where gas-guzzling SUVs roam.

Now, communities can step back and focus on planning for the next wave of population growth. So-called smartgrowth advocates say a wise alternative to sprawl involves building new homes where there are existing ones: in cities and villages, which already have schools, businesses, grocery stores and the like. That lets people stay on their feet more than in their cars, reduces pollution and can protect outlying farms and forests that might otherwise be paved over.

There's not a lot to like in the housing slump. Some communities, at least, can use the opportunity it presents to figuratively pave a better path to a more sustainable future.