Ideal Housing Density and Other Choices

Housing Density issues discussed in the Parker Associates August 2016 blog.

One of the most perplexing issues today for both public and private developers is the ideal density for their community. In New York City and other dense urban centers, we are witnessing higher and higher buildings as new technology permits safe construction at levels over 1,000 feet in height. Buildings even higher are under construction, even for very narrow land sites. Most new super-high buildings are adjacent to strong magnets such as Central Park for housing for the very wealthy. Whereas, in beachfront suburbs, local city councils are pressured into arbitrary height limitations such as 35 feet to exclude high buildings from “marring” the beachfront.

What is ideal for your community, given that new jobs are drawn to communities that already have adequate infrastructure and transportation in place? Small towns already have lost sources of major employment and revivals are few. School boards are planning new schools in accordance with suburban housing density and commercial shopping centers are following suit, frequently abandoning centers that were poorly located relative to bigger and better plans in superior locations. Development plans are based upon short-term trends, frequently influenced by bidding wars from city and state tax incentives, and even funding offers to influence location decisions.

Recent conferences by selected experts have listed land availability in dense urban areas, and infrastructure costs in competing urban cities. Mass transit planned or in place competes with existing road systems and free parking availability. Quality education is a key factor for many young families and older executives. Rapid growth may prove an impediment for moving families uncertain about the impact of growth issues on their selected “best” neighborhood.  All of these issues are frequently compounded by separate locations for the spouse seeking her best job opportunity.

In sum, the future development of most growth cities is difficult to project with any certainty, especially for prospective employees new to the city. Newcomers often select realtors or builders with less than knowledgeable results. One source established in several forward cities is a service for newcomers within the Chamber of Commerce for this purpose — a trained staff able to describe the various sectors of the city without bias and with knowledge about the education, transit, traffic, parks, recreation, house price differentials and future changes in the city. Parker Associates suggests that this agency be your first call. If unavailable, the city librarian may be your second choice. A phone call is worth the time for important answers.

Dr. David Forster Parker
August, 2016
For more information, contact Dr. David F. Parker
or go to our web site at

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