Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

October 31, 2013

CRAIG LADWIG: In Indiana, it sometimes pays to be dumb

'Smart Growth' adherents restrict their local economies.

You may not have heard this good news about the Indiana economy: The state has avoided as a whole the mistakes that result in local housing bubbles. And this, among other reasons, is why Indiana remains a relatively good place to live.

This was not intentional, alas, as will be explained, but it nonetheless gives us an advantage.

Wendell Cox, a public-policy consultant who writes on this topic for The Indiana Policy Review, describes the situation in a recent Wall Street Journal article. He argues that Florida has done things wrong while Texas (and by accident Indiana) has done them right — that is, keep local real-estate markets free of the so-called “Smart Growth” plans.

Those of us condemned to cover planning-and-zoning meetings know that Smart Growth has been a green fad for decades. To preserve urban as opposed to suburban aesthetics, not to mention saving the planet, it calls for restrictive land-use policies to limit municipal expansion, prohibiting new housing except in small sections of already dense metropolitan areas. The promise is a more perfect and sustainable city. The reality is a dearth of affordable housing.

Cox confirms what common sense could only suspect, that the municipal planning-and-zoning crowd was ignoring the ruinous costs of its high-minded vision, that being the disruption of the competitive market for land in a community and the driving of prices up for hapless citizens as demand rises sharply in relation to supply.

“These higher prices get passed along to prospective homeowners in higher housing costs — often made even pricier by various other regulations and fees,” notes Cox. “The rapidly escalating house prices, in turn, create the potential for extraordinary profits for speculators — or property ‘flippers.’ Jumping into the real-estate market in considerable numbers, they increase the excess of demand over supply, driving prices higher still, until a bubble begins to expand.”

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