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Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Why live in a new urbanism community?

After a semester of discussing this subject I thought it was about time that I asked the question “why live in a new urbanism community?”. While the advantages of new urbanism are clearly staggering (at least if you are a supporter of it), there are also blatant disadvantages. But are the advantages great enough to outweigh the disadvantages?

Without going into too much detail, the major advantages are being within walking distance to most major activities (work, school, shopping), and more neighborhood activities. While all of these advantages derive from preference, let’s assume they all are desirable.

The advantages that come from being within walking distance to most major activities stems mainly from America’s dependence on the car and the view that it is bad. However, being closer to these activities do have some real advantages too. When you can walk most places, you will burn more calories, have more time to think up excuses as to why you didn’t do your homework, and not spend as much money shopping because you know you will have to carry it back with you on your walk home. Also, with a reduced dependence on a car, you would save money on gas, maintenance, and perhaps you might be able to forgo a vehicle all together.

The presence of more neighborhood activities presents more advantages as well. With more people being involved in the community it could be expected that the crime rate will be lower then in other areas. By getting to know your neighbor it is likely that they will look out for you and your family. They might even let you stash Christmas presents at their place or let you borrow some flour Christmas Eve so you can make cookies for Santa, saving you a brisk walk to the store that would be closed because it was a mom and pop store.

While there are many disadvantages to a new urbanism community (narrow streets, small lot sizes, short driveways, being able to say hi to your neighbor during your morning pee) I will focus on one, which I feel is the biggest, personal liberty. What bothers me most about new urbanism communities is not how they are set up or any of the disadvantages listed above, but that it is someone’s idea that everyone should live that way and desires to use the coercive power of the government to see it happen. When someone tells you what to do and how to do it, they are taking away your voice in the market, which would ultimately reduce the efficiency with which the market operates.

I guess there is no easy answer to the question “why live in a new urbanism community?”. Will the advantages outweigh the disadvantages in your specific case? If so, I would say you should CHOOSE to live there. But keep in mind that choice is not what these communities are about and don’t be surprised if the home owners association requires you to own only a certain type of dog or face eviction.

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