Saturday, September 17, 2011


Long ago, some activists said "New Orleans needs a population explosion." I agreed with that, if not their methods. More population means more innovation, tax base, and dynamism.

Related to that idea are these recent articles (HT: The Dish) exploring factors that limit the necessary growth (and, by extension, national growth) and figuring out one way zoning and building changes could move those goalposts.

Josh Rothman at the Boston Globe writes:

Lots of smart people want to move to the big city, because that's where the best jobs in the best industries are located. Faced with outrageous housing prices, though, they conclude that it's "better to take the lower-paying job in the less innovative industry in the place where big homes are easily affordable."

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, they're experimenting with a different sort of density-building home construction and zoning.

Laneway homes are basically miniature versions of single-family homes – in the range of 500 to 1,000 square feet – that are built in what has traditionally been the garage location of a single-family lot: in the backyard facing the lane. They can’t be sub-divided or sold separately from the main house on the lot. They can only be used for additional family space or rental income.

Does that sound familiar? New Orleans developed with density in mind, in the high ground between the Mississippi River and the backswamp. In many neighborhoods, you see plenty of carriage houses turned into rental spaces or mother-in-law cottages. There's also the shotgun double concept, where someone can own a home and rent out the other side of it, putting two addresses on one lot. There are also basement (first-floor) apartments across much of the city, and some of the larger houses are split into multiple apartments for living.

Unfortunately, and I can't find the link to this, I think the new city zoning has done away with such density-building allowances over much of the city. Thought New Orleans might be more interested in getting more people in the city's unoccupied housing right now than building more density on already-occupied land.


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