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Family-friendly housing in urban areas
Detail: Are cities and city-like environments destined to be largely child-free? Prof. Roger K. Lewis argues that given the lack of choice and affordability of apartments and houses in urban areas for middle-class families with school-age children, this may be a likely scenario.

Housing demand and the products offered by builders continue to be determined by socioeconomic and geographic pressures, not by design aspirations. Real-world behavior and reliable statistics confirm that middle-class families with kids want single-family homes in suburbs and exurbs with presumably better public schools and with more house and land for the money. Unsubsidized apartments built today are almost exclusively designed for and marketed to people without school-age children.

This situation poses a bit of a dilemma for anti-sprawl advocates aspiring to concentrate a significant amount of future metropolitan growth in more urban, environmentally sustainable communities. Through either new development or redevelopment, smart-growth planners seek to create compact, walkable communities with mixed uses, higher densities, access to transit, plenty of jobs and ample housing, especially workforce housing. Yet in plans for new transit-oriented communities, most of the housing envisioned consists of apartment buildings or attached dwellings in which families with school-age children are unlikely to live.

Accordingly, housing developers in smart-growth communities will be building few units for families with children. Promoting mixed-use development will not yield an equivalent population mix.

Given the value of urban or urbanizing land and the cost of construction, making family-size units affordable would require financial incentives. Counties would have to subsidize development by directly or indirectly reducing the per-unit cost of land, and by providing tax breaks for developers and occupants.
Of course, offering public sector support for private, middle-class housing development always invites a political and policy question: Why tinker with the housing market at public expense?

There are two answers. First, we already subsidize middle-class housing, primarily through tax deductions for mortgage interest.
Second, and most important, is that it's in the public interest to create new, sustainable communities with a full range of housing choices, among them choices for families with school-age children.
Source: Based on �Seeking family-friendly housing in urban areas� by Roger K. Lewis, The Washington Post, August 28, 2010 Saturday
Date: September 5 2010