Pushing aside the poor for the New Urbanist's dream community

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Following up on yesterday’s Chronicle editorial extolling the great vision of New Urban planner Andres Duany, the Chron’s Mike Snyder has a story detailing what Duany has been doing in Houston (designing three projects), and more on what Duany thinks Houston needs to do to stay relevant.

A funny thing happened in the story, though. Thanks to Mike Snyder’s fine reporting, a little bit of truth leaked out:

It’s unclear, however, whether residents of the Fifth Ward — still a predominantly poor area — will be able to afford to live in the project Duany designed. New Urbanist projects have a reputation for high costs, and Duany, in his meeting with the Chronicle editorial board, said the only way he could reduce costs would be to compromise on the quality of his design.

How un-diverse! So Duany and his fellow planning enthusiasts want to create high-end neighborhoods. But where will the poor go when they are pushed out to make way for Duany’s new developments?

Providing affordable housing, Duany said, is chiefly the responsibility of the federal and local governments rather than developers. His projects for Liu will include garage apartments, with some houses, which will provide an affordable rental unit as well as generating income that owners can apply to their mortgage payments.

No, it is absolutely not the responsibility of government to provide affordable housing! Government already sticks its nose in all kinds of places it doesn’t belong and often makes things worse in the process. All around Houston developers are building affordable housing, sometimes even in those (gasp!) suburbs Duany so abhors.

Duany, 57, acknowledged that the style of living he prefers, and that his developments provide, need not be everyone’s choice. His first book, Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, written with his wife and a colleague from his firm, focused largely on his ideas for better design in the suburbs.

And even though he found much of the development in Houston appalling, Duany said he found its people to be friendly and unpretentious.

“I really like Houstonians,” he said, “but I could never live in Houston.”

Thank goodness. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

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Anne Linehan is a co-founder of blogHOUSTON.