Love Freedom? Move to the City.
CNU has always been a champion for context-sensitive and common sense strategies that enliven our communities. Advocating for dense, walkable and mixed-use neighborhoods helps foster awareness of the many ancillary benefits of urban-based living. Active community members, healthier environments, and more vibrant economies are but just a few of the advantages realized when people populate such areas.
Increasingly, that American catch-all term, FREEDOM, is becoming a part of this equation as well. Although on the face of it, the rheotric of the nascent Tea Party seems in opposition to urbanity, the push for freer markets, lower taxes and limited government subsidies play right into the assets of the City. These ideas are espoused in detail in the latest NYT Economix blog post from Harvard economist Ed Glaeser, "If the Tea Party Went Downtown."
Glaeser, who will be a featured speaker this year at CNU19 in Madison, writes "Residents of dense downtowns should urge Tea Partiers to take up the fight against socially engineered suburbia through federal homeownership subsidies and sprawl-inducing federal highway spending." In setting up his argument that "the federal home mortgage interest deduction is public paternalism at its worst," Glaeser pens "Good libertarians might ask why the federal government has any business promoting particular lifestyle choices, like homeownership. Shouldn’t Americans be free to choose where and how to live without the government prodding them to buy and borrow?"
Seeing as the housing market continues to sputter along, the Obama administration may finally be waking up to the fact that until the rules change regarding Fannie and Freddie-lending standards, the economy will never quite move out of second gear. This week, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner proposed creating a system of covered bonds to finance future mortgages, which will keep the loans tied to the issuing party. This is in contrast to the current practice of splicing and dicing loans that Fannie and Freddie back, and which are then sold as securities to investors.
The Great Recession has changed the entire playbook in regards to housing, and yet Fannie and Freddie, still backers of nine out of every ten mortgages in the country, are stuck in limiting practices that restrict freedom by encouraging consumption of a product (sprawl) in which demand is falling. Geithner's proposal and Glaeser's idea - were it to catch on in D.C. - represent steps toward that common-sense approach CNU advocates. Earlier this month, CNU President & CEO John Norquist, along with representatives from the National Town Builders Association, the National Association of Home Builders, and the National Association of Realtors, supported their case in Washington for Fannie and Freddie reform to raise the minimum threshold amount of commercial space in mixed-use developments from 25% to 45%. This isn't a dramatic reordering of the rules. This is simply resetting current underwriting procedures to reflect the demand being stifled out by the freedom-killing policies currently in place.
Freedom wants to move to the city. Tea Urbanists, New Partiers alike. Move over Fannie and Freddie, and let them roll right in.
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