- Low density communities and urban sprawl have become common. New urbanists say this happened because of zoning laws that require homes, stores, businesses and schools to all be built in separate areas.
- Suburban housing is all similar, so it segregates people by income. And to get from one space to another you must drive. Cars are private spaces, and they make people act antisocially in a way that pedestrians don’t.
The new urbanists think we should built early 20th century style neighborhoods, with narrow streets, trees, and a mix of stores, cafes, schools and parks within walking distance.
- Opponents of the New Urbanists say that suburbs arose because people wanted them. New Urbanists counter that people should be allowed to have suburbs if they want them, but that we should examine suburban values critically, and also examine zoning laws.
This is a personal bugbear of mine. I live in Montreal, in a neighborhood built around 1900. It’s exactly as described in lines 39-42. It’s lovely, you can walk everywhere. There are parks, cafes, grocery stores, bookshops, schools, metro stations, and anything else you might want within a few blocks of any point in the neighborhood.
And people like this kind of neighborhood: they come from other parts of the city to be in it, and it’s a popular tourist area.
And yet, it is illegal to build more neighborhoods like mine. Why? Because of zoning regulations that require businesses to be separate from homes. And other regulations on street size, parking requirements, etc.
This interesting article from the New York Times shows that 40% of Manhattan would be illegal under current zoning: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/05/19/upshot/forty-percent-of-manhattans-buildings-could-not-be-built-today.html
Current zoning laws require new construction in most areas to be made for cars.
An important point in the article is in paragraph 3: opponents say some people like suburbs. Which is true. But the issue is that current law requires them, as the new urbanists point out in lines 53-55.
So people aren’t really given a choice between suburbs and dense, walkable neighborhoods. Suburbs are the only option for new communities.
Apart from that point, I think the passage is more straightforward than some. Basically you just need to know the points I highlighted in the paragraph summary section. You should especially note that New Urbanists think that cars make us antisocial. They instead prefer neighborhoods where people walk around and interact with each other.
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