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(May 17, 2017) – Traditional "Large Lot Zoning" is "Greener" than "Smart Growth" within Urban Growth Boundaries . . . Copyright 2009 – 2017 . . . Tom Lane . . . Photographing California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.

(December 14, 2011) Flagstaff, Arizona; Bend, Eugene, Ashland, and Medford, Oregon – Struggling College-Retirement Towns Expected To Recover

(December 14, 2011 Tom Lane)  Bend, Oregon shown above, looking west from Pilot Butte towards the Cascade Mountains.  In the Western USA, unlike New England, many small “college-retirement-outdoors” towns, particularly in Arizona and Oregon, have faced foreclosures, stagnant wages, high unemployment, property crimes, meth manufacture, illegal pot plantations, and a high turnover of disgruntled residents.

This is primarily due the topic repeatedly addressed here, i.e. urban growth boundaries, impact fees, big box store bans, Democrat Bill Clinton sending manufacturing jobs overseas with free trade agreements, and significant restrictions on forestry, mining, natural gas pipelines, and even on agriculture and hobby farms, in the state of Oregon.

In addition, as the housing market collapsed, middle class jobs dissapeared in geographically isolated college-retirement towns, such as Flagstaff, Arizona; Bend, Eugene, Medford, and Ashland, Oregon.  Due to their spatial isolation, lifelong residents who lose their jobs tend to “hold and hope” that conditions will improve, yet end up applying for unemployment and food stamps.

Great News from Fiserv Case Shiller on Annual Housing Appreciation

The latest data from Fiserv Case Shiller, reported at this link from “Business Insider,” shows that national home prices are expected to grow at an annualized rate of 3.2% between 2011 and Q2 2016.

Business Insider used Fiserv’s data and lists the best housing markets for the next five years.  They found that every metropolitan area will see appreciation, except Miami.

Western US College, Retirement, and Outdoors Towns Make the Top 15

Flagstaff, Bend, Medford (and Ashland), Eugene, and Santa Fe, NM – all college towns struggling with poverty – made the top 15 for appreciation rates from 2011-2016 –

1. Bend, Oregon – 11.9% (from 2011-2016)

2. Medford, Oregon – 11.7% (Note: Ashland, Oregon is 12 miles SE of Medford, in the same MSA.)

3. Madera, California – 10.4%

4. Napa, California – 10.3%

5. Flagstaff, Arizona – 10.2%

6. Carson City, Nevada – 10%

7. Panama City, Florida – 7%

8. Bremerton, Washington  – 9.7%

9. Ocala, Florida – 9.4%

10. Lakeland, Florida – 9.2%

11. Santa Fe, New Mexico 9.1%

12. Eugene, Oregon 8.8%

13. Bakersfield, California 8.4%

14. Mobile, Alabama  8.2%

15. Punta Gorda, Florida 8.1%

Baby Boomers will Buy these Foreclosures in Small College Towns

Recent studies indicate that baby boomers are increasingly retiring in small towns, with outdoor amenities.  Certainly, Bend, Flagstaff, Sedona, and Ashland are very popular among retirees from Portland, Phoenix, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Hopefully, baby boomers on the West Coast will start buying foreclosures at cheap prices in these towns. Indeed, someone from Seattle, Washington could sell their house for $600,000 to a rich Microsoft employee, and go buy three homes in Bend, and rent two of them to College Students, skiers, and mountain bikers.  You can look at “Craigs List – Bend” and note that this happens frequently.

In two other posts, I discuss the migration of baby boomers from large metro areas to small college-retirement-outdoors towns.  Click here, and for post number two, click here.

Central Oregon Real Estate WordPress blogger and Bend Realtor Jim Coon discusses baby boomers on his blog, quoting –

“There are still a TON of baby boomers who aren’t getting any younger. They are retiring – no matter what the economy is doing. They want a place to go that offers a more simple life – smaller, quieter, no freeways, outdoor activities – etc. What better place than Bend, Oregon?  . . . There are people with money out there who figure if they don’t make their move now they may be too old to care before they find their way to that “simpler life.”

Jim is absolutely correct. They are retiring – no matter what the economy is doing.  And, they certainly want a place that’s quieter and with less driving. I have several posts with photos of beautiful Bend, Oregon and you can view an index of these posts by clicking here.

Why did the Housing Market Collapse So Much in Flagstaff-Sedona, Bend, Eugene, Medford, and Ashland?

One factor is common to all five of these markets – Urban Growth Boundaries. Note that college towns Durango and Fort Collins, Colorado are not on this list, since they don’t have urban growth boundaries and didn’t see a housing boom. Indeed, most Colorado cities do not have UGB’s, since they are not required by state law.

In Arizona, Coconino County has three urban growth boundaries in cooperation with Flagstaff.  In Sedona, I am not sure if there is a boundary per se, however, the City is surrounded by national forest, although it could expand to the South and Southwest (but residents there are anti-growth).

In Oregon, Ashland, Medford, Eugene, and Bend all have very tight urban growth boundaries.  Oregon and Washington require them for every city, and many California cities (and counties) have established them (click here to see my post on Sonoma County, Sebastopol, and Guerneville, California).  These cities are in wine country, and note that Napa is also on this list, and Napa also has an UGB.

Of course, an UGB limits the supply of developable land.  And, it’s not practical for developers to build subdivisions on very large lots outside the UGB (i.e. typically 5 to 35 acre estates outside the boundary). Therefore, developers bank their land inside the boundary, until the last minute, when they sell it and make a killing.

Whereas in less regulated markets, such as Dallas, Houston, and much of the Southeastern U.S., land is not a scarce resource, due to the absence of UGB’s. As a result, there are fewer foreclosures, and there was no housing boom in 2007.

And, of course, many other factors drive up the cost of land.  Impact fees, permit delays, environmental reviews, wetlands regulations, and other factors make it more expensive for developers to build housing.  These factors vary from state to state, as they should under a Federalist system.  The end result is that the buyer pays more for housing, due to the inflated land prices from all of these issues.

Please refer to the graphs by Randal O’Toole on Housing Prices in cities with and without UGB’s, by clicking this PDF link.

Why are these Markets Expected to “Recover” So Much?

This is a major caveat. The major reason these markets are expected to recover so much is because they crashed so much in the first place.  Therefore, their percentage increase from 2011 to 2016 will be the greatest.  So, in a sense, this information isn’t news to any of us who have been studied urban growth boundaries and urban planning for quite some time.

Here’s are some flat areas of pine trees near Flagstaff that could be developed into homes. However, it’s outside the urban growth boundary, probably within the national forest, and therefore off limits.  Nevertheless, note that there are golf courses near Scottsdale and Carefree, Arizona built on national forest land. So, it’s always possible to apply for “land trusts.” And, Flagstaff could do this, given that they have the highest cost of living of the college-retirements towns listed here.

Development of one acre lots could occur on the flat topography below if not for the urban growth boundary.

And, here’s another example of another UGB problem.  This is looking south over Eugene, Oregon. Beyond the distant hills (elevation 1000 to 2000 feet), is both flat land in the Willamette Valley, and also rolling topography.  All of this is perfect for development with one acre lots, yet it’s outside the UGB.

Buyer Beware!  Even if these Cities Recover, the Boom and Bust Nature of the Housing Market Will Continue!

Even if foreclosures are purchased, and rich retirees move in and help reduce unemployment in the service sector, these towns are still at risk.  UGB’s are ultimately expanded, allowing for more construction (this happens every 20 years in Oregon). However,  as developable land is exhausted, then land prices suddenly increase. Then, you have another housing bubble, and another crash.

This has happened several times in the Bay Area in California, since they implemented UGB’s in many cities in the 1970’s.  If you look at markets on Trulia.com without UGB’s such as Fort Collins, Colorado, you will see no housing boom back in 2007.

However, Bend, Oregon may be an exception.  The City of Bend along with assistance from Bill Robie of the Central Oregon Association of Realtors, has recently tried to expand its UGB as much as possible, recognizing the need for housing affordability and stable housing markets.  Unfortunately, the State of Oregon said no way, and the City is going through another year of special meetings to come up with another plan.  You can read Bill Robie’s letter to the City of Bend at this link.

For whatever reason, the City removed it from its web site, which is inappropriate given that it’s a public document.  However, I had previously saved it on my computer, as I do with all PDF’s.

The Long Term Solution

Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the greatest humanitarians and environentalists of this century, advocated for affordable housing on one acre lots with his Broadacre concept.  Only through the implementation of a plan similar to Broadacre can we hope to stop the endless proliferation of high density, “smart growth” suburbs that are choked with car exhaust, crime, and stagnant wages.  Wright believed that everyone should have one to five acres, and that everyone can spend a few hours a day growing their own food. He was also against the transportation of produce over thousands of miles, and thought it should be grown locally.

I have not written that much about Wright on this web site, and intend to write much more after I have a chance to read more of his philosophy, since he was much more than an architect. Tom Lane Dec. 14, 2011 More later.

Lithia Park and the Shakespearean Theater in Ashland, Oregon.

4 comments on “(December 14, 2011) Flagstaff, Arizona; Bend, Eugene, Ashland, and Medford, Oregon – Struggling College-Retirement Towns Expected To Recover

  1. Architects are more than building designers; they are supposed to coordinate the building process but have neglected the first step in the building process, viz, Site Selection. Wright was a very strong willed architect and so managed to persuade his clients in the matter of site selection. Because this is so difficult to do, most architects leave that to the client who usually comes to the architect having already picked a site. That makes all the difference in Architecture.

    However, FLW [Frank Lloyd Wright] did study civil engineering in College after being home schooled from childhood to be an architect; The study of Civil Engineering give him a special insight into the design of cities. Nevertheless his Broadacre City concept was never understood by others. Here is how I see it:

    This is an excerpt from my Background page – http://kymak.110mb.com/background.html

    The “Broadacre City” concept by Frank Lloyd Wright from about 1932 to 1958 was designed to follow railroad land grant corridors. Railroads were to be replaced by a technologically advanced freeway designed within a 528 ft.-wide right-of-way (for lack of foresight and planning, freeways are now built with-in a too narrow 165 ft. R/W). Extending from the intersection of the freeway is a road and a spur boulevard one mile apart. The road connects with government facilities at the intersection of the Main Thoroughfare 1 1/2 miles from the freeway – the spur boulevard ends at educational facilities at its intersection with the Main Thoroughfare. An Industrial Drive (access road) parallel to and 528′ from the Freeway. A Residential Thoroughfare is 1/2 mile beyond providing a buffer zone.

    This layout would have to be adopted by Law and implemented by the County Commissioners and State Highway Department with cooperation of the Regional Planning Commission. The concept was from about 1918 and published about 1932 in a book called THE DISAPPEARING CITY, by Frank Lloyd Wright. The book was edited in 1945 and titled, WHEN DEMOCRACY BUILDS; finally edited in 1958 as THE LIVING CITY.

    Explaining Broadacre City Wright said, “the mountain sites would make the nicest building sites. I advocate building (perhaps high buildings) on those portions of the land least useful for other purposes. It is possible to build anywhere in this new sense of organic building…you could build wide-spread ground-built houses such as I have described, or upstanding slender isolated one…Architects are not going to build it I fear, because I see that as they are educated they are not competent even to see it.” THE FUTURE OF ARCHITECTURE, Frank Lloyd Wright (London Lectures)

    Architects normally rely on a client for financing while land developers can ignore the architect. In order to build Broadacres Wright needed to become a developer; but with the passing of his mentors, his Mother and the architect Louis Sullivan in the 1920’s – along with an increasing number of clients for the design of houses and other type buildings, he began to lose sight of the Cause of Architecture that had been his prime directive yielding to the will of his ambitious new European wife in her idea of starting the Taliesin Fellowship (now estranged from the principles of building FLW embraced).

    The Cause of Architecture and the future of Civilization still depend on solving the problems of City and Regional Planning; the principles expressed in the Broadacres City concept is still a genuine solution to those problems in America, if properly applied.

  2. I wanted to emphasize in my article on the Broadacre concept that by following the railroad, Wright intended to eliminate dangerous and noisy railroad grade crossings; that was a worthy and timely concern in the early part of the 20th Century with the advent of the automobile; I am sure it still is where ever there are railroads in use, but the advantage of public land has probably been lost.

    Why is the Taliesin Fellowship now estranged from the principles of building FLW embraced?

    FLW said it would not last more than 40 years after his death. His genius and charisma was not replaced by anyone who remained there, was it? His wife for most of the 40 years.

    The Taliesin archives remain a valuable resource, however.

  3. Fox

    Should there be any space left for forests, open desert, and farm land?
    How many Americans will realistically farm their own land? In Arizona?
    Wouldn’t large 1 acre lot size result in enormous leap in services cost?
    Have you ever been to the suburbs of Omaha?

    I agree 1 acre lots would have been good in the early days of autos or even in a very progressive 20,000 population town in which most have an uncommonly green thumb, but the best thing about Bend and Flagstaff (besides location) is how easy it is to walk or bike to work and school avoiding traffic because everything is so close. Both of these places are already losing that with out an enormous lot for every retiree.

    Also take a look at Bellingham, WA. Fits the criteria for college-retirement-outdoors although its a little light on the retirement. Has a strict UGB as well.

  4. Rods_N_Cones

    This seems like propaganda against UGB’s. Having spent the previous 15 years going back and forth between Florida and Oregon I can tell you that the UGB’s in Oregon prevented a lot of people from speculating and going bankrupt. The market didn’t collapse in Oregon. It did collapse in Florida. It doesn’t really matter what numbers the author found to support his preconceived conclusion if people on the street experienced it differently.

    Also quality of life is much better in Oregon because of the forced density, in fact, Bend would be nicer if it was a little more dense. In Florida any errand is an all-day affair due to the unbelievable sprawl. I seems like Florida has a throw-away neighborhood kind of thinking. Every few years people buy a brand-new house in this years brand-new gated community while the older communities decay. Vacated big-box retailers become churches, neighborhood populations plummet. Amscot stores and pawn shops move in.

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