Census data are confirming what Washingtonians already know: Our region is booming, with the suburbs becoming more urban and the city luring residents who once fled the metropolis. We’ll explore the trends behind the data and how we should be responding to maintain a high quality of life in both the city and the suburbs.

Guests

  • Robert Puentes Senior Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program, Brookings Institution
  • John McIlwain Senior Fellow for Housing at Urban Land Institute

Transcript

  • 12:08:09

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. The suburbs are becoming like the city, and the city is becoming more like the suburbs. That's the story being told by new census data on our region. The data released earlier this month show how the line between urban and suburban life is becoming increasingly fuzzy. Places like Loudoun and Frederick counties are exploding in population and becoming more diverse, and the people who once fled the District of Columbia, mainly wealthy whites, are becoming -- are coming back into the city.

  • 12:08:55

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIWe've all been watching these changes for years, but the new census data underscores some of the big questions we have yet to solve, namely, what do these demographic shifts mean for the future of the suburbs, the future of the city, the quality of life and affordability of our communities in the years to come. We'd like to hear your thoughts. You can start calling right now at 800-433-8850 or joining the conversation online at wamu.org. How has the look of your community changed over the last decade? How has the housing boom and bust affected your community? 800-433-8850. Joining us in studio is Robert Puentes, senior fellow with the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. Robert, good to see you again.

  • 12:09:41

    MR. ROBERT PUENTESThank you for having me.

  • 12:09:42

    NNAMDIAlso with us in studio is John McIlwain, senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute. John, thank you also for joining us.

  • 12:09:50

    MR. JOHN MCILWAINPleasure.

  • 12:09:50

    NNAMDIRob, let's start with you and talk about the city. According to an analysis by Brookings, the population of the District became wealthier over the past decade, gaining some 39,000 households with incomes over $75,000 a year. What does that trend mean for the city from an urban planning perspective?

  • 12:10:10

    PUENTESWell, I think that some of these trends, there's no doubt that these are uniformly positive in some respects. I mean, this is the product of a lot of very intentional policy efforts over the years in order to inject life back into the District. We see this in the cities and metropolitan areas all across the country. It's also the result of some market dynamics. We know that folks, residents, as well as businesses, are starting to rediscover cities and the urbanness, not just here in the U.S., but we see this all around the world.

  • 12:10:42

    PUENTESBut I think that those lines, as you mentioned, between city and suburb are getting a little bit blurry. And it's helpful to look at some of these trends from a metropolitan perspective, and we see the District actually -- or the Washington metro area actually is growing quite rapidly, but these trends are not uniformly spread out around the metro area. As you mentioned, you know, some of these things we would normally associate with the center city are happening in the suburbs. Some of the things we normally would associate with suburban growth are happening in the city. So things are a little blurry and mixed up now.

  • 12:11:16

    NNAMDIIndeed, John McIlwain, the census data show pretty dramatically how much the outer suburbs have grown, for example, 40 percent population growth in Prince William County, 22 percent in Charles County and St. Mary's County. What should we be thinking about when it comes to, well, preserving the open space that's left and making sure that there's actually the infrastructure in place to support these outer communities?

  • 12:11:43

    MCILWAINWell, Kojo, this has been a trend that's been going on really since the '50s. Each decade, the development moves another ring further out, and the problem, as you point out, is that it gets increasingly expensive not only to build a new infrastructure but to maintain the existing structure -- infrastructure. And it also results in one of the phenomenon that Washington is at the forefront, which is traffic. We're one of the number one traffic congestion cities in the country, and there's really no way to build enough roads to take care of that. So we really do have a problem. And by the way, one of the challenges we're now facing -- thanks to the recession -- is that in the outer ring suburbs, like Prince William County, are the areas of the highest foreclosures and vacancies. So we have a rapid drop in housing prices out there, and a great deal of foreclosures and people whose homes are worth less than their mortgages, very different situation than we've ever had before.

  • 12:12:53

    NNAMDIRob Puentes, care to weigh in on this infrastructure issue? How do we adjust our infrastructure to meet the changing demographics?

  • 12:12:59

    PUENTESOh, I think we need to make sure that we're not just redeploying the same infrastructure policies as we had in the past. In many ways, we're still kinda operating under the same policy framework that was designed, as John mentioned, in the 1950s, you know, in order to build the interstates and connect metropolitan areas. That's not really what we need to be doing nowadays. We really need to be thinking through what's a tremendously difficult challenge, which is to retrofit new infrastructure in existing places, and this is not just when it comes to highways. This is also when it comes to transit, and we see two good examples here in this region with the Intercounty Connector and the Purple Line or the Silver Line out in Virginia doing these things, doing any of these things in existing places is really gonna be a tremendous challenge going forward.

  • 12:13:44

    NNAMDIWe're talking about change in the Washington region and inviting your calls at 800-433-8850. How has the growth affected your community, in your view, positively or negatively, in recent years? Call us at 800-433-8850. Send us a tweet, @kojoshow. You can send e-mail to kojo@wamu.org or just go to our website, kojoshow.org. Ask a question or make a comment there. The changes in our region challenged the stereotype that the suburbs are primarily white and primarily wealthy. What do those changes mean in the demographics in the suburbs from an urban planning perspective? How should places like Gaithersburg or Wheaton be planning for the future at this point? First you, John.

  • 12:14:26

    MCILWAINWell, what's happening is -- one of the positive things that's happening is that around Metro stops and train stations, we're seeing much more intensive development. The planning around Gaithersburg is to plan around, to create town centers with a mix of uses, a mix of incomes. That's already started in Wheaton. You see very good examples of it in Bethesda and in Silver Spring. You see it in Arlington County, and even Fairfax County is beginning to look at how to rebuild the infrastructure, around the infrastructure that's already there. So what's happening is we're not just building new infrastructure. We're building the housing and the stores around the infrastructure in ways that we never did before.

  • 12:15:11

    NNAMDIAnd, Rob Puentes, you know, the tradition of this country is that immigrants from a variety of parts of the world came to this country and essentially went to the cities first because that's where they worked and could find work, and that's where they could find accommodation. Now, we're getting immigrants moving more and more to the suburbs. Is that one of the reasons why we have to look at infrastructure for the suburbs differently because we're talking about a group of people who may not have the kind of wealth to be able to afford automobiles to get around?

  • 12:15:42

    PUENTESYeah. And it's why we need to just completely rethink the way that -- change our mental map of these metropolitan areas. As you mentioned, immigrants were coming through the center cities sometimes because there were ports there, some real practical reasons. They would stay there because there was employment. There were social networks. All those things are very different nowadays. They still matter. They're just arrayed differently around the metropolitan area. They may come in through an airport. They may come in through a highway network. And so where they're gonna be settling is still around, you know, connectedly social networks where there's going to be opportunity. But, as John was getting at, the housing challenges and the housing affordability challenges that are plaguing this metropolitan area and others, even in the light of what's happened in the recession, are still paramount. And that's gonna affect where these immigrants settle and how they get around in the future.

  • 12:16:30

    NNAMDIFor instance, immigrants tend to have a higher birth rate. Does that mean we're gonna have to build more schools in places with higher immigrant populations now?

  • 12:16:40

    MCILWAINRight. I think that's right, Kojo. The -- what we find is that for the first two or three generations, immigrants tend to replicate the patterns of their home countries, but after two or three generations, they start to replicate the American norm. So, yes, the high schools and the schools of all levels in the suburbs are going to be, and already are, taking in large numbers of immigrants. You've got schools in Virginia, Northern Virginia that have 400 different languages that they're doing. Talk about a challenge and trying to educate people, just English as a second language, getting these people to be able to speak the home language here is a huge and very important challenge.

  • 12:17:21

    NNAMDIAre the demographic changes in your neighborhood coming as a surprise to you? Call us, 800-433-8850. Or how has your neighborhood changed over the last decade, and how has your community's growth affected the decisions you make about your commute, your kids' school or any other issues? Call us, 800-433-8850. We're talking with John McIlwain, senior resident fellow at Urban Land Institute and Rob Puentes, senior fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Institution. You can also e-mail us at kojo@wamu.org. Speaking about how people make adjustments, there was an interesting piece on Morning Edition yesterday about the changes coming to Anacostia in District of Columbia. One Anacostia native, Robert Adams, talked in that piece about how he could not afford to live in his old neighborhood, so he ended up going a few miles away to Prince George's County.

  • 12:18:16

    MR. ROBERT ADAMSAnd so that's -- I guess that's where a little bit of my bitterness comes from, you know, because I was -- you know, I was on the front lines working to try to make the neighborhood better, but when it came time for me to have a home or buy a home, I couldn't afford it, not to say I couldn't afford it, but I couldn't get what I could get in Maryland for the money.

  • 12:18:35

    NNAMDII have a son who when he got married had a similar experience. John, clearly, housing prices have come down since the height of the housing boom, but they're still out of reach for a lot of people. How will that continue to shape our decisions about where and how to live over the next decade?

  • 12:18:51

    MCILWAINWell, neighborhoods are always dynamic, and they are always shifting. Just the positive side from the city is that neighborhoods that were largely vacant and troubled become more populated by middle-income people. That's what happened in Shaw. That's what happening now -- starting to happen in Anacostia. That's the positive side of it. The negative side obviously is what Robert Adams said, that people who live in there aren't able to afford to stay and take the benefit -- have the benefit of those improvements, and it's not just people who are homeowners. Homeowners have a problem because their taxes go up, and they may or may not be able to afford it. Renters have a problem because their rents go up or the buildings may be torn down for new condos. And store owners have a problem because their rents go up, and the whole market that they're selling to changes. I remember the challenge, for example, on 14th Street, as that began to gentrify. Some of the small storeowners had to shift what they were -- what their products were and they simply weren't able to understand the new market that was coming, and they went out of business.

  • 12:19:57

    NNAMDIAnd the racial aspect of this is also of some significance, Rob Puentes, because, according to Brookings, D.C. will be no longer a majority African-American city by the year 2014 according to estimates.

  • 12:20:10

    PUENTESYeah. Well -- I mean, some of this is hard -- I mean, it's hard to predict so far out to the future but, again, we do see this churning going on. We do see this movement of minorities and of white residents in and out of the cities, in and out of the suburbs, but we're not really getting that kind of integration that you would expect, given all this migration going on within these metropolitan areas. You're still getting these areas of racial segregation, some of which by income level. But we're seeing it not just in the city. We're also seeing it in the suburbs as well.

  • 12:20:42

    NNAMDIOn to the telephones. Here is Lee in Washington, D.C. Lee, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:20:48

    LEEYes. I've been thinking about the problems we have in the city for many years. And a few months ago, I went up to Philadelphia and was looking around there, and it suddenly hit me. Philadelphia has a large number of buildings that are 10, 20, 30 stories high. And, of course, we have the limitation on heights because of the Washington Monument in town, and perhaps we need to rethink that. We no longer have a federal payment. We don't have a commuter tax and, perhaps, in areas beyond the core where the ceremonial buildings are, we need to be allowing much taller buildings, particularly in the new areas along the Anacostia River and, you know, things that are basically industrial now. We don't want to be overshadowing the neighborhoods. But we're already charging businesses $1.85 per hundred dollars in taxes, and none of the surrounding jurisdictions are doing that. And the congressional mandate was that we should have taxes that are comparable to the surrounding jurisdictions. So I think this is a very important issue that we ought to start talking about.

  • 12:22:02

    NNAMDICan we, in fact, not only start talking about building up, John McIlwain, but what are the chances that we are likely to be able to do that?

  • 12:22:10

    MCILWAINWell, first off, Lee, thank you very much for that. God bless you. That's an issue that I've been talking about, and I don't make any friends when I talk about it, not in the District. Actually, the Wisconsin Avenue corridor is a classic example of where people in the neighborhoods are actually pushing -- have pushed to downsize rather than to upzone. And if you want the kind of vibrant urban neighborhoods that support stores and walkability and the like, you really do need to go up. You don't have to turn Washington into Manhattan, but you could turn it into Brooklyn. And so you can build up. Unfortunately, we have -- it's almost a third rail here right now, Kojo, and -- so we've got to have more discussions like this on your show in order to get there.

  • 12:22:55

    NNAMDIOkay. Note taken. Rob Puentes?

  • 12:22:57

    PUENTESThat's where I was gonna go. I think that it's one thing for pointy-headed guys like us to talk about this. It makes sense for lots of different reasons. But, again, this gets back to the challenge of really changing these neighborhoods, building new infrastructure in existing places. You have to deal with questions, like the caller was talking about or the interviewee, about the affordable housing challenges. You have to deal with the challenges around congestion. Maybe there's a transit component to that. So all of these things have to be thought of. It's not just a matter of going up in order to increase the tax base or in order to accommodate more people. We've got to think holistically and comprehensively about how these impacts places.

  • 12:23:33

    NNAMDIThank you, Lee, for your call. We move on to John in Hyattsville, Md. John, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:23:40

    JOHNHow are you doing today?

  • 12:23:41

    NNAMDII'm doing well.

  • 12:23:42

    JOHNGood. Good. My comment was basically that since -- I'm from the D.C. area, but in high school, I moved down to Hyattsville, near Prince George's Plaza, and I've seen a steady influx of the Spanish culture which has moved west from Langley Park over to where I'm at now, Annapolis Road, which is Capitol Plaza. And with that, the stores are changing with that influx for that culture, and I'm not sure how it's going to affect the housing area because you'll see a great many number of them who are renters. And when you -- someone comes to buy your house and you've got people on both sides who have eight, nine people in a house, and in some cases, the houses are not really kept up. I'm just kind of worried how the housing market is going to counterbalance that.

  • 12:24:44

    NNAMDIOkay. Thank you for your call, John. John McIlwain, you're the former head of the Fannie Mae Foundation. The Obama administration seems to be moving pretty definitively away from supporting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Our caller, John, is concerned that more and more people will be renting and less and less buying homes. What does the Obama administration's moving away from supporting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mean for homeownership and for the role of government in supporting homeownership?

  • 12:25:09

    MCILWAINThat's a great and, unfortunately, really complicated question, but the simple answer is that this is really the first time an administration, since the 1930s, has pulled away from supporting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It's quite a dramatic change. There also is the question of whether or not how long we'll have the 30-year fixed rate mortgage, which has been the mainstay of building the suburbs. We already have a drop in the homeownership rate from 2004, when it was 69 percent, to the end of this last year when it was 66.5. Some of us think that's gonna continue to decline for a number of reasons. Not just because of immigrants who rent, not just because of change in federal policies, but also because the young generation, generation Y, aren't gonna be able to afford homes. And, actually, I think, they're gonna look at renting a lot more than they do in the past. So I think we're in a, actually, major shift in homeownership nationally.

  • 12:26:04

    NNAMDIIs that a good thing, Rob Puentes, or not?

  • 12:26:07

    PUENTESWell, it's hard to say. I mean, I think that we know -- we look at what's happened with the recession, and we look at the prior economy that predated the recession. It was based on measures of consumption. A lot of metropolitan areas had their almost entire economies based on real estate growth, Fort Myers, Las Vegas. And we see that the recession is really hitting these places, you know, tremendously hard. So we've got to think about what kind of economy is going to emerge from the rubble of this recession. I don't think it's gonna be based on real estate and financial kind of shenanigans that predated the recession. We're gonna have to think about measures of production and how we get back into doing things differently here in the U.S., and that's gonna have spatial impacts all across this country.

  • 12:26:45

    NNAMDIAnd, John, it seems more and more that there is going to be an increasing push, whether we're talking about Rockville and Bethesda or any place else, to live in urban or urban-feeling places. That's what we seem to be seeing with these new data.

  • 12:26:59

    MCILWAINWell, we have seen that over the last 10 years or, actually, 15 years increasingly. We have two major waves of -- two huge demographic waves. We have the baby boomers that everyone's been talking about for 30, 40 years. They are an increasingly urban-oriented group. They're moving in from the suburbs. They're moving into cities around the country. They also -- we have the second wave, which is even bigger which is the generation Y's, people 18 to 32. They also -- when you talk to them, as we have been studying them, they are also very urban centric. Now, we don't know what'll happen when they have their school age kids. Many of them will move to the suburbs. But this is a huge shift in what the market is asking for. And so what we're seeing is increasing house values, increasing rents in the urbanized areas, where there's a central city or, as you say, these suburban town centers that are very urbanized as well. So I think we're in the midst of quite -- some quite dramatic shifts that will play out over the next 10 years.

  • 12:27:58

    NNAMDIIf you happen to live in the suburbs right now, do you want to live in a place that has a more urban feel? Do you feel that your own suburban neighborhood should have a more urban feel to it? How do you feel about that? 800-433-8850 is the number to call. Do you think the Washington suburbs will look substantially different a generation from now? 800-433-8850. You can call even though we're taking a short break because this is the middle of our winter membership campaign. We're gonna do that, and then when we come back, we'll continue this conversation on demographics and change in the Washington region. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:36:28

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about demographics and change in the Washington region. We're talking with John McIlwain, senior resident fellow at Urban Land Institute, and Robert Puentes, senior fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Institution. If you've been calling and haven't been able to get through, well, that's because all the lines are filled. You can go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join the conversation there. I'll go directly to the phones with Carol in Falls Church, Va. Carol, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:36:59

    CAROLOh, hi. Yes. I'm calling at -- from Falls Church, the Seven Corners area. And I just wanted to let people know that we're fighting to maintain our quality of life in a single-family development at Ravenwood Park. The -- we're under threat of having more density, changing zoning that abuts our property, and we're currently siding the supervisor on Mason District. And there's been no study done on infrastructure around Seven Corners or anything. And things just get thrown up haphazardly. And traffic is the worst. So I just want to throw that out there. And also, let people know that the street car is a possibility to come up down Route 7 and around just for mass transit.

  • 12:38:02

    NNAMDIDo you think that is a good thing or a bad thing, Carol?

  • 12:38:05

    CAROLI think that would be a great thing because people don't ride buses for some reason. And you could actually, you know, get people on a street car like they've done in many cities.

  • 12:38:18

    NNAMDIOkay.

  • 12:38:19

    CAROLAnd traffic is not getting any better.

  • 12:38:22

    NNAMDIRob Puentes, Carol talks about the threat of more density.

  • 12:38:25

    PUENTESWell, I think -- and what she's talking about is a lot of the solutions, kind of, intertwined with the problem. I think that what she's experiencing is happening again in places all across the metro area, all across the country. And I'm familiar with the Seven Corners area. And she's right. It's an absolute traffic mess. And the solutions to that challenge are not gonna be building new roads in and around Seven Corners. It's not gonna be expanding a clover leaf in and around Seven Corners. It's -- I think, she's on the right track when she's talking about a street car, perhaps solutions to some of the traffic challenge. But that's gonna have to come with increased densities.

  • 12:38:59

    PUENTESIt's a very low density, a very spread out kind of area. You have a lot of shopping centers. You have a lot of things that are almost exclusively auto-oriented. And that's going to only exacerbate transportation challenges unless we do think differently. It's about density. And I would disagree with her about the buses, I think, particularly in the Seven Corners area. It's a very rich robust bus network that moves a lot of people. It'd be much worse if that bus never -- wasn't in place in that area.

  • 12:39:27

    NNAMDIJohn McIlwain, anything to say to Carol?

  • 12:39:29

    MCILWAINWell, first thing I would say is everybody is concerned about changes in their neighborhood understandably. And they're also concerned about both quality of life and the value of their housing investment. What's going to happen is we're not going to be building all the suburbs into cities. It's just not gonna happen. We're gonna take areas that hopefully are well-planned and build those up as dense areas. And there's still going to be the low density parts of the suburbs because people have a wide range of want -- different choices that they want to have in their lifestyle and housing. But I think Rob is right. In certain areas like Seven Corners, the answer is to get people out of their cars, not to build more roads. And the only way you get people out of their cars is you build a walkable neighborhood and then you connect it with public transportation, street cars, light rail or vehicle rapid transit.

  • 12:40:23

    NNAMDIWe're inviting your calls, 800-433-8850. Do you think you and your family will continue to enjoy the same quality of life in the years to come if you happen to live in the suburbs? What, if any, are the main obstacles to that? Of course, that also applies if you live in the city. Carol, thank you for your call. We move on to Jamie on Capitol Hill. Jamie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:40:45

    JAMIEHi, Kojo. Thank you so much for taking my call. I listen to your show all the time.

  • 12:40:48

    NNAMDIThank you.

  • 12:40:49

    JAMIENot a problem. So I just wanna drop a comment. I'm part of that Generation Y you were discussing earlier. I'm in that 18 to 32 group. I actually moved to Washington from upstate New York. And I feel my quality of life had just skyrocketed living in the city. I walk more. I take some transit. It's a much more of a bonding experience if you walk with friends, you meet people on the streets. It's not like the suburbs when I was living in upstate New York where, you know, you're confined to your car. You're talking on your cell phone. You're very focused on you. I love the city living and I can't stress it anymore, and I don't think I'll probably ever go back to the suburbs unless, you know, whoever I'm with in the future, families, they wanna move out to the suburbs.

  • 12:41:35

    NNAMDIAnecdotal evidence, John McIlwain, that underscores the truth of what you're saying.

  • 12:41:39

    MCILWAINWell -- and we keep hearing that over and over again. We hear it in surveys that we've done. This is a very urban generation and it's really, you know, so many Americans now have been to the fine cities around the world, in Europe and Asia. The whole planet, actually now for the first time in our history as people on this planet, is over 50 percent urban. Cities, this is really the decade of urbanization going forward, and it can be done well or it can be done poorly. And one of the things that we're working towards here in the metro area is to try to find what really works to make that kind of vitality and walkable neighborhoods.

  • 12:42:17

    NNAMDIThank you for your call, Jamie. Onto Andrew in Washington, D.C. Andrew, your turn.

  • 12:42:23

    ANDREWHello, Kojo. I hope you're having a good day. I'm -- listen, I'm originally from Detroit. And my comment's more along not only the quality of life, but the quality of environment. And that is in Detroit -- and you get used to it -- is when you have an older part of the city, it usually gets torn down, the new stuff is made, and then that stuff eventually gets old enough where it gets torn down. And then you end up having this, like, cycling part of the city where certain parts of the city are bad and certain parts of the city is good, but if you wait about 10, 15 years, it all completely changes itself around. And now that I'm living in the D.C. area, though, I live south of here, in Woodbridge actually, and I felt like suburbia was kind of immune to that kind of infrastructure and cycle of basically a city's life. But I'm coming across more and more that we're actually falling into that where we're starting to have suburban developments that are getting very old, very crime-riddled, very dirty, decrepit, and then we have newer housing developments that are just getting thrown up.

  • 12:43:38

    ANDREWAnd the difference between urban and suburbia in this case is the fact that suburbia has the ability just to keep building new housing developments and has no reason to go back and really renovate or make old parts of suburbia look good. And I guess my question is how do you really fix that? And I'll take my answer off the air.

  • 12:44:00

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. We're running out of space, I guess, is what some people would say. But I also feel, Rob Puentes, that's why more and more in suburbia we're seeing a more and more urban look.

  • 12:44:10

    PUENTESYeah, I think we've got to throw out, again, our picture of these metro areas, these old simplistic notions of city-suburb-world are thing of the past, quite frankly, in most places. The cities are taking on suburban characteristics. They look very different. The suburbs themselves is not just that space between the city and the rural areas. All these places are very different. We looked for a number of years at these older inner-ring suburbs. We call them the first suburbs. It's about one-fifth of America living in these places, and they're experiencing exactly the kind of challenges the caller was talking about -- aging infrastructure or perhaps a recycling housing stock, problems with immigration or challenges with immigration, opportunities with immigration, elderly. So all these things are turning in these older inner-ring suburbs in ways that they're really not in some of the cities.

  • 12:44:59

    PUENTESSo we need to change, not just the way that we think about these, but then there's a whole slate of public policies that are -- that don't recognize these challenges. We've always focused on the city for the reasons we should keep focusing on the city. We focus a lot on the ex-urban fringe for the things we've talked about here today -- loss of open space, school overcrowding, traffic congestion. But these older inner-ring suburbs are getting caught in the middle. We've got to re-orient policies to reflect their challenges and opportunities.

  • 12:45:24

    NNAMDIJohn McIlwain.

  • 12:45:25

    MCILWAINJust a quick point on a point that the caller raised about the environment. One of the things that we have seen studied very carefully is that urban -- that people who live in urbanized areas have a much lower carbon footprint than people who live in the suburbs. So as we think about the environment, as we think about the use of energy, as we think about carbon emissions and all of the like, one of the most, oddly enough, energy-efficient carbon -- reduced carbon cities in the country is New York City and Washington, where people are living downtown, again, a very low carbon footprint. So as we plan our future around a constrained energy environment, around the need to reduce carbon emissions, urbanization is one of the most important strategies.

  • 12:46:14

    NNAMDIIt seems, Rob Puentes, that there's a real battle brewing between outer and inner suburbs. For example, there's some real, I guess, trash talking going on right now between officials in Fairfax and Arlington Counties over traffic problems in Northern Virginia. How does the reality of competing priorities among and between suburbs complicate planning for our region's future?

  • 12:46:36

    PUENTESWell, it's interesting. In some ways, it's a lot easier in this region because you've got metro areas like Pittsburgh or Chicago, Detroit where they have hundreds and hundreds of municipalities all with their own kind of elected officials, their own land use planning power, all this kind of business. That's not necessarily the case here. We have relatively few. We have these large counties, more emblematic of a southeastern kind of metro area. But what that then means is that you have very kind of powerful counties. And so, you do get these challenges that butt up against one another, and we're seeing it right now as you mentioned with the controversy between putting the HOT lanes on I-395 through Virginia, and whether that's going to accommodate further metropolitan decentralization, whether it's actually a way to get people out of single occupancy vehicles and then to more carpool lanes, whether it's about pricing the system correctly. All these things are churning right now. But I think what we need to do is take this opportunity to recognize that these places are really kind of in it together, right?

  • 12:47:34

    PUENTESAnd when we think about how we're gonna influence or impact and inform state policy that there's much more that Arlington and Fairfax have in common with one another along with other inner-ring kind of counties throughout the Commonwealth, really building some kind of political block seems to make a lot of sense to me. We see it happening in some other places. We see these mayors' caucuses that are starting to emerge in Denver, in Chicago, an some other places, Seattle metro area. We really need to start to take that same kind of approach here. It's a very complex government structure, probably the most complex government structure on the metro level in the country, given the two states, the district, the federal government and all that. But we've got to recognize that there's more similarities between these places than challenges.

  • 12:48:16

    NNAMDIOnto Marian in Rockville, Md. Hi, Marian. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:48:20

    MARIANHi. Thank you for taking my call. First, my comment is -- well, I live around Shady Grove, and they just put up the King Farm, which is a metropolis mixed-use. And even before they finished building, I can see that they don't need -- every 200 feet, 100 feet, there's both the right-hand turn and the left-hand turn. No room for turn lanes. And there's no possibility of room for extra lanes. The houses are built so close to the curb. The other comment we are living so close to the metro, but only 14 percent of those people in the King Farm do not have a car. A third point, I used to live in New York and then I lived in Jersey City, and the answer to metro is not to keep cutting buses, but to add buses. If people knew that they could get a bus every 10 minutes -- or, in Jersey City, it's like every five minutes -- people would take buses. But if you know that there's a bus every hour and, oh, I just missed the two o'clock bus, they're not gonna take it.

  • 12:49:47

    NNAMDILet's hear what John McIlwain has to say about that.

  • 12:49:49

    MCILWAINWell, first of all, one of the things to keep in mind is whether people have cars or not in an area like King Farm, which is a good development, not a perfect development, they still drive less. They drive closer. Their stores are closer. The mileage is less that they drive, whereas when you go out to the more spread out areas, Potomac or places like that, it's a 20-minute drive, half-hour drive to the store. So these are incremental changes that are very important. The point about buses, I think, is really an important one. The District now has a smart -- the next bus system. I use the buses in the District all the time. And being able to go on to my little -- my smart phone and call up that station and know when the next bus is going to be there is really very, very helpful. So that kind of reliability, the kind of new technologies that are being applied is slowly bringing people back on to the buses. People with suits are back on to the buses.

  • 12:50:47

    NNAMDIAnd, Marian, you should know that tomorrow we're gonna be having Metro General Manager Richard Sarles on the show. You might want to raise that issue of buses with him if you tune in tomorrow. So thank you very much for your call. We got this e-mail from Yvette. "As a frustrated Prince Georgian, I have been pushing my county council to understand transit-oriented development. I scream in frustration as I see everyone, even in D.C.'s Anacostia areas, developing with that crucial three-pronged approach -- retail, commercial and residential. We in Prince George's County keep putting in the residential and nothing else. We have 15 Metro stations and none is developed with that transit-oriented development in mind. Yes, New Carrollton is about to start, but how long have I been in this county? Seventeen years." Rob Puentes, Maryland and Virginia have taken very different approaches when it comes to regulating how communities grow and develop. Talk, if you would, about those different approaches and the results that we see on the ground in our region.

  • 12:51:46

    PUENTESYeah, so much of this really does depend on state-level action. In Maryland, they put together a comprehensive framework not just for state policy but to allow the jurisdictions there to do -- to experiment with a lot of different things. It's not top-down. It's not the state doing the planning, but it's about giving these municipalities, the counties the ability to experiment with a range of different solutions to their particular challenges. In Virginia, they've done some of that. There is some flexibility for the counties and the municipalities to do different things. But the municipalities and the counties wanna do more things. They want there to be more of a state role. So all these things really play out very differently.

  • 12:52:26

    PUENTESI think the caller is exactly right about the challenges in Prince George's County. We focus a lot on the outer counties in Maryland because of their fast growth. While I think they grow in a faster rate, Prince George's accommodate, I think, more people in recent years than those outer counties did. And they're not doing it the way the caller said. She's exactly right, that we're not accommodating around these transit networks. There's really missed opportunities there. The Coalition for Smarter Growth and some other groups have put together a platform for redeveloping in Prince George's County. A lot of that is around the kind of things the caller's talked about. So I think -- I hope -- that things are starting to change, in this regard, in Prince George's.

  • 12:53:03

    NNAMDIAnd, finally, John McIlwain, because we're running out of time, for the next generation of Washingtonians, those who are now in their teens or 20s right now, what are likely to be the main threats to their quality of life here in our region?

  • 12:53:14

    MCILWAINI think the main threat for them is going to be affordability of housing, whether it's homeownership or rental. They're -- they have a very high level of unemployment -- by some estimates, 25, 30 percent. They're carrying huge college debt, university debt. They're carrying credit card debt. It's going to take them some time to be able to afford the kind of housing that they grew up in. I think they're gonna rent a lot longer, and we need to build quality, affordable rental housing. I don't mean low income housing. I mean, workforce housing around transit and urbanized areas for them. And I think we just need to -- 'cause I think also we're going through a huge change in the mortgage markets. You talked earlier about the pull back from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That's only one piece of a whole shift of much more conservative mortgage underwriting, bigger down payments, higher credit scores. So I think they're facing the challenge of housing affordability as no generation since the '30s has faced.

  • 12:54:14

    NNAMDIAnd that's not only going to be a challenge for them. It's going to be the ongoing challenge for our leadership and what they call the DMV. John McIlwain is senior resident fellow with the Urban Land Institute. Thank you for joining us.

  • 12:54:25

    MCILWAINIt's been a pleasure, Kojo.

  • 12:54:26

    NNAMDIRob Puentes is senior fellow with the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Institution. Rob, always a pleasure.

  • 12:54:32

    PUENTESThank you very much. Very interesting.

  • 12:54:34

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

Related Links

Topics + Tags

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Most Recent Shows

The Politics Hour – October 20, 2017

Friday, Oct 20 2017Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy discusses his efforts to address gang violence. Plus, D.C. Councilmember Trayon White joins us to recap the "grocery march" protesting food deserts east of the Anacostia River.