Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Fri Jul 25th 2008 at 10:29am UTC

Ministry of Urban Development

Writing in the New York Times, Columbia University sociologist, Sudhir Venkatesh argues that it is time to shutter the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and replace it with a new Department of Urban Development.

How could a program aimed at curbing inequality and helping the poor
end up creating new pockets of poverty? The answer lies partly in HUD’s
myopic focus on gentrifying urban cores. … In correcting HUD’s missteps, we must first separate “housing policy” from “urban development.” Today, housing policy is dictated by
private markets, so why not give the Commerce and Treasury Departments
oversight of a single authority that administers Federal Housing
Administration financing — needed to keep homes affordable for the
majority of Americans — and all of HUD’s other housing programs?

Then, the development needs of our nation’s regions — wide areas
like the Northeast corridor or Southern California — could be
considered anew. … Regionalism must be embraced,
even if it tests local officials who fear losing their traditional
sources of government financing.

Promoting coherent regional development will also entail linking
urban policy concerns like community development and social services
with work like rehabbing roads and building railways … Americans live too
spread out, and economic activity is no longer limited to downtowns.
Community-based initiatives — from vocational programs to rezoning
efforts to designing effective transportation corridors and
recreational space — are sorely needed but will be effective only if
they tie into a broader vision that anticipates growth on a large
scale.

He’s absolutely right.

UPDATE: Arnold Kling says not so fast:

Venkatesh then proceeds, rather naively in my view, to call for
replacing the Department of Housing and Urban Development with a better
department. First of all, failure only leads to exit in markets, not in
government. Second, who is to say that the next generation of programs
will not also be captured by special interests?

4 Responses to “Ministry of Urban Development”

  1. GU Says:

    “[The] Federal Housing Administration financing — needed to keep homes affordable for the majority of Americans . . .”

    This is a real howler.

  2. Carol Coletta Says:

    No, he’s not right. He is for the most part terribly wrong. This can be read as a prescription for maintaining our very inefficient and unproductive sprawl pattern of development, just at the moment we have the incentive of high gas prices to right that wrong.

  3. RF Says:

    Carol – I don’t read the piece that way, but I do trust your judgment. I also just noted Arnold Kling, who is very sharp in such matters, critique.

  4. Vincent Clement Says:

    I’m with Kling on this one. We would be replacing one large bureaucracy captured by special interests with another bureaucracy that, over time, will grow in size and be captured by special interests.