Will Princeton’s New Housing Goals Promote Walkability and Diversity?

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Walkable housing under construction at Greenview Avenue in Princeton. (click to expand)

Princeton’s Planning Board is revising the Housing Element of the Community Master Plan. As part of this effort, they have developed a list of ‘goals’ that are intended to guide plans for housing. The goals appear to be a worthy effort to bring together competing visions of how development should proceed in Princeton. But are they sufficient to address the need for housing, and to promote walkable living?The draft housing goals were unveiled at a meeting last month and published (with some more explanation) at the municipal website here (or archived here). They are, as follows:

  1. Promote diversity in housing stock & population
  2. Develop adequate affordable housing sites & zoning regulations
  3. Preserve & protect existing affordable housing
  4. Provide housing options for all lifestyle cycles
  5. Secure adequate funding for affordable housing
  6. Locate housing in areas with existing infrastructures
  7. Promote sustainability in housing
  8. Ensure that new housing development is respectful of existing neighborhood character

This appears to be a pretty good list, providing for housing opportunity (Goal #1&4), affordability (Goal #2,3&5), Smart Growth (Goal #6), sustainability (Goal #7) and protection of neighborhood character (Goal #8).

The test will come in making a plan with potential to achieve all the different goals. Notably, providing adequate housing to address the town’s needs (Goal #1) is potentially in conflict with a strict interpretation of Goal #8, ‘protection of existing neighborhood character’. In recent years, most efforts to create new housing opportunities have faced resistance because they are perceived to infringe on neighborhood character. As a result, insufficient housing has been built, especially walkable housing that is affordable to people on moderate incomes. The Planning Board has an opportunity to balance the different priorities. The character of Princeton as a town where a diverse range of people can reasonably expect to live hangs in the balance.

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This entry was posted in Affordability, planning, Princeton, Smart Growth, Sustainability and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Will Princeton’s New Housing Goals Promote Walkability and Diversity?

  1. Nathanael says:

    What this is missing is a goal #0: “provide an adequate supply of housing so that there are enough units so everyone who wants to can live in Princeton”.

    Housing advocates in many cities around the country have figured out that the biggest thing preventing affordable housing is a *severely restricted supply of housing*. Basically, when there are only a small number of units within walking distance of downtown, those units will be bid up to astronomical price levels regardless of how crummy they are, and poorer people will be *forced* further into the suburbs. When, on the other hand, there are lots of units, landlords eventually start dropping rents in order to fill the buildings.

    You want to build enough units to have a minimum 5% vacancy rate. (Maximum roughly 12% — above that you get other problems.) If less than 5% of units are vacant, prices will skyrocket. What’s your vacancy rate look like?….

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