Why Invest in Cities? There’s Always Another Boise Urbanists hoped for greater density and transit. Instead people are fleeing to midsize metros.

Conor Sen:

Urbanists thought their moment had finally arrived. Those who favor increased urban density and transit options believed the housing bust and the great recession could end decades of development centered on automobiles and suburban sprawl, shifting planners’ focus more to cities, density and transit.

The advocates for this model point to California as the inevitable result of inaction. If you try to grow without increased density and transit you’ll end up with the traffic of Los Angeles and the home prices of San Francisco. Yet the negative effects of political inaction do not make political action inevitable. Another possibility is … Boise.

Even if politics were responsive, policy changes take years or decades to achieve results — and individuals and families planning their lives don’t have that kind of time. “California needs to change its housing policies” might well be true, but that won’t make a home in the Bay Area any cheaper tomorrow.