Do Failing City Schools Hurt Your Markets?

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With NAHB economist Michael Carliner forecasting an annual net inflow of up to 1.7 million immigrants during the next decade, builders should keep an eye on anything that imperils those newcomers' ability to buy houses.

April 01, 2004

With NAHB economist Michael Carliner forecasting an annual net inflow of up to 1.7 million immigrants during the next decade, builders should keep an eye on anything that imperils those newcomers' ability to buy houses. A recent article by Howell Baum, a University of Maryland professor of urban studies and planning, suggests segregated and failing urban schools should concern you.

“Weak city schools are the engine of sprawl,” Baum wrote in the winter issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association. His “Smart Growth and School Reform” can be found at www.planning.org.

In trying to manage sprawl, most smart growth advocates pay little heed to remedying urban problems, Baum says. The core issue, he says, is race relations’ effect on development. “Sprawl is mainly a movement of white households. ... It segregates.”

Smart growth advocates focus on the physical manifestations of sprawl, such as large-lot housing, and ignore the social problem at its core, Baum argues.

Builders with markets heavily tied to nonwhite immigrant buyers might help themselves by working to change the racial mix and the city-suburban school imbalance. That could open more urban and infill sites and widen density options.

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