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Vallianatos: Policy Shifts Towards Walkable Communities Anathema to “Buy Here Pay Here”

8:30 AM PST on November 9, 2011

(This is part two of our series on reader's response to last week's series on Buy Here Pay Here used car dealerships.  Yesterday we summarized the statements of Joe Linton, Roadblick, Adrian Martinez, Damien Goodmon and Allison Mannos.  Today we bring a more detailed response from Occidental College Professor Mark Vallianatos.  Tomorrow, we'll have a response from Voice Newspaper Editor Carlos Morales. - DN)

To reduce the inequity of low-income people being trapped by usurious loans because that’s the only way they can get a car, we need to prioritize improving the places we live in so no one needs to own a car to survive. While places are changing, we should also be improving public transportation and opportunities to walk and bike. Making our lives less auto-dominated will take time, so in the short term we can provide ways to share rides so less people are chained to buying and paying for a car.

There are already places with enough of a mix of homes and businesses and ways to get around that a resident doesn’t need to own a car. Since these places already exist, we should prioritize allowing more people, especially lower income people, to live there. So we need more housing and more affordable housing near job centers and in walkable neighborhoods.

Much of the development that happened in the past 70 years was designed around automobiles. We need to densify and ‘repair’ suburbs in urban areas and revitalize towns in rural areas to transform more places into walkable areas.

From a policy perspective this means:

    • Eliminating zoning restrictions on the lot sizes, types of housing, number of housing units on lots, building height etc to increase the stock of housing and reduce price of renting.
    • Eliminating mandatory parking minimums to reduce the cost and space needed to expand housing and services,
    • Eliminating zoning rules that prevents mixed use neighborhoods.
    • Encouraging construction of affordable housing.
    • Ending all government subsidies for exurban development and sprawl (new road construction, extension of utilities, tax breaks or mortgage deductions for construction/ home purchases in greenfield developments, etc).

Good, walkable places require safe streets for pedestrians; cycling infrastructure that welcomes all types of riders, and expanded transit. Build streets and public places with the human scale in mind, and give priority to walkers when it is not possible to give space to all forms of transportation. Invest in separated bike infrastructure so more people feel comfortable biking to work, to shop and to school. This means cycletracks, bike highways and bike paths, not painted lanes or sharrows. Expand transit service and reduce cost of transit to low-income riders. It’s socially and environmentally efficient to tax wealth and pollution to subsidize public transportation.

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