One argument I’d like to preempt regarding my views on how Bethlehem and Easton should reorient their land use regulations in order to compete with low rents in Allentown, is that I was arguing for these parking reforms and zoning changes before the NIZ, so maybe I’m just being an opportunist.
Policy-focused political writers often have a bad habit of presenting policies they favored prior to a crisis as the One True Solution to the crisis, regardless of how weak the relationship may be.
That’s not what I’m doing here. I have been arguing for pro-growth, pro-density land use reforms for a long time now as a way for the core cities to reduce building costs and better compete with *the suburbs* for development. Now that the competitor is Allentown, nothing changes about the prescriptions – they just become much more urgent.
What the NIZ has done is clarify that cities are going to live or die by the principles of competitive markets.
This was already easy to see before the NIZ, but it has now been thrown into sharper relief. Anti-density zoning is a huge cost, and cities will increasingly bear it at their own peril as the commercial real estate market becomes more competitive.