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Remembering the Land in Land Use Planning
I think HUD policy makers and program formulators should consider introducing advisory input from urban planning teams in the process of making decisions that will impact the quality of life in areas experiencing substantial population growth. I use the term urban planning teams because I think that planning at the highest level needs an urban planning focus but it also needs input and the expertise of certain professional groups not often considered in the process of deciding to build or not to build.
In point of fact, I think we need to consult and consider the research of soil and plant scientists to deal with the growth of mega cities and the increasing population density on seacoasts and river deltas. Erosion and the loss of wetlands from continued residential development is an issue of concern for me. We may be able to continue to develop in such areas, but how much development can those areas support? How do we preserve vegetation that protects the soil in marsh land and riverside developments?

Suppose we instituted a policy that all housing in beach front areas needed to pay an environmental assessment. Urban planners and business professional would be able to tell us how much an assessment collected at closing would raise under varying assessment rates. But how much would be need to really mitigate the environmental consequences of such development. What would we use the funds collected from such an assessment for? It might be suggested that we use such funds to rebuild the mangrove swamp lands, or, that we undertake a major effort to plant mangroves as far up the east coast as the plants can tolerate.
Many beach front houses are built on stilts to cope with the flooding that comes with tropical storms. That does work and it might be beneficial to actually build elevated structures in urban areas as well, and not just in areas that have to worry about hurricanes. The heat island effect has been a long observed phenomenon in heavily built up urban areas. There is a well-documented difference in temperature in the urban core of major cities and the less densely populated suburbs. It has to do with the fact that there are so many structures and roads covering the ground in such urbanized areas that the ground can’t breathe or respire and throw off accumulated heat in a manner akin to sweating. If we have a large number of structures in a given that were built off the ground or used specialized cements that were more permeable than current types of road surfaces, the ground might be better able to manage the heat load of growth and development and cool down some.
I can come up with these ideas or follow others who have come up with similar ideas for making densely populated urban areas more environmentally responsive. I will be the first to tell you on this subject that I don’t know if any of the ideas I have thought of or read about will work. That is why I am saying in this comment that HUD needs to look for technical expertise in some unfamiliar places. There are many parts to the whole of the urban environment. I think we need to become concerned about the land on which housing rests, and seek out the expertise that will give us some understanding of the best way to make the most environmentally sustainable use of the land we use to build.

Thank you for sharing your insights on these important issues. We appreciate the time you took to give us your perspective. Your comments will be shared within HUD as we devise our future research strategies. Please continue to participate in this idea generation process in the future.
Blair Russell, HUD PD&R

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