Strong Towns recently published an interesting set of articles talking about something they refer to as “pretextual planning.” Articles here and here. What they mean by this is that sometimes we create planning rules not necessarily because we think they are the right thing to do, but because they serve as good bargaining chips when dealing with developers and builders. For example, let’s not eliminate parking minimums but instead concede on it during the entitlement process. This, the articles argue, is not good practice. And I would of course agree with that.
But here is another very valid point that is made: when you make building so painfully complicated you end up creating a whole bunch of negative externalities. Not only does the cost of housing and building go up, but you also 1) make it more difficult for smaller builders to participate in the market and 2) you end up increasing the minimum size of new developments. And that is because as projects get more complicated and expensive, you end up needing larger and larger projects to amortize / justify the development expenses.
It’s really too bad.
Agreed. Building rules should focus on protecting the public interest in terms of safety and neighbourhood integration (housing stock type, affordability, provision of transit and services).