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Developer: Future Of Housing Is Smaller, Greener, Near Transit

Don Stacom

April 27, 2011

Facing the challenges of rising fuel prices, a steady outflow of young people and ever-increasing business competition from overseas, Connecticut needs to step up its efforts to encourage affordable housing near bus and train routes, a panel of planners agreed Tuesday.

"Connectivity is environmentally efficient and it's where the market wants to be," developer Jonathan F. P. Rose told a forum at The Lyceum. "People want transit options."

Although he didn't specifically address the New Britain busway or the proposed New Haven-to-Springfield high-speed rail line, Rose said there's a market trend throughout the country toward building higher-density, energy-efficient housing near mass transit stations and commercial centers.

He said that two demographic groups in particular are driving that move: Senior citizens who want to unload large, costly one-family houses, and young singles and couples who want affordable housing and the pace of a small city.

"Across the country, we're seeing 'bright flight' young people flocking to cities and jobs. They want healthy, thriving, education-based communities," Rose said. "The future has to be green, urban, multifamily housing. It's what people in their 20s and 30s want. We're overbuilt with suburban single-family houses."

Rose addressed several dozen regional and city planners, environmental lobbyists, affordable housing advocates and municipal economic development officials at a forum sponsored by the Partnership For Strong Communities. The nonprofit organization is a prominent supporter of public policy that encourages commercial and housing development clustered around transit stations as a way to reduce fuel use and pollution.

Panelists at the forums said that mid-sized cities that have rapid transportation to the financial hubs of Boston and Manhattan will be better able to meet growing economic competition from Brazil, India, Hong Kong and elsewhere.

"If high-speed rail gets you from New Britain to New York City, you've changed the ballgame. Downtown New Britain won't be half-empty," said Curt Johnson, program director of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment.

In many parts of the country, homeowners spend as much on running and maintaining their cars as they do on their housing, Rose said. Developing housing near public transit would free up much of that money, he said.

Advocates of "smart growth" development have repeatedly cited Rose as a model for modern developers. His $1.5-billion-a-year business, Jonathan Rose Companies LLC, is building the second stage of the Metro Green housing complex at Stamford's train station; the first phase won several awards for energy efficiency. The company has built affordable and mixed-income housing in New York City, New Mexico and Colorado.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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