Retrograde Anti-Green Decision out of FHA

Austin Contrarian has a gripe:

FHA is about to adopt new rules explicitly encouraging home buyers to purchase single-family, detached housing in the suburbs rather than attached (condos) in urban cores:

Until now, almost any condo development could apply to FHA for “approved” status, therefore making FHA financing available in that development. In addition, in developments that were not approved, “spot approvals” were sometimes available for individual units. (The lender applied for an approval for the unit you wanted to buy, in spite of the development not being approved).

2. All development not considered primarily residential are out. For instance, a development with more than 25% of the total floor area dedicated to commercial business use is out.

3. Noise issues is a new concern, so any development within 1,000 feet of a highway, freeway, or heavily travelled road, 3,000 feet of a railroad, 1 mile of an airport, or 5 miles of a military airfield will become ineligible for approval.

4. If the property has an “unobstructed view , or is located within 2000 feet of any facility handling or storing explosive or fire prone materials, it is not insurable – we’re not talking just fireworks factories here. A gas station 2 blocks away can disqualify this development.

11. All current condominium project approvals will be invalid (with the exception of projects approved on or after October 1, 2008) and projects must be re-approved under the new options available.

But these new regulations seem purposely designed to push new homeowners out of dense, urban areas to the suburbs. They exclude many mixed-use developments (#2). In a central city, it is hard to find a condominium not within 1,000 feet of a highway, freeway, or heavily travelled road, 3,000 feet of a railroad, or one mile from an airport (#3). Allowing developers to tap into FHA guarantees for entire single-family subdivisions but only 30% of condominium units naturally will encourage developers to shift to single-family subdivisions. These new regulations are fundamentally anti-urban.

Even if it is somehow possible to defend our existing scheme of suburban subsidies, is it really possible to defend introducing new market distortions?

The last thing I expected from Obama is an anti-urban, and obviously explicitly anti-Chicago pro-Schaumbourgeoisie policy. What is going on here?

Somebody phone da mare!

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Roscoe Village Cougar

The first cougar sightings in northern Illinois in over a century have been made.

What’s really interesting is where. This would be at Hoyne and Roscoe, in trendy Roscoe Village, in Chicago, a modest and ordinarily charming mile’s walk from my last known residence in the north. A 5 foot cougar was cornered and killed there.

A cougar (likely but not certainly the same one) had recently been sighted in Wilmette, near Mrs. Clinton’s birthplace among the congenitally Republican group that profits most from Chicago’s grit and energy. Prior to that there had been a sighting in North Chicago, a fading rustbelt satellite, further north along the great lake, and prior to that, one a bit further north still in southern Wisconsin.

Where was this cat heading? Did it want to check out the jazz scene at Schuba’s? Was it planning to apply for a job at the Board of Trade? Did it have tickets for a Cubs game? Did it have a lifelong ambition to see the Monets at the Art Institute? Why, in the name of everything gigantic and catlike, was it heading directly downtown?

There was a similar incident in Madison, Wisconsin a few years back in which a large bear was found wandering around a suburb inside the beltline highway, far from anything that might serve as bear habitat. At the time I had a similar reaction. I imagined it was, perhaps, coming to see Governor Tommy Thompson to petition for more bear habitat.

Unfortunately, the bear met a similar end as the cougar, shot to death in a school playground rather than a back alley, having willfully ignored the prominent “no grizzlies unaccompanied by an adult allowed” sign.

Have we reached a point where our urban areas are so much more attractive than our countryside that even the wild animals are starting to head downtown? Or did the animals proceed from some deeper, more altruistic motivation to get to the bottom of the strange goings on that have been increasingly unavoidable of late, even for the most reclusive of megafauna?

I hope it’s that last one. Even though they are horribly outmatched, I have deep admiration for these remarkable animals, who seem to have gotten it into their heads to figure out where all the trouble was coming from and fix it once and for all.

Update: It was indeed a wild cougar, apparently, and had been heading for the Loop from its home in the Black Hills of western South Dakota. But why?