News & Opinions
The latest news and insights from Hanley Wood’s outspoken experts and key thought-leaders throughout the residential and commercial design and construction industry.
Land Planners Dig In Again
Rick Harrison, President of Rick Harrison Site Design Studio and Neighborhood Innovations, LLC / newgeography / August 16, 2013
In the housing industry, land planners are the first to be dropped during a downturn… and the first needed in an upturn. A good way to monitor the optimism of the housing development market is to monitor the volume of land planning.
The land plan is the beginning of a long and arduous process. Unlike architecture, which is relatively quick from design to construction, land planning takes patience. It can easily consume a year or two (or more) for a US neighborhood to go from the initial design stages to the beginning of construction.
Typically, but not always, national recessions coincide with downturns in the construction industry. For example, housing growth in the Minneapolis region leaped to the far outer suburban regions because we had an urban boundary that raised raw land prices and made unsubsidized affordable housing within the core unattainable. To get a financially attainable home for a middle-class family meant a 30 mile trek to the suburbs, typically in that shiny new gas guzzler SUV.
About a year before the national recession, when local gas prices exceeded three dollars a gallon, homes sales in the outer reaches of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul) came to a standstill. This halt impacted the low-value suburban cookie cutter bland developments. Planning consultants that simply followed the regulatory minimums saw their workload come to a screeching halt.
Around that same time, our unique land planning business grew 30%. Our clients were savvy developers and builders who knew that they needed an edge to entice buyers back into new purchases. Unfortunately, development redesign takes time to go through the approval processes. When the banking collapse triggered the national recession and the housing collapse, we had 105 neighborhoods going through the approval process. Within a 48 hour period, all 105 neighborhoods either went dead or dormant. The building industry Armageddon had begun.