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A study of the locational determinants of private enterprise new communities in metropolitan regions Manning, Fraser Lewis

Abstract

The growing political interest in new communities in North America in response to central city congestion and the problems of urban sprawl underscores the need for empirical data on current new community activity as it is now being applied on this continent. This study proposes an examination of such communities but with a particular problem in mind. It attempts to identify and ascertain the relative importance of the locational determinants for private enterprise new communities in metropolitan regions. The point of view taken is that the recent proliferation of these privately developed communities provides planners with a unique opportunity to help structure the future urban pattern of the metropolitan region. But if such planners are to anticipate and plan for these communities, they must strive for an understanding of the underlying decision-making criteria involved in such projects, including their possible future locations. In addition to the basic problem outlined above, this study has also been guided by the following secondary objectives: (1) to establish the importance of examining the location of private enterprise new communities by exploring the idea that such projects reflect attempts to improve the efficiency of the housebuilding and land development industry and, therefore, represent a logical progression in the private sector's contribution to urban development; (2) to examine past new town locational experience, particularly in Britain and Scandinavia; and (3) to assess the regulatory tool presently available to planners for influencing the location of private enterprise new communities. The methodology of the study consists in part of an extensive literature review. Since there are no studies that one can point to as dealing specifically with the locational aspects of new towns, this review involved the collection of data from a wide variety of sources, However, from the existing information available it was not possible to determine the relative importance of the locational criteria selected by new community developers. The data base was therefore augmented with a questionnaire survey of twelve developers. Eight of these questionnaires were returned although one was only partly answered. The organization of the study first involved an examination of the changing nature of the housebuilding industry and the emergence of new communities after 1960. Reference was made to such factors as the structural shift towards the large building firm, the attempts to improve both the marketability of houses and management techniques in the industry, increasing corporate investment, and the economies in land costs to be gained by building new communities with balanced facilities further out on the urban fringe. It was concluded that the appearance of private enterprise new communities can be partly attributed to the evolution of the housebuilding and land development industry itself, and partly to the conditions of a period characterized by such variables as industrial decentralization, new freeways and a more articulate market demand. Chapter III identifies and lists fifteen possible locational criteria that might be applied in the selection of a site for a new community. The reasons for selecting each of these criteria are discussed in turn. Where appropriate, reference is made to European experience to illustrate the applicability of a particular locational variable. Chapter IV discusses the results of the questionnaire survey. It was emphasized that due to the small sample involved the survey should be treated as a pilot study and not as a comprehensive analysis of comparative new community experience in North American metropolitan regions. The results of the survey generally substantiate the hypothesis contended in Chapter I that the rate and direction of urban growth, land costs, land assembly, freeway accessibility and government restrictions are the most important criteria influencing the location of privately developed hew communities. The two exceptions were that government restrictions were not as significant as originally thought and access to a highway was given equal rating with freeway accessibility. It was concluded that the exact order of the variables should not necessarily be interpreted as representing the true situation. But the results do give some idea as to which variables as a group are more important than others. In Chapter V the existing regulatory tools available to planners to influence the location of new communities were examined. The various types of land acquisition techniques, in particular the land bank concept, were viewed as particularly relevant. Development sectors and skip annexation also held some potential. It was emphasized, however, that the location of new communities is very much dependent on the success of the whole land development control program. No one device, whether it be zoning, land acquisition or taxation measures is sufficient. A combination of many techniques is necessary and that increased financing should be made available to local governments for this specific purpose. Finally, three possible administrative arrangements for planning for new communities are suggested. These are a provincial development corporation, a federal crown corporation and a provincial new community committee. None of these proposals was explored in a rigorous manner. Further research would be necessary to determine their constitutional appropriateness.

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