A recent episode of the Strong Towns podcast was a panel session from the Congress for the New Urbanism. Chuck Marohn interviews four conference attendees under the age of 30.
One of the panelists, Dan Baisden, described something that was a new idea to me: the notion of Rust Belt cities becoming intake locations for those displaced by climate change. As a result of significant population loss many of these cities and towns have more infrastructure than they currently require. As the impact of climate change is felt they could become spaces for people relocating.
So this two-story garden apartment scenario I’m going to talk about for a few minutes… it’s part of an idea from the last few years called “missing middle”. If we think of housing on a spectrum, from detached single family housing you see in cities everywhere to mid-rise housing, like four to six stories you might see in the central area. You’ve also got duplexes triplexes, fourplexes, courtyard apartments, townhomes, a whole array of things that have been common historically in cities everywhere, but aren’t really provided for in very many locations in modern zoning.
That’s from a presentation Michael Anderson gave in Tualatin earlier this month. The idea of “missing middle” housing wasn’t new to me, but the term itself was. It’s such a clear summation of many issues facing urban development. Another good read on a similar subject is Strong Towns’ article on developers and luxury housing. It’s all relevant here in Portland where by at least one measure rents are finally down 3% year-over-year.
Corie Brown, writing for The New Food Economy, details how commodity agriculture and its broken promises have impacted rural Kansas. The photography, data, and narrative throughout are fantastic.
Reading it you learn about towns like Downs, which has seen its population drop by over 30 percent since 1980. It’s that kind of absence that contributes to 57 percent of the state’s land having less than 10 people per square mile. There are some stories of hope, though. Fascinating read.
The New Yorker dives deep into a rural community in Iowa. Orange City is a town of less than six thousand people. And its isolation from any river, railway, or four-lane highway led to quirks in development.
The article’s worth reading for its look at American politics (of whites living in their childhood hometown, 60% voted for Trump) as well as quirks of small towns (the college in Orange City greatly helps the town retain young adults). It closes with a more optimistic picture of the future than you might expect reading through the first half of the piece.