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New York Times stringer and author Tim Egan (The Good Rain) opines in the New York Times on the steep decline of housing prices in the greater San Francisco 'sprawl' zone. Anecdotally Egan cites the case of Lathrop California, two hours from the Bay Area in the Central Valley. Housing prices there have dropped from a peak of $500,000 to $150,000.

This is an interesting phenomenon, certainly both worthy and timely. But where Egan takes his analysis of this tragedy is truly irresponsible.

First, he implies that the problem in Lathrop and surrounding communities is the model of foreclosure throughout the United States. Then, curiously, he defines such areas as slums in a typical Seattle passive aggressive manner.

From this rather broad and unsubstantiated observation he then comes to a conclusion - a conclusion that appears to have structured his premises, not the the facts leading to a properly formed conclusion.

Making a point about unplanned sprawl is fine, but assigning this as **the** cause of the foreclosure problem is just over the top. (See the writings of my former professor Richard Morrill in the online site Crosscut for a grounded and balanced discussion of this issue.) Curiously Egan then continues asserting the relative health of older, denser, Cities on the West Coast as resulting from the fact that they have strong controls on growth.

I'm sorry Mr. Egan, but that is journalistic quackery. The biggest factor creating more relative stability in older Cities is the composition of the ownership market - a community that has been around longer will have many more homeowners in relatively secure financial shape. A community that was largely formed at the peak of the boom will, of course, have a much larger problem.

No less an authority than Ron Sims, former King County Executive and current number two at HUD, has cited this article, as part of a larger effort to start funding subsidized housing in greater density.

This is a lesson we have already learned, and a mistake not to be repeated. Density is great in desirable areas where the market justifies it - doing so for affordable housing is what creates gang ridden slums, not the lack of development regulations.

A more relevant question is whether established Cities are too some degree inappropriate beneficiaries of the TARP 'bonus' program. Most certainly some of the people putting forth this politically correct fraud and extortion propaganda are.


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