The Green Column #35
Lincoln’s Future Housing and Neighborhoods
October 4, 2010—The following ideas about the future of Lincoln’s housing and neighborhoods have been solicited from age group members of the Lincoln Green by Design volunteer organization and the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee.
When we ask the public for ideas and opinions about the future characteristics of Lincoln, 30 years from now, we should keep in mind that there likely will be different opinions about our future environments and our roles within a future time, according to the generational perspective of those responding. So, the next few articles in this Green Column Series will seek opinions from different age groups among the members of Lincoln Green by Design, guided, in general by the LPlan2040 on-line survey: Virtual Town Hall: Bright Ideas. While the specific expressions may not exactly fit the heading category, they nevertheless will be useful in the City’s quest for new visions of our place, our children’s place and our grandchildren’s place.
Increase City Involvement with Developers
Systematically take each section of Lincoln and through a long term plan exchange dated technologies for new, greener technologies. This would improve the city while encouraging businesses and homeowners to follow suit. Downtown would be the best place to begin since it is the city’s focal point. Second, work with apartment complex owners and offices to install water-recycling systems. Water is an absolute necessity; we will benefit by using it efficiently. Third, implement self-sustaining energy systems, such as solar panels, and reused materials for the creation of apartment complexes. The basic idea: to have the city more involved with the developer. Fourth, start greening our city at ground level, the sidewalks and roads. Part of Salem, Oregon has employed porous roads and sidewalks allowing rainwater to reach the ground reducing runoff. A well designed city takes planning, imagination, and patience.
Safe and Affordable Housing
Finding an affordable apartment for my disabled mother within a quiet and safe community has been a challenge. Because she has a muscular dystrophy she feels particularly vulnerable and therefore has a high need to “feel” safe where she lives. The need for safe and affordable rental housing is a common thread among the disabled and elderly communities.
More Sustainable Neighborhoods
Neighborhoods need to be more sustainable with more recycling options and neighborhood meetings. Each neighborhood should have its own association. If the city offered sustainability meetings in our area, I feel they would have strong attendance.
Encourage “Old Urbanism”
The New Urbanism neighborhoods, The Village Gardens and Fallbrook, have a variety of interesting houses and great spaces for businesses. Nicely landscaped and walkable, they are great places to live. But we also have great houses and business in the old neighborhoods. “Old urbanism,” has many of the same elements of the new neighborhoods at a fraction of the cost. Houses with character, walkable schools, trails, parks and neighborhood businesses on arterial corridors … they already exist and they work! Unfortunately, the great old buildings and interesting old neighborhoods don’t take care of themselves. The older neighborhoods require a determined and persistent effort to keep buildings in good repair and play areas safe for children. Lincoln does a pretty good job, but there is a lot of room for improvement.
Smart Growth Housing
“Smart growth” is a phrase used to describe several deliberate land use strategies and incentives for new development by cities, such as favoring new development within the existing city limits rather than on the cities’ edge to lessen the need for additional infrastructure and productive agricultural land. This approach makes use of mass transit and existing transportation routes for new developments, creates housing, business and industry opportunities into pedestrian-friendly and mixed-use designs, and preserves farmland and environmental resources in open spaces. Also, conservation subdivision designs with higher-density cluster housing and larger commons areas can help preserve undisturbed open space in new developments, and protect wildlife habitat and sensitive ecological landscape features, as opposed to low-density residential and conventional development designs.
As Lincoln’s population continues to grow over the next 30 years, the proportion of demand for clean, safe and affordable housing can be expected to increase. The LPlan2040 document should define explicit strategies, with a number of features that will give low-income and start-up families affordable options for living and working in the city. First, in-fill new housing developments (i.e., small and vacant lots in existing neighborhoods, or replacement constructions for deteriorated properties) such as projects currently sponsored by Habitat for Humanity and the NeighborWorks organizations should be supported and encouraged. Second, private developers should also have access to incentives to build non-traditional co-housing and multi-family housing on scattered sites within the city as contrasted to new acres of single family houses at the edges. Third, existing homes in existing neighborhoods need to be upgraded and retrofitted for energy efficiencies on a systematic, block-by-block basis. To accomplish the task of retrofitting approximately 75-80 % of all existing buildings, the city administration will be required to cooperate with the local utility companies and the State Energy Office to bring more incentives and effective construction procedures to the market. Hundreds of green jobs await this task.
Our next article will feature ideas for “How We Play.”
Add your ideas to the conversation by visiting LPlan2040.lincoln.ne.gov.
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