Is Density The Answer?

From the Asbury Park Press:

High-density communities replacing pricey sprawl
BY JOE RIGGS (FYI: Joe Riggs is affiliated with K. Hovnanian)

“Picture this: You’re in a newly built village where you meet your neighbors as you walk down the street to the local hardware store. The home in which you live is one of several styles that accommodate an assortment of people. Your neighbors include a company president and a young woman who works at the beauty salon around the corner.”

“Your children can walk safely to the neighborhood park, located right next to their school. And instead of sitting on a highway for two hours every day, you drive five minutes to the train station. Your neighbor walks to his office.”

“In more and more places, this is the type of development or redevelopment being proposed. It’s what New Jersey needs to help solve its housing issues and address many of its economic woes. But in too many places, neighborhoods like this are bitterly opposed because they require increased density.”

“It’s ironic that density has become a dirty word. Density could be the solution to other dirty words, such as commute, housing prices and sprawl. It’s time to change how we think about density.”

“Wiser use of our land could yield more homes, de-emphasize cars, increase municipal revenues, save more open space and help break this downward spiral.”

“These neighborhoods also tend to have a strong sense of community, and provide an urgent counterpoint to the practice of putting 5 acres under one home.”

“Density, it turns out, isn’t a dirty word after all. Properly used, it’s a blessing and a key to our future.”

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32 Responses to Is Density The Answer?

  1. Richard says:

    another RE builder shill selling some concept to drum up some business. this message is nothing but the same old urban message with new packaging. the reason people ‘move to the burbs’ is the same reason why this concept isn’t applicable.

  2. Metroplexual says:

    He is right, but most towns don’t buy into smart growth principles. When it is applied correctly it can be a great place to live. Check out Kentlands which was designed by Andres Duany.

    BTW I believe Riggs is a CFO or some other very high officer for Havnanian.

  3. grim says:

    I agree, you need to question the source, especially when the source is a major local builder.

    However, I’ve been very outspoken about my development philosophy here, and mine seems to be in-line with Riggs, at least at face-value.

    I believe that suburbs are a poor use of limited resources; a grand experiment that will likely be proven wrong. Breaking our reliance on automobiles is nearly impossible. Fast and efficient mass transit comes close to being impossible as well.

    There has got to be a better way.

  4. pesche22 says:

    does anybody think the hovanian
    project in W.Paterson is smart

    1100 units , mix with townhomes
    and condos??

  5. grim says:

    Adult-only developments are not “smart growth” in my book.


  6. pesche22 says:

    i agree what a diaster as far as
    traffic and congestion.

  7. Metroplexual says:

    This post has been removed by the author.

  8. Anonymous says:


    I’m totally in agreement with you on this issue. If you do any kind of simple analysis of this, the SFH model within a commutable radius of a major metro area is a pretty inefficient use of space. However, planned communities do have drawbacks and aren’t right for everyone.

    I’ve actually looked at Radburn and find it appealing. Not from necessarily because of the houses, but pretty much everything else. (I’m sure someone will respond with 101 reasons not to live there.)

    At this point however, it would be painful to try and do this in NJ because there is very little undeveloped land.


  9. Metroplexual says:

    Smart growth or “traditional neighborhood design” requires density and mixed uses. Much of NJ is built this way, you will find it in the cities and older towns that were built mostly in the 1800’s to early 1900’s.

    The design in effect creates an environment where walking is the preferred travel mode compared to automobile use. Believe it or not it is also why our transit system works so well.

    Most of these developers come in and just want the density (read units) and don’t deliver on the mixed use aspect. I think it is mostly because it is not there business, also from what I heard at a “sprawl” conference I attended bankers are reluctant to lend to builders for such places due to a lack of precedents. They are percieved as risky.

  10. Metroplexual says:


    Radburn was a planned community. As for undeveloped land, my area is wide open, the zoning would have to be changed though.

  11. This is good idea, but to really curb the sprawl, You need businesses also located centrally where one can reach via mass transit. This is true for some areas in NJ, but not all, you see many offices come up in Suburban areas and in far away places where you can not reach via Mass Transit.

    To make such thing reality, you need real political leadership. I think that will hard to come by these days. The Towns will resist it tooth & nail, and only if State govt forces them, they will allow it.

  12. UnRealtor says:

    Does everyone hold hands and sing at the end?

    Too much Blue Sky dreaming for me…

  13. grim says:

    I personally believe that in the long-run, the market is going to correct this imbalance itself.

    There are two factors that I can’t seem to ignore. Demographic shifts and the price of energy.

    Gas is still very cheap. Imagine what would happen to the far out commuter communities if gas goes to $7 a gallon?

    Globalization is going to result in the tapering off of immigration into the U.S. When that happens, the U.S. population will begin to decline. Fewer people -> less housing demand -> lower housing prices -> movement towards reurbanization.

    The big question is whether or not the existing urban centers will remain the main attractors, or whether there will be a shift towards other areas.


  14. Anonymous says:

    What if find funny about the article is the comment about range of income. I have been around mixed use developements in both florida and Northern NJ, and the common theme is money.

    Put people with decent incomes in a designed complex, you get good retail that keeps up the areas and understands that the little parks, when well maintained, attract people.

    I have yet to see true diversity in any of these developements – for some reason the apartements that are allocated for low income seem to get
    more recent college grads related to the developers with temporarily low incomes then the people they were designed to attract.

  15. Comments on RE from

    It is in the American housing market that the bear may growl loudest. By borrowing against the surging prices of their homes, American consumers have been able to keep on spending. The housing market is already coming off the boil (see article). If prices merely flatten, the economy could slow sharply as consumer spending and construction are squeezed. If house prices fall as a result of higher bond yields, the American economy could even dip into recession. Less spending and more saving is just what America needs to reduce its current-account deficit, but for American households used to years of plenty it will hurt.

    Bears in the woods

  16. Someone on this blog mentioned earlier with knowledge of South Eastern PA (I guess Newtown, PA etc..). I drove by recently on 95 from NJ to PA and found it was really nice & green. Would like to know few things.

    How is commute to NY using Train from either Trenton or Hamilton?
    Is there enough commuter Parking?
    How is commute to station itself in morning & evening?
    How is the school district?

  17. Anonymous says:

    allied junction will be our big test. The all in one transit village/mixed use development in seacaucus. they’ve been talking about it for years and it seems like it might finally come to fruition. has everybody been following additional light rail service to northern bergen county?


  18. UnRealtor says:

    “has everybody been following additional light rail service to northern bergen county?”

    Eventually the light rail will stop in Atlantic City.

  19. Pat says:


    That was me. You can find parking early – plus they’re building more.

    Call the station for more info. The commute is not bad – there’s a back road and a highway. It takes 10 minutes to the station the back way.

    Newtown is a bit further – maybe ten-fifteen more miles – from the station than a lot of other towns in Bucks County. I’d check Lower Makefield towns first – Pennsbury schools there are just as good as the Council Rock schools over by Newtown.

    Hamilton to Penn Station is 7 am to 8:15 on the limited. I think it’s $300 a month.

  20. Grim Ghost says:

    I don’t know much about parking at Hamilton, but it used to be pretty horrendous at Princeton Junction. Even if you were a West Windsor resident, there was a 2-3 year wait.

  21. Anonymous says:

    How about people stop reproducing like bacteria instead of trying to figure a way to wedge them into smaller and smaller spaces?

  22. Anonymous says:

    “Globalization is going to result in the tapering off of immigration into the U.S. When that happens, the U.S. population will begin to decline. Fewer people -> less housing demand -> lower housing prices -> movement towards reurbanization.”

    What is the logic for this statement? Under what conditions could this possibly occur? Perhaps if the per capita incomes of Mexico, India, China, Indonesia, and every sub-Saharan African country become greater than that of the United States. I couldn’t see how this would happen in the next 100 years.

    Furthermore, people like big country houses–they always have. The difference today is that cheap energy and efficiencies in building technology have made big country houses accessible to more people than ever before.

    Finally, there cities where you can live in a decent high-density neighborhood and walk to the store, and to work, etc. It’s a choice that people make with their wallets. It shouldn’t be the choice of a “progressive” planning and zoning board.

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