Community Perspective: National Housing Author speaking amid Harrisonburg Zoning Reform

A contributed perspectives piece by Kenneth Kettler

National housing expert Charles Marohn will be presenting on his new book Escaping the Housing Trap at Pale Fire Brewing Company at noon on April 30. In his book, Marohn notes that housing is both an investment and a basic necessity. An investment’s value must go up, but when that investment is something everyone needs to survive . . . there lies the trap. Understanding and learning from our recent history will help us escape that trap.

That history looks much the same across North America. We encouraged flight to the suburbs for some, decimating downtowns. We encouraged massive, low-density housing developments built on ever-greater debt. We banned most kinds of housing, including duplexes, townhouses, and apartments, in much of our city.

This presentation comes amid an ambitious zoning reform project underway in Harrisonburg – revising a plan that hasn’t been updated since 1996. In those 28 years, Harrisonburg’s population has grown from about 33,000 to over 50,000. Just since April 2020, the median sale price for a home rose from $225,000 to about $341,000 according to Meanwhile, our plan for accommodating that growth has not changed at all.

The good news is that there is a way out of this trap: by arming local officials and the public with the knowledge to make informed decisions about housing. To learn from past mistakes and plan for a brighter future for the Friendly City.

So please join us in escaping the housing trap together. 

This event is brought to you by Livable Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition, working together to make better housing and transportation in Harrisonburg. Parentheses Books will have copies of Escaping the Housing Trap for sale at the event and at their store. It can also be found everywhere books are sold.

KC Kettler is a proud resident of Harrisonburg. He is an attorney, and coordinator for Livable Harrisonburg, an all-volunteer group supporting abundant, affordable housing and sustainable transportation in the Friendly City.

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