Car-Free Housing Developments: Towards Sustainable Smart Growth and Urban Regeneration through Car-Free Zoning, Car-Free Redevelopment, Pedestrian Improvement Districts, and New Urbanism

By Kushner, James A. | UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

Car-Free Housing Developments: Towards Sustainable Smart Growth and Urban Regeneration through Car-Free Zoning, Car-Free Redevelopment, Pedestrian Improvement Districts, and New Urbanism


Kushner, James A., UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy


ABSTRACT

European car-free and car-reduced housing projects in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, and Scotland that discourage, prohibit, or ignore automobile ownership by residents, have received limited and skeptical reception by some politicians, public sector planners, and academics. Based on a tour of these projects, they should instead be models for a policy to achieve sustainable urban life. The projects present an improved quality of life due to superior open and green spaces. In addition, the projects integrate the best elements of "green architecture," seeking to use less electricity and water through the use of building materials, insulation, and special elements such as green roofs, solar generation of power, and the reuse of surface water. Three characteristics of these projects merit further study and support their replication as models for urban housing development: (1) residents of car-free housing projects strive together in search of an ecological community, reinforcing community goals and practices, with residents relying primarily on walking and bicycling rather than driving or even public transit; (2) the model ecological community educates and reinforces a lifestyle of environmental sensitivity and protection; and (3) the projects accommodate the demand for living in attractive, accessible, ecological communities and serve as the best antidote to the destructive increase in the automobile dominance of cities. In both developed and developing communities, car-free living can be extended as a residential choice through a number of urban revitalization mechanisms such as car-free zoning, new urbanism, car-free redevelopment, and pedestrian improvement districts.

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CAR-FREE HOUSING

One of the most interesting innovations in European housing design at the turn of the millennium is car-free housing. The concept of car-free housing involves the marketing of housing to a population that desires to live without an automobile and in a community whose residents share that ecological goal. Residents of these communities often share broader ecological values, and typically the design of these projects includes various physical planning elements, architectural design, and building materials and components that reduce water, heating, and electrical consumption. For example, the projects are usually designed to convert surface water runoff to water for irrigation and other uses such as flushing toilets. (1) Most dramatically, these projects convert parking lots to open space for recreation and garden allotments, providing urban high-density housing with a more rural, green appearance. In addition, these projects typically provide community spaces for activities and services that advance the community identity, such as cafes, bicycle repair shops, health food stores, and educational and recreation programs, including day care and kindergartens.

Projects employ restrictions in varying ways. Some, such as GWL-Terrein in Amsterdam, Beginenhof in Bremen, Gartensiedlung Weibenburg in Munster, and Floridsdorf in Vienna, restrict residency to persons who contractually agree not to own an automobile. A small portion of the Amsterdam residents may compete by lottery for a limited number of parking spaces that the city required be included in the project. Others, such as the Vauban in Freiburg, place no restrictions on automobile ownership, but require that automobiles be parked in a parking garage in which the car owner must purchase an expensive parking space. In others, such as the Reim airport in Munich, or Saarlandstrasse in Hamburg, residents may have their maintenance payments increased if they obtain a car. In Hamburg's Saarlandstrasse, if a number of residents obtain cars, the development may be liable for previously waived fees. Some projects, such as the Reim airport in Munich or Donau (Danube) City in Vienna, which provide underground parking infrastructure, or Freiburg's Vauban, which requires parking at large peripheral parking garages, seek to remove automobiles from residential areas. …

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