Wilder School, German University Exchanging Ideas About Land-Use Challenges
By Pamela Stallsmith
The Wilder School is hosting this week eight students and two professors from the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany as part of the 2018 Trans-Atlantic Development Seminar.
The annual exchange program, organized by the Wilder School’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning program, facilitates the sharing of ideas and thinking about important land-use challenges that exist in U.S. and European cities.
The visiting students and faculty, who arrived Sunday and depart this Saturday, are part of the spatial environmental planning graduate programs at the University of Kaiserslautern. They are comparing the Frankfurt-Rhein-Main region with the Greater Richmond Region.
The group has enjoyed a full week of tours and visits. Their itinerary includes meetings with the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission, Richmond Planning and Development Review, the Better Housing Coalition, the Richmond Association of Realtors and the Neighborhood Resource Center of Greater Fulton to learn how the region is approaching affordable housing. Additionally, the group is meeting with the Greater Richmond Transit Co. and Jarrett Walker + Associates to talk about the role of the area’s public transit network in connecting workforce housing to employment centers.
The focus of this year’s comparative study is to examine how cities can increase the provision of affordable housing without increasing consumption of undeveloped land, said Meghan Gough, Ph.D., chair of the Wilder School’s Urban and Regional Studies and Planning program.
“At the core of this question is ways in which cities accommodate increasing densities without compromising livability,” she said. “Compared to their American counterparts, most European cities do not have an excess of undeveloped land on which to build an affordable and workforce housing.
“They must accommodate growing housing demand with much less land area. In many cases, their limited public or green space is at risk for development, but more and more research recognizes the important role of green spaces in urban living,” Gough said.
“In Frankfurt, for example, the vacancy rate is only one-half of one percent. Given the high demand for housing and the low supply, much of the housing in that city is unaffordable to the workforce,” she said. “This exchange helps us better understand an important public policy issue at the global level.”
Next summer, Gough and Kathryn Howell, Ph.D., assistant professor, will take eight to 10 VCU students to Kaiserslautern.