1. Real Estate Market Community Survey Introduction

A comprehensive plan charts a community’s future direction by establishing “rules” for how available land is used (for housing or industry) and how buildings are designed (their density, height, and form). It describes what the community wants and how it’s going to get there.

What options are realistic are profoundly influenced by the market. How much is the community sought out as a place to live or to do business, relative to the countless other choices around it? As a result, a MAJOR contribution you can make to this comprehensive planning process is to provide information about choices and decisions families make or may make when it comes to deciding where to live, and why. Understanding these choices helps planners grasp the current state of the market and to predict how it may change over time.

Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey. Your answers to these questions are vitally important and will enable us to design a planning framework that makes St. Bernard Parish thrive.

A comprehensive plan is a document that establishes the direction for future development activity in an area. It establishes the so-called “rules” for such things as land use (the pattern of development residents desire to see), and zoning (density, height, form). The land use part of a plan is the consensus intention of the community. The zoning regulations are the binding requirements that actually regulate use on a day in/day out basis. A good example is that the land use part of the Comprehensive Plan will state that a certain part of the Parish is for housing, but not for industry. The zoning part is more fine-grained, and regulates the kind of housing (single or multi-family), the size of the residential buildings, density, and other elements such as mass, set-backs, side yard requirements, and so on. A comprehensive plan organizes these many elements in a framework for making decisions.

While a plan at some level describes what the community wants, to be optimal, it must coherently link together a great many variables in ways that result in the community being the better for it. A good example is budgetary. A community must be able to balance its budget. This is tax revenue (from fees, and from sales taxes and property taxes) minus expenses (maintaining roads and sewers and sidewalks and parks, for example). If the many obligations of a community exceed its capacity to maintain them, amenities like parks become deteriorated, or services like trash collection get curtailed.

Of course, these budgetary realities are not entirely shaped by what the designated land uses are, nor what’s in the zoning or other regulations. Rather, they are profoundly influenced by the market.

What “the market” in this case really means is how much a certain County or Parish or City or Region is desired as a place to live or to do business in, in comparison to the many other options that are available. This is perhaps the most important and ironically most overlooked part of most comprehensive planning efforts. Naturally, all of these go together. If the only allowed use is housing, as is the case of vast parts of Suburban America, heavy industry cannot be located in such places. If some housing is allowed but also some industry, then the nature of the industry can impact the housing market.

What you want to keep in mind is that there are literally hundreds of combinations of uses and regulations - present or absent - that are in constant motion with respect to extremely fluid market conditions at the household level (marriage and divorce, family expansion and contraction, promotions and demotions, hirings and firings), at the business level (startups and expansions, growth and bankruptcy, mergers and acquisitions), and at wider state and regional levels (interest rates, area wide economic conditions, weather).

A MAJOR contribution citizens can make to a comprehensive planning process is to provide information about choices and decisions each family has made or may make when it comes to deciding where to live, and why. The reasons a family makes decisions are important in two critical respects. First they are in reaction to circumstances, and so the reaction is valuable to understand. Having a good idea of “what” drive these reactions helps planners grasp the factors that shape choice in an area. Second, they are influential, and so a reaction today to something in place yesterday in turn shapes what may happen tomorrow. Having a good idea of how these all fit together helps planners predict what may result.

So your answers to as many of the questions contained in this survey are vitally important. They are not intended to dive into your private lives. They are designed to help us design a planning framework that enables St. Bernard Parish to thrive.