Builder Steve Perlman, like many home builders, likes density but hates excessive growth restrictions.
“We build at higher densities based on the marketing studies we do,” says Perlman, the recent president of the BIA of Southeast Michigan, who heads Ivanhoe Huntley Homes in West Bloomfield, Ill. “We don't just do it for the sake of it. What we want is the right to go up to eight units per acre. That doesn't mean we'll use it in every case. If you put restrictive controls on infill it won't happen.
Perlman believes that mandating density for its own sake is wrong. Instead, he argues for a progressive integration of higher-density housing. “You can't control the free market,” he asserts. “It never works. If you let development happen progressively then it will grow in rings, rather than leapfrogging and causing sprawl. Our existing infrastructure can serve eight to 10 units per acre where it's now serving one unit.”
That train of thought has made him a rare political animal among home builders: He supports greater oversight of land planning by the state of Illinois. “There's a problem with home rule [local government],” he says. “That's why planning has to be a statewide, mandated program. That way somebody can't come in and offer to change the rules simply to get elected.
“At the same time,” he adds, “ incumbents can say that their hands are tied by the state, so they don't have to change [housing policy] in order to get re-elected.”