I am currently reading Justin Hollander’s Sunburnt Cities, available from Routledge. The central problem in the book concerns how you fold negative growth into the idea of sustainability–how you shrink. It’s a short volume, a little rushed due probably to our stupid tenure clock, but still a very nice contribution to the discussion about how cities should move forward given the foreclosure crisis and the fact that some of our boom time and Rustbelt neighborhoods are never coming back.
He suggests using land banks and offering tax-reverted properties to abutting property owners at a low cost. All of us who have had a bad neighbor have thought about it–being able to buy the house next to ours, and give that housing to student rentals or an older family member.
The other idea that I think is interesting concerns relaxing the zoning code once vacancies reach a tipping point, so that a broader range of market options becomes possible.