People say that suburban and exurban housing growth is offset by a move to the cities. Wendell Cox looks at empirical data to prove that this is not the case, and deduces that people still tend to move to suburbia when they relocate.
Quotes on Smart Growth, Sprawl & Urban Development
"American sprawl was built on the twin pillars of low gas prices and a relentless demand for housing that, combined with the effects of restrictive zoning in existing suburbs, pushed new development outward toward cheap rural land."
"If prices at the pump continue to increase, as many analysts expect, the eventual recovery of demand for new housing may not be accompanied by a resumption of America's relentless march into the cornfields."
"One way planners create congestion is by diverting an ever-increasing share of highway user fees to expensive light-rail and other transit projects. But planners' hopes for transit have proven unfounded. Even while highways are crowded, transit buses and railcars in most cities run around nearly empty. In 2005, the average public transit bus had room for 60 people but carried just 10. The average light-rail car had room for 175 people but carried just 25. As The Onion satirically observes, we persist in building expensive rail systems because '98 percent of U.S. commuters favor public transportation for others.'"
"Planners also argue we need to limit low-density development to protect open space. But 95 percent of the U.S. is rural open space. Given that unaffordable housing and congestion hit low-income families the hardest, government efforts to protect open space are a tragic misplacement of priorities that simply exacerbate housing, mobility, and other serious problems."
"Urban planners have given us surpluses of condos and apartments, shortages of single-family homes; surpluses of open space, shortages of developable land; surpluses of public transit, and shortages of highway capacity. These are only some of the surpluses and shortages government planners have foisted upon an unsuspecting public.
It is time to say the emperor of planning has no clothes. Congress and the states should repeal planning laws. Instead of long-range planning, cities and counties should solve problems using markets and user fees. Public or private toll roads can relieve congestion. Privatized transit systems can provide mobility for those who can't or prefer not to drive. Restoration of people's property rights will allow developers to meet the demand for housing and other land-uses. Various fees and other market mechanisms can protect air quality. Private, voluntary efforts can protect critical open space. Such market-based solutions will do far more to improve our quality of life with far fewer unintended consequences than the policies that result from government planning."
"VISION: The Congress for the New Urbanism will reinforce the relationship between the art of building, the making of community, and the conservation of the natural world. It will reform the practice of community building to restore existing urban centers and towns, create coherent metropolitan regions', reconfigure sprawling suburbs into communities of real neighborhoods and diverse districts, and protect our natural environment.
MISSION: Within a generation, the Congress for the New Urbanism seeks to minimize automobile dependence and to replace climate-changing sprawl with a sustainable urbanism integrating diverse, walkable, transit-served places across a regional transect with high performance buildings and infrastructure. It educates professionals on how to implement the Charter of the New Urbanism, provides a forum to harness the expertise."
"Transit and the high-density development that accompanies it both have tremendous value in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and putting us on the path to a low-carbon economy."
"As housing-price trends in the U.S. over the past decade reveal, the intensity of a region's land-use regulations is a key factor in the region's relative house-price inflation, affordability, and recent foreclosure experience. Areas with less land-use regulation consistently sustain housing prices that are affordable, while regions with greater regulations consistently sustain prices that are unaffordable to the majority of the citizens living in the region."
"In the United States, 75% of residents in large metropolitan areas live in the suburbs. In Europe, the number of large metropolitan area residents living in the suburbs is 65%."
"[A]n analysis of land-use trends at the national and state levels reveals:
Suburbanization and sprawl are local issues. Urban development does not threaten the nation's food supply. Cost-of-development studies exaggerate the effects of suburbanization on local-government costs. Declining cities suffer from many 'push' factors. Air quality deteriorates as residential densities increase. Open space is increasingly protected through the private sector."
"For more than 75 years, architects and urban planners have proposed compact development as an alternative to low-density suburbs, which they derisively term 'sprawl.' In addition to higher-density housing, most compact city proposals also include plans to make neighborhoods more pedestrian-friendly and include investments in mass transit and other alternatives to auto driving. Together, compact development and alternative transportation projects are sometimes called 'smart growth.'
Although the term smart growth was not applied to these policies until 1996, the desire on the part of urban planners and some environmentalists for higher urban densities long predates that year or any concerns about global climate change. Criticism of low-density suburbs dates back at least to the 1930s. ... First in Europe and later in the United States, those critics have sought to use the power of government to herd large segments of the population into high-density cities and to prevent owners of rural land from developing their property for residential uses."
"One of the first to promote such [smart growth] policies was Le Corbusier, a Swiss-French architect who promoted the reconstruction of cities into vast regions of high-rise apartments that he called 'Radiant Cities.' His ideas so heavily influenced urban planners throughout the world in the 1940s and 1950s that planning historian Peter Hall calls Corbusier 'the Rasputin of this tale,' both because Radiant Cities turned out to be unlivable and because of his authoritarian approach to planning,'the evil consequences of which are ever with us.' ...
In 1947, the British Parliament passed the Town and Country Planning Act, which could be described as the first modern compact-city law. This law set aside vast regions of rural land as greenbelts and mandated the construction of high-density, high-rise housing within existing cities along Radiant City lines.
Unlike the United States, which built public housing only for the poor, the British government built these apartments for working-class and middle-class families. Many of the buildings proved to be so unlivable, observes Hall, that 'the remarkable fact was how long it took for anyone to see that it was wrong.' ... By the late 1960s, few people were willing to live in such apartments even at heavily subsidized rents, and so by 1970, says Hall, 'the great Corbusian rebuild was over.'"