Class And Real Estate: What We'll Get From Mixing It Up
PolicyLink: Equitable Development Updates
Translation paper: Social Equity and Smart Growth
The most common image of sprawl is usually the farm paved over for a subdivision, but the more insidious images are the blocks and blocks of abandoned neighborhoods scattered throughout urban America. Divisions by income and race have allowed some areas to prosper while others languish. As basic needs such as jobs, education and health care become less plentiful in some communities, residents have diminishing opportunities to participate in their regional economy. Smart growth expands opportunities by expanding transportation connections to jobs and steering economic development toward existing communities.SPRAWL'S EVIL TWIN: URBAN DISINVESTMENT
REINVESTING IN EXISTING AREAS
EXPANDING HOUSING OPPORTUNITIES REGION-WIDE
Our public investments are a reflection of our social priorities. Much of the nation’s infrastructure has been invested in new suburban communities, which have disproportionately benefited white and middle class neighborhoods. Cities that lose residents to the suburbs suffer from a decline in business investment and tax revenues, yet still must pay for a large physical infrastructure and the disproportionate social problems (crime, drug abuse, welfare) of those who cannot or do not leave.
Urban disinvestment, white flight and the concentration of poverty and minorities within city borders may seem like “natural” facts of economic life – tragic but unavoidable. But in fact, the residential segregation that prevails in so many metropolitan regions derives from deliberate policy choices.
In a recent survey by the Fannie Mae Foundation, interstate highway investments were ranked as the number one the promoter of suburban sprawl. The typical sprawling development pattern that follows has isolated low-income people, particularly people of color living in low-income communities, from broader regional opportunities.
Sprawl’s pernicious effect on social equity took two generations to create and it will surely take longer to fix. Smart growth, by investing public and private resources into existing communities; encouraging the production of affordable housing; and eliminating barriers to affordable housing production; can create more equitable communities.
Contrary to what some people argue, sprawl is not a child of the free-market. It was a direct result of public policy at the federal, state and local level. The federal government dedicated funding to highways to the detriment of mass transit; states provided economic development money to the urban fringe; and localities have directly or indirectly prohibited the construction of affordable housing.
Vacant properties and abandoned buildings present communities with complex challenges. Crime, arson and reduced property values are just a few of the problems that vacant properties bring to neighborhoods, and solving these problems is surprisingly difficult.
A few communities have developed notable programs to restore vacant properties to productive use, but their success has been isolated. No one on the national level has been working on strategies to reclaim vacant properties, and few avenues exist to get the necessary tools into the hands of local governments and community developers.
Smart Growth America (SGA), the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), have stepped forward to fill this void. The National Vacant Properties Campaign will:
Expanding housing opportunities region-wide
Think Regionally about Housing. Besides the many barriers against the construction affordable housing, many local governments have largely zoned out affordable housing. This so-called exclusionary zoning creates pockets of concentrated poverty in the urban core in much of metropolitan America.
Enforce Anti-Discrimination Laws. To fully realize the promise the hope of the 1960’s fair housing legislation, the Department of Justice should fully enforce anti-discrimination laws and oppose exclusionary zoning policies. Exclusionary zoning exists when local zoning codes prohibit the construction of any multi-family housing and affordable housing. Unfortunately, exclusionary zoning is sometimes enacted under the auspices of “neighborhood preservation,” “environmental protection,” or even – gasp! – “smart growth.” While every situation is unique, in general, zoning regulation that prohibit the construation of multi-family housing can be discriminatory.
Implement Inclusionary Zoning. One very effective way to combat exclusionary zoning, is to implement inclusionary zoning. Inclusionary zoning has become a catch-all phrase for a group of programs that aim to get a specific number of affordable housing units into developments. Typically, the requirements come with a “density bonus” that allows the builder to build more units to allow The most notable program was institutued in Montgomery County, Maryland in 1974. Called the Moderately-Priced Dwelling Units” (MPDU) law, the program has produced more than 10,000 affordable units scattered in almost 300 subdivisions. It requires that developments of 50 units or more set aside from 12.5 to 15 percent of the units as affordable.
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