Smart Growth in the Southeast

Before and after: potential transformation of Hull Street, Richmond VA


Photo © City of Richmond and Dover, Kohl & Partners

Before and after: potential transformation of Hull Street, Richmond VA


Photo © City of Richmond and Dover, Kohl & Partners

Growth that is Better for Our Health, Our Environment, and Our Pocketbooks

Growth has brought many benefits to the Southeast, but the sprawling, inefficient auto-dependent pattern characterizing most development over the last sixty years carries a high price tag for taxpayers, our health, and our environment. The Southeast has been sprawling faster than any other part of the country; our region’s haphazard and inefficient development patterns and asphalt-centered transportation programs have increased fuel consumption and tailpipe pollution while leading to the rapid loss of farmland, natural areas, and open spaces.

SELC’s experts are advocating smart growth policies at the state and local levels that will help make communities more desirable, sustainable, and economically competitive while reducing the cost to taxpayers to serve growth.

Smart Growth Is Smart Economics

Smarter growth alternatives emphasize well-designed, walkable communities that better integrate where we live, work, and shop—and that reduce the need to drive everywhere. These alternatives also promote redevelopment, revitalization, and infill in existing communities and guide new development to targeted areas.

The economic advantages of smart growth include:

  • Significantly lower costs to taxpayers to provide infrastructure and services
  • Enhanced economic competitiveness and job growth
  • Higher quality of life that helps attract businesses and workers
  • Thriving communities and commercial corridors
  • Shorter commutes that save money for people and businesses
  • More mixed-income, affordable housing and increased access to jobs

Smart Growth Is Good for Our Health

Communities that keep sprawl in check and reduce dependence on auto travel also enjoy multiple health benefits, including cleaner air, cleaner water, and more opportunities for physical activity such as bicycling and walking. In addition, more and more localities are making it a priority to increase the availability of healthy food, to make new buildings healthier and more energy efficient, and to improve access to health care and other services.

Keeping Housing Affordable and Transportation Costs Down

The high cost of housing can push people farther out of town. But moving farther out in search of affordable housing often leads to higher transportation costs. By contrast, households at or near the center of a town or city—particularly those near transit—tend to spend far less of their income on transportation. SELC is championing policies that promote cleaner, healthier, more vibrant communities that can help keep both housing and transportation costs within reach for more people.

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