Dense Cities Will Save America

In a recent post, I offered a brief explanation of density and mentioned a few of its benefits. On that same topic, Slate published a fascinating article Tuesday arguing, among other things, that a major way to bolster America’s global competitiveness is to reduce sprawl. In other words, dense cities actually make America better.

The entire first page of the article sets up the issue, while the second page begins to address housing. The article cites research revealing that 77 percent of millenials don’t want to live in suburbs, and 56 percent of Americans want smaller homes on smaller lots in walkable communities, among other things. In other words, the article is reporting on the trend of people wanting to live in higher density neighborhoods.

But unfortunately, the article notes, circumstances are conspiring to thwart people’s desires for more sustainable communities.

Yet only 2 percent of new units being built today fit these attributes. That’s a massive pool of pent-up demand, locked away by federal policy still supporting suburban growth at the expense of all other types of communities. Change the policy—without having to spend a dime—and we’re off to the races with new jobs in construction and infrastructure, plus homes and communities that reflect the way we want to live today. And they happen to be good for the planet, reducing energy, water, and waste by at least one-third.

Interestingly, MSNBC also published an article Tuesday about building and the economy. The article notes that construction is picking up, especially for multifamily dwellings, but that there is still a long road to full recovery. In light of the Slate piece, however, it’s conceivable that the problem raised in the MSNBC article is actually created by institutional policy structures. In other words, there is a “slog” on the road to recovery because, for a variety of reasons, suppliers (homebuilders) are not properly meeting demand.

Construction of an apartment complex on the corner of 700 North and 300 East.

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6 Comments

Filed under construction, Development, economics

6 responses to “Dense Cities Will Save America

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  2. Seth

    Are there any groups that lobby against sprawl that are worth getting involved in?

    • That is a good question. In Utah I’m not sure. There is a group that does Jane Jacobs walks in SLC, and the U of U has an urban planning program that might have something.

      But I’m not aware of anything else in particular, unfortunately (so, maybe it’s time to start something?). Of course, I’m talking about Utah because that’s where I’m based. In bigger, costal cities I know there are groups, but because I don’t live in those cities I’m more familiar with the literature they’re producing than actual opportunities for activism.

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