Re-centralization and the Decline of Sprawl
While some impacts of the economic crisis have been salient, it remains to be seen how development patterns and land-use planning will be affected in the long-term. Nonetheless, predictions are emerging. On the heels of the recent discussions about the impact of the stimulus on transportation, various agents have offered comments about the sustainability of the sprawl trend of the past decades.
The Architectural Record published an article that explores the recession’s impact on sprawling developments, citing a June report published by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. In the annual State of the Nation’s Housing Report, the data for foreclosure rates was very high in the suburbs, especially when compared to the numbers for urban neighborhoods. While this statistic suggests that sprawl is on the decline, Kermit Baker, chief economist at the Harvard Center, is quick to warn that the verdict is still out over whether this trend is merely a short-term recurrence or a long-term pattern.
Municipalities have not committed much funding for new developments lately, but brownfield redevelopment still seems like a viable area for infrastructure investment, given the current economic climate. These project opportunities usually lie within urban cores, and the centrally based locations have much potential for attracting new businesses and residents to cities. But public policy must encourage such development, a point highlighted by President Obama in his recent speech at a summit planned by the White House Office of Urban Affairs. Obama stressed that his urban policy will focus, in part, on transit and high-speed rail, as a means to combat the pattern of “sprawl, congestion, and pollution.” Indeed, if the administration keeps the broad goal of smart growth at the forefront of urban policy-making, it is likely that sprawl will continue its decline.
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