The end of suburban sprawl?
As the fanfare from passing the health care legislation has died down, the economy has resurfaced as the next major legislative priority for Congress. Just yesterday, the Obama administration announced that it would seek to stabilize the housing market which is at the heart of the bungled-subprime-derivative mess which brought the US and global economies to a screeching halt. The plan calls for administrative restructuring of insolvent mortgages to bring paper house values set at the height of the housing bubble down to more realistic levels to ensure the long-run viability of these mortgages, benefitting both the homeowners and the housing financiers.
A highly interesting trend has surfaced in recent housing developments. The Environmental Protection Agency conducted a study of the geography of new housing development permits, tracking their regional as well as location on the urban – suburban – exurban scale. The report is truly astonishing for its revelation of a massive shift in location of new permits. Housing permits for urban areas (the downtowns of Washington, Alexandria, and Arlington) in the Washington Metropolitan area hovered around 5 percent from 1990 to 2003. Beginning in 2003, this rate skyrocketed and has since averaged around 15 percent of new housing permits. This trend of rising proportion of urban development is mirrored across the country.
What it translates into is a stark shift in the long-held norm which produced horribly unsustainable suburban sprawl with horribly inefficient single detached houses, the death of America’s once great mass transit, the rise of polluting and congesting universal car culture, destruction of natural habitat (especially wetlands) and smog. This report catalogues what could be the beginning of the end for sprawl development. We can hope at least.
Posted in Environment