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The Extreme Importance of Zoning Policy

The cities we have created today are relatively unsustainable. By unsustainable, I mean a place that can not easily survive for a long period of time. The primary reason behind this is zoning policy.

There are two major issues with current zoning policy:
1) Subsidizing Sprawl: We continue to pour money into developments that make our city weaker instead of stronger.

We can even look at this kind of development from a purely economic standpoint: In the long run, it is far more expensive to construct and maintain new infrastructure than it is develop areas that already have infrastructure. For this reason, local and national government should give major tax breaks to infill development, opposing to greenfield sprawl. In places where infrastructure exists, other services (such as shopping, workplaces, schools, etc.) are likely to exist as well. This not only creates lower longer-term prices for taxpayers, but it also encourages and stimulates walkable development. As many studies have shown (the most recent one from the NRDC), walkable areas retain value much better than non-walkable areas do.

2) Single Use Automobile Dependent Zoning Policy: Most new development in the United States continues to be single use and car dependent. This kind of development is a major reason why the obesity rates in the United States have skyrocketed. Creating areas and communities where people do not have the option of walking, biking or using public transportation is detrimental to the health of this country.

America prides itself on the freedom and independence car ownership provides, but car ownership should not be (and is not) a necessity for everyone. In my opinion, freedom means building areas where people have the freedom to use any transportation option they want.

Federal and local governments MUST revise zoning policies that encourage single use car dependent developments. Continuing to build these spaces will just lead to more pollution and congestion on local roads, and the eventual collapse of local transportation systems. Only so many lanes can be added to a road; eventually, the right of way ends.

Let’s Review:

We must fight to end tax subsidies for sprawl.

We must subsidize infill development instead.

Car dependent development weakens our country.

Freedom means transportation options, not automobile dependency.

Revising zoning policy is crucial to the future of this country.

In my next post, I will address a balanced solution for future suburban growth that embraces the tenets of progressive urban policy.


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