Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth

In 2009, the Obama administration announced a government partnership called the Sustainable Communities Initiative. But states and localities have for years led in trying to make communities more sustainable by instilling the principles of Smart Growth.

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Executive Summary:

  • Haphazard development occurs as a result of a lack of coordination between state and local departments responsible for transportation, housing and the environment. It results in the inefficient use of land and requires the extensive use of automobiles to travel from point to point, thereby reducing physical activity and increasing emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • The principles of smart growth—mixing commercial and residential land uses in pedestrian friendly neighborhoods; preserving open space for recreation and environmental protection; and providing a variety of transportation choices such as light rail and rapid bus transit—may help communities become more sustainable.
  • In March 2009, Obama administration officials announced a government partnership known as the Sustainable Communities Initiative to:

    • Coordinate federal transportation, environmental protection and housing investments;
    • Identify strategies to provide more choices for affordable housing near employment opportunities;
    • Provide more transportation options to lower transportation costs, shorten travel times and improve the environment;
    • Better coordinate transportation and land uses; and
    • Foster safe, livable, healthy communities.
  • The Sustainable Communities Initiative has a four-year goal to have every major metropolitan area in the country conduct integrated planning and investment, which will have an impact for both local and state governments.
  • Investments in transportation infrastructure have yielded private investment returns more than tenfold. Although the recession has slowed the development of all real estate-related projects, the principles comprising smart growth will likely continue to drive future developments.
  • Many states and localities are already seeking to instill the principles of smart growth. Utah and Denver are investing in transit-oriented development. Much like the federal initiative, Massachusetts is seeking more intergovernmental collaboration in making communities more sustainable. In Oregon, a study examined the impact of policies aimed at reducing driving. Cheyenne, Wyo., has a new master plan to guide community development while Kansas City, Mo., hopes to revitalize its downtown by making it a “greener” place. And a new California law seeks to encourage cities to reduce emissions through better land use planning.

Inside the Report:

  • Executive Summary
  • The Sustainable Communities Initiative
  • What is Smart Growth?
  • Transit-Oriented Development
  • State Policies and Initiatives

    • Utah Bets Big on Transit-Oriented and Mixed-Use Development
    • Massachusetts Seeks Collaboration
    • Oregon Gauges the Impact of Reduced Driving
  • Smart Growth in Cities

    • Cheyenne’s Master Plan
    • Denver on the FasTrack
    • Revitalizing Kansas City
  • Impact of Senate Bill 375 on California Cities and Municipalities
  • Commonalities and Uniqueness of Design
  • References