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Friday, March 31, 2006


Affordable Housing, Thanks to Sprawl

In an article from Leonard C. Gilroy for Reason Public Policy Institute, Urban Sprawl:Good for Minorities?, the decreasing cost of owning a home is cited as a reason for opposing anti-sprawl policies. To quote, "...a recent study by Matthew Kahn at the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy identifies one important benefit of sprawl: it reduces the housing consumption gap between white and black Americans." Controlling for such things as income, family size, and the two-parent household, the finding was that a black family in a sprawling city consumed more rooms, more square footage, was more likely to live in the suburbs, and was more likely to own the home. The conclusion was that "[housing] affordability is likely to decrease in the presence of more antisprawl legislation."

I found this to be interesting empirical evidence of the class discussions that we have had pertaining to the policy effects of containing sprawl via boundaries; creating such zones would necessarily drive up the costs of land and thus homeownership. Also, this study flies in the face of those that claim sprawl creates economic gaps between the wealthy and the poor. In Some Realities About Sprawl and Urban Decline, Anthony Downs of the Brookings Institute concludes that even in the absence of sprawl, the economic gaps between minorities and whites exist in any city that is experiencing growth. In that light, implementing policies that contain sprawl actually act to decrease any economic gains that minorities could hope to gain.

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