‘Smart growth’ poli­cies dis­cour­age long­time res­i­dents

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY RYAN M. MC­DER­MOTT

Ad­vo­cates for “smart growth” have long ex­tolled the virtues of cre­at­ing green spa­ces, bike paths and pedes­trian ar­eas for the ben­e­fit of all city dwellers.

But a re­port from the pro-busi­ness D.C. Pol­icy Cen­ter shows that smart growth de­signs ac­tu­ally push out long­time, low-in­come res­i­dents to make way for younger, wealth­ier new­com­ers.

“Ur­ban plan­ners and lo­cal gov­ern­ments at­tach great value to cul­ti­vat­ing neigh­bor­hoods where res­i­dents are close to pub­lic trans­porta­tion or can walk or bike to work,” the D.C. Pol­icy Cen­ter says in a re­port re­leased Tues­day. “In fact, these poli­cies may be hurt­ing our poorer res­i­dents.”

Writ­ten by the cen­ter’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Yesim Sayin Tay­lor, the re­port says that while more trans­porta­tion op­tions in newly re­designed neigh­bor­hoods cre­ate a boon for those who can af­ford the con­ve­nience, tran­si­to­ri­ented de­vel­op­ment pro­grams can cre­ate so­cial in­equities and in­crease

the pace of gen­tri­fi­ca­tion.

The D.C. Pol­icy Cen­ter’s re­port fo­cuses on the District, but smart growth plan­ning has played a prom­i­nent role in many other U.S. cities.

Smart growth ur­ban plan­ning pro­motes small, walk­a­ble and bi­cy­cle-friendly neigh­bor­hoods that pro­vide ac­cess to all the needs of res­i­dents, in­clud­ing gro­cery stores, restau­rants, schools and work­places. In essence, they be­come lit­tle cities within the larger city and are meant to curb ur­ban sprawl.

Na­tional smart growth or­ga­ni­za­tions say they aren’t blind to the un­in­tended con­se­quences of re­de­vel­oped neigh­bor­hoods and place the onus on cities for cre­at­ing enough of them.

“Na­tion­ally, there is no ques­tion that when cities are build­ing smart growth neigh­bor­hoods, peo­ple want to live there. When that hap­pens, you have peo­ple with more money oust­ing peo­ple with less money,” said Ge­off An­der­son, pres­i­dent of the non­profit Smart Growth Amer­ica. “So we need to have pub­lic pol­icy that makes sure peo­ple who have been there for a long time can ben­e­fit.”

Mr. An­der­son said the lack of smart growth neigh­bor­hoods drives up hous­ing prices in cities where smart growth has been em­ployed. Those ar­eas end up pric­ing out res­i­dents who may have been in their homes for gen­er­a­tions.

“What we’re see­ing is gross fail­ure in cities sup­ply­ing these kinds of places,” Mr. An­der­son said in an in­ter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Times. “Sup­ply has to be in bal­ance with de­mand. Tons of peo­ple want them, but there’s not enough.”

Mostly high-in­come young work­ers are ben­e­fit­ing, he said, but smart growth needs to ex­pand to all res­i­dents, re­gard­less of their eco­nomic means, for the con­cept’s goals to be re­al­ized.

Ch­eryl Cort, pol­icy di­rec­tor for the lo­cal Coali­tion for Smarter Growth, agreed with Mr. An­der­son.

“The city should con­tinue to do more to help res­i­dents through­out the city have bet­ter ac­cess to tran­sit and bet­ter ac­cess to jobs, ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing,” she said. “We need to en­sure that our city makes it pos­si­ble for ev­ery­one to share in the ris­ing pros­per­ity.”

With the District grow­ing in pop­u­la­tion and be­com­ing more at­trac­tive to young, well-off res­i­dents, Ms. Cort said, de­vel­op­ers and plan­ners can’t lose fo­cus of those who are be­ing left out.

“In­creased de­mand for hous­ing ex­pe­ri­enced by the city has brought both good news — fis­cal health — and bad news — dra­matic loss of hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity,” Ms. Cort told The Times. “We fo­cus much of our at­ten­tion on cre­at­ing and pre­serv­ing more af­ford­able hous­ing, es­pe­cially in tran­sit-ac­ces­si­ble neigh­bor­hoods.”

Ac­cord­ing to the 2015 Amer­i­can Com­mu­nity Sur­vey con­ducted by the Cen­sus Bureau, most D.C. res­i­dents who walk or bike to work live close to the down­town cor­ri­dors and rel­a­tively few live east of the Ana­cos­tia River, where hous­ing is much more af­ford­able for lower-in­come res­i­dents.

“More res­i­dents east of the river drive to work than any other sec­tion of the city, de­spite low ac­cess to cars,” Ms. Tay­lor says in the D.C. Pol­icy Cen­ter re­port.

East-of-the-river res­i­dents have fewer op­tions for work travel be­cause em­ploy­ment is far­ther away, the re­port notes. In those neigh­bor­hoods, more than one-third of res­i­dents com­mute 45 min­utes or more to work each day.

Ms. Tay­lor said smart growth poli­cies have good in­ten­tions but de­vel­op­ments be­ing built across the city must do more.

She said the city needs to ex­pand its stock of af­ford­able hous­ing and pro­mote dense, mixed­in­come de­vel­op­ments along tran­sit-ac­ces­si­ble cor­ri­dors. Also, Metro and bus net­works need to pro­vide ac­ces­si­ble and re­li­able op­tions for all res­i­dents.

“And — in con­junc­tion with these mea­sures — we should con­tinue to im­prove streets for pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists so that res­i­dents of all neigh­bor­hoods can safely ac­cess these health­ier modes of trans­porta­tion,” Ms. Tay­lor said.

Mr. An­der­son said de­vel­op­ment needs to catch up with de­mand and that cities need to have pub­lic pol­icy mea­sures, such as hous­ing and den­sity bonuses, so peo­ple who have been there a long time can ben­e­fit from the con­struc­tion.

“We need to use other tools to make these places ac­ces­si­ble. It is re­ally im­por­tant for low-in­come fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als to live in a place where they have ac­cess to op­por­tu­nity,” he said.

Ms. Tay­lor said she is not against smart growth but added that it must be im­ple­mented in a way that doesn’t harm the city’s most vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents.

“To be clear, bike lanes are good. Safe side­walks are good. They are rel­a­tively cheap in­vest­ments that re­duce con­ges­tion and help im­prove health,” she said. “But we don’t have to don a veil of ig­no­rance to for­mu­late trans­porta­tion pol­icy. Those who can walk or bike to work have al­ready won the in­come lot­tery.”

Smart growth ur­ban plan­ning pro­motes walk­a­ble and bi­cy­cle-friendly neigh­bor­hoods that are ac­ces­si­ble to younger, wealth­ier new­com­ers, but some poli­cies ig­nore needs of long­time, lower-in­come res­i­dents.

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