WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Americans are paying $84 million a day
($31 billion annually) to live in sprawling communities, according to the new
book, Sprawl Costs: Economic Impacts of Unchecked Development, released today
by Island Press. Sprawl Costs is the culmination of a 10-year research effort
which offers the first comprehensive analysis of the economic costs of low-
density development, or sprawl, from now to the year 2025.
Sprawl Costs also names the nation's top 20 sprawling metropolitan areas
plus their rural counties (referred to as "economic areas" in the book and
research) and documents both the cost of sprawl to the areas' economies as
well as the savings of more compact development closer to the core (list of
top sprawling areas below).
"Sprawl has direct and quantifiable costs to our economy and in our
individual lives. This book shows that we are all paying a staggering price
for sprawling development in this country, and that price will only go up as
gas prices increase," said coauthor Robert Burchell. "Sprawling communities
need longer public roads, increase the cost of new water and sewer hookups by
20% to 40%, impose higher costs on police and fire departments and schools,
The environmental impacts of sprawl are well documented, but few studies
have examined its economic costs. The research project and book were
undertaken by Dr. Robert Burchell, co-director of the Center for Urban Policy
Research at Rutgers University, Anthony Downs, senior fellow at the Brookings
Institution, Barbara McCann, transportation and land use policy writer, and
Sahan Mukherji, research associate at the Center for Urban Policy Research.
Over the next thirty years, the United States is expected to become home
to 90 million more people. Seventy-five percent of all the development on the
ground today will be needed to support this boost in population. To
accommodate this rate of growth, sprawling development will cost $6.4 trillion
during the period 2000 - 2025. Under compact development, costs would be
reduced by $420 billion.
What does that mean for the average American? The cost of buying a home
would drop as well as the taxes necessary for roads and infrastructure. "It
seems so much simpler to buy farmland at the edge and build a familiar housing
subdivision, but in the long run, this is a more costly strategy for
everyone," added Burchell. "If just a modest percentage of this growth were
more compact, the savings we reap as a society overall would be huge."
Shifting just 25% of low-density development to more compact growth would
save American taxpayers billions of dollars, according to Sprawl Costs. For
example, we would save:
* $2.6 billion over 25 years (from 2000 - 2025) because 4.6 million fewer
water and sewer hookups would be needed for single-family, detached
* $110 billion over 25 years in road construction costs because the need
for local roads would be reduced by 188,000 lane miles;
* $420 billion over 25 years in development costs because the average cost
of a home would drop by $16,000;
* $24 million/day in costs associated with the automobile because
Americans would drive 56 million fewer miles each day (and this figure
was calculated prior to $3 per gallon gasoline!).
Smaller mortgages in outlying communities give the false impression that
the overall cost of living in these areas is lower. But low housing costs
hide the higher cost of transportation and other costs in these areas.
Sprawl is expensive for local governments. Taking into account all
revenues and costs, sprawl will create a fiscal deficit for local governments
that is 10% higher than it would be if compact growth were to take place
instead. Ironically, the argument for developing agricultural lands into
housing developments is that the new homes will expand the tax base. However,
the infrastructure costs associated for those homes outweigh their tax
Top 20 Sprawling Economic Areas - See sprawlcosts.org for information on
what urban sprawl costs in these areas. (An economic area is a metropolitan
area plus its rural counties)
1. Los Angeles Area
2. Washington/Baltimore Area
3. San Francisco Bay Area
4. New York City Area
5. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas Area
6. Atlanta, Ga. Area
7. Boston-Worchester-Lawrence-Lowell-Brockton, Mass.
8. Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Area
9. Chicago-Gary-Keno Area (Ill., Ind., Wis.)
10. Denver-Boulder-Greeley, Colo. Area
11. Houston-Galvenston-Brazoria, Texas Area
12. Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz. Area
13. Orlando, Fla.
14. Sacramento - Yolo, Calif.
15. Las Vegas, Nev.-Ariz.-Utah Area
16. Portland-Salem, Ore. -Wash. Area
17. San Antonio, Texas Area
18. Nashville, Tenn.-Ky.
19. Indianapolis, Ind. - Ill. Area
20. Jacksonville, Fla. - Ga.
Contacts: Carrie Collins, 301-664-9000, ext. 18, or
firstname.lastname@example.org, or Laura Dely, 301-664-9000, ext. 10.
SOURCE Island Press