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The Rocky Road to Sustainable Land Development: Combating Urban Sprawl, by Chris Thomas

Posted by: | April 17, 2014 Comments Off on The Rocky Road to Sustainable Land Development: Combating Urban Sprawl, by Chris Thomas |

The American dream—the promise of upward mobility for hardworking individuals regardless of background or other factors—often gets defined by home ownership.[1] This ownership serves as a status symbol, separating the upper and middle classes from the poor in the minds of many. However, as the population increased and more people sought their own little fiefdoms, the emphasis on home ownership has presented some challenging problems. Urban sprawl and the ills that accompany it constitute some of the largest issues.

The growth of the middle class following World War II caused an increase in movement out of the cities as people sought to purchase their own homes. Federal policies in the form of subsidized home loans from the Federal Housing Authority and broad rezoning of the landscape intensified this problem. Innovations in transportation also exacerbated the issue by empowering people to move further from city centers while continuing to work in urban hubs. These policies and technological advances enabled, if not encouraged, the suburbanization of American cities.[2] This phenomenon, known as urban sprawl, is defined as “a situation in which large stores, groups of houses, etc., are built in an area around a city that formerly ha[d] few people living in it.”[3] Thus, urban sprawl represents the conversion of rural areas into suburban population centers with traditional distinctions among urban, suburban, and rural regions becoming increasingly less clear.

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[1] Rohe, William H. and Harry L. Watson, Chasing the American Dream: New Perspectives on Affordable Homeownership (2007).

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