New Study Says Minorities and Poor Harmed by Anti-Sprawl Policies

Policies to combat sprawl penalize minorities, the poor, urban families and the young, says a new econometrics report being released at a November 21 Washington policy conference by the Center for Environmental Justice of The National Center for Public Policy Research. Moreover, such policies do not generate the expected environmental benefits.

The study, “Smart Growth and Its Effects on Housing Markets: The New Segregation,” used as a baseline the “smart growth” policies of Portland, Oregon, considered by many the nation’s best, and asked: if cities nationwide had adopted these policies ten years ago, how would America’s most disadvantaged populations been affected?

The study also examines the impact of sprawl restrictions on commuting times, congestion, the need for new infrastructure and the preservation of “green” space.

The study concludes that “smart growth” hurts the underclass at disproportionately high rates.

If Portland-style policies had been adopted nationally ten years ago:

1) 260,000 minority homeowners would not own their own homes today;

2) one million homeowners of all races would not own their own homes today;

3) the average home price would have increased by $10,000 in 2002 dollars;

4) the average cost of renting a home or apartment would have increased six percent.

Sprawl restrictions did not achieve their environmental objectives, actually increasing suburbanization rates while failing to reduce vehicle miles traveled or congestion.

“Restricted growth policies can be dubbed ‘the new segregation,’ as they deter minorities from the housing market at disproportionate rates,” said Amy Ridenour, president of The National Center for Public Policy Research. “Homeownership is key to realizing the American Dream and equity in a home is a widespread as a way for the working and middle classes to amass wealth and build a retirement nest egg. We have government polices that promote homeownership. It is ironic that other government policies are working against it.”

The study was completed by QuantEcon for the Center for Environmental Justice of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a non-profit, non-partisan Capitol Hill think-tank established in 1982. No corporate or housing industry funds were used to finance the study.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.