Smart Growth Policies Apparently Hurt the Rich, Too

In 2002, The National Center released a report (PDF link) showing how “smart growth” restrictions on land development could become an impediment to homeownership for minorities, the poor and young families. National Center Executive Director David W. Almasi found indications that the affluent are being similarly affected:

The Washington Post published a front-page article, “Dream Homes Come With Rural Wake-Up Call,” finding a downside of being rich in the D.C. area. Those who have the money to buy big houses are finding that smart growth regulations mandating big lots are forcing them to buy property they can’t afford or don’t want to maintain.

The formerly-rural Virginia counties nearest to Washington (that, by the way, like recruiting high-tech firms) instituted development restrictions limiting new homes to lots between three and 50 acres. While this initially seems like a dream come true for many rich Washingtonians, some are finding it wasn’t so bad stuck inside the Beltway. Not only do they not see their friends as much since they moved to the country, but they are also finding yards they can’t manage and long driveways find difficult to shovel. One couple found landscaping and maintenance costs for their well hovered near $60,000 (they sold out within a year). The article quotes E.M. Risse, president of Synergy/Planning Inc.: “It’s the American daydream. [People] wander out there on a Saturday and never figure out what the real consequences are. Most of them don’t have the slightest idea what they’re going to do with 10 acres.”

By restricting homes to such large, undesirable lots, even the more affluent are going to be forced across smart growth “rural crescents” and into communities even further out that give prospective buyers what they are looking for. Already, a developer is building a community in Pennsylvania with the intention of marketing it to people willing to commute into D.C. As was found when minorities, the poor and young families were studied, this long commute to affordable housing lessens “quality time” with the family, increases automobile emissions and traffic congestion and essentially creates a new segregation that keeps people in their own price-based communities.

The article quotes Robert Farr, a chili-pepper farmer, sauce-maker and beneficiary of the high-tech bubble who cashed out at the right time to pursue his passion on ten acres in Round Hill, Virginia. He predicts easing development restrictions will make it so he won’t be able to see the Big Dipper at night due to light pollution. I’ve been to Farr’s farm. He’s got nothing to worry about. I live literally within shouting distance of the Beltway, and I can see the Big Dipper just fine on clear nights. I even bought a telescope last week with my Christmas money so I could see it better.

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.