The American landscape is overbuilt in inefficient places and underutilized where we stand to benefit most from connections of transportation to a range of employment and housing options. Our shared calling is to better understand use patterns of land and other key resources in our communities, and contribute to solutions to our best ability. We’re working to develop a dialogue and tools that people can use to transition the way cities and towns operate in America.
That our places can be made more productive is our core basis for action. We believe places that produce higher returns on public and private investment, and places that encourage more intense exchange of ideas, will improve the lives of community members. Financial solvency for communities is a good that we can agree on.
One area we’ve not explored substantially on the Strong Towns Blog is the fact that changing course is not only smart, financially advantageous, and needed to position ourselves more competitively: Fixing our land use is also fair.
Hubert Humphrey famously argued that “the moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” This most repeated of Hubert Humphrey’s words apply directly to the work of Strong Towns. Places need to work for those who live in and use them – all of us.
Our current building form creates unfair burdens to each:
- Our young people stand to bear the aggregated debt that our current pattern represents. Overbuilt of infrastructure, prevalence of fragmented neighborhoods and obesity, and a transportation system reliant on dirty fuels with unstable prices are examples of debts we have incurred through current land use practices.
- Lower-income citizens also pay disproportionately for the current development pattern. As the Center for Neighborhood Technology and others have documented, our land use pattern offers the largest stock of affordable housing in areas far flung from concentrations of jobs in regions. The need to rely on cars to access the regional labor market leaves lower-income residents vulnerable to the jobs/housing mismatch, compounded by a persistently high unemployment rate and flat wage levels.
- Our aging population is also vulnerable in particular ways, as indicated by the recent Transportation for America analysis of potential alienation of Baby Boomers and elders in the suburban environment.
Some of these challenges have been with us for many years, but most are new or more acute thanks to the land use anomaly we’ve developed over the last two generations. As a result, the work that we – and that means all of us involved in this discussion, including you – need to accomplish is as unprecedented as it is important.