Several states engaged in what was first called growth management, and then smart growth, beginning more than 25 years ago -- and in the case of Oregon, it's been nearly four decades of promoting compact development to contain sprawl. But there has never been an assessment of how those states have fared with their policies -- whether and how smart growth has had an impact. Today the Lincoln Institute releases the first major evaluation of smart growth policies in the U.S., evaluating the performance of four states -- Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, and Oregon -- in five major objectives of smart growth: promoting compact development, protecting undeveloped land, providing a variety of transportation options, maintaining affordable housing, and achieving positive fiscal impacts.
Smart Growth Policies: An Evaluation of Programs and Outcomes, the result of a two-year effort involving 21 contributing researchers, found that selected states achieved success in areas such as protecting open space and expanding transportation choices, but that no state did well in all five performance measures. Maryland was successful in protecting natural resources through its land preservation programs and state funding for the purchase of farmland conservation easements; New Jersey, spurred by the Mount Laurel court decisions, managed to slow house price escalation and encouraged multifamily production; Oregon’s commitment to urban growth boundaries helped reduce development on farmland in the Willamette Valley, and encouraged commuters to use transit, walk, or bike to work. But some smart growth states failed to achieve objectives in key policy areas, such as providing affordable housing in Oregon and Maryland, or promoting compact urban growth in Florida.
The study also looked at four other states without formal statewide smart growth legislation: Colorado, Indiana, Texas, and Virginia. Colorado, with no statewide smart growth program, outperformed some states with such policies by supporting local government actions to pursue effective land use planning within a regional context.
“The message is clear: achieving smart growth is possible, but states must remain focused on all five of these key policy goals of smart growth,” said Gregory K. Ingram, president of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and co-author of the report.
Although the evaluation of smart growth programs concentrates primarily on statewide performance from 1990 to the early 2000s, the findings are highly relevant to today's policy challenges, as states seek to engage in land use planning for neighborhood stabilization, energy independence and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. It's likely there will be a new wave of smart growth programs and initiatives in the post-carbon future.
The report has several recommendations. First, objectives and implementation mechanisms have got to be clearly articulated. States are best served by a variety of regulatory controls, market incentives, and institutional policies coordinated at the regional scale, and should be mindful of the interactions among policies and the need for coordination across relevant agencies. Because it is so hard to move the needle, states need a credible and persistent commitment to smart growth. More information and better data is needed, particularly in the areas of environmental quality, public finance, and the nature of interactions among smart growth policies—land use, transportation, and housing affordability, for example.
Smart Growth Policies: An Evaluation of Programs and Outcomes is an objective-based evaluation -- that is, it was designed to evaluate whether selected states achieved the stated objectives of their smart growth policies, typically spelled out in legislation. The study also referred to the widely disseminated 10 Principles of Smart Growth.
The report is based on an analysis of empirical evidence, using data from the US Census, Census of Government, Natural Resources Inventory, and many other sources. The contributors include Robert W. Burchell, director and professor, Rutgers Center for Urban Policy Research, New Brunswick, New Jersey; Armando Carbonell, senior fellow and chair, Department of Planning and Urban Form, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy; Timothy S. Chapin, associate professor and chair, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida; Thomas A. Clark, professor and chair, Department of Planning and Design, and director, Center for Sustainable Urbanism, College of Architecture and Planning, University of Colorado Denver; Casey Dawkins, associate professor, Department of Urban Affairs and Planning, Virginia Tech, Alexandria, Virginia; William R. Dolphin, director, Research Computing, Rutgers Center for Urban Policy Research, New Brunswick, New Jersey; Beth Goodman, planner, ECONorthwest, Eugene, Oregon; Yu-Hung Hong, fellow, Interdepartmental Programs, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and visiting assistant professor, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts; Keith R. Ihlanfeldt, professor of economics, DeVoe Moore Eminent Scholar, and director, DeVoe Moore Center, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida; Eric D. Kelly, professor, Department of Urban Planning, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana; Gerrit Knaap, executive director and professor, National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland; Rebecca Lewis, PhD research assistant, National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education; Timothy MacKinnon, research associate, Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey; Stuart Meck, director and faculty fellow, Rutgers Center for Government Services, New Brunswick, New Jersey; Terry Moore, vice president, ECONorthwest, Eugene, Oregon; Robert G. Paterson, associate professor and director, Graduate Program in Community and Regional Planning, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas; Rachael Rawlins, adjunct lecturer, School of Architecture, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas; Frederick Steiner, dean, School of Architecture, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas; Allan Wallis, associate professor of public policy, School of Public Affairs, University of Colorado Denver; and Ming Zhang, associate professor, Graduate Program in Community and Regional Planning, University of Texas at Austin.
The findings will be summarized at the upcoming Congress for the New Urbanism XVII in Denver, in a session Friday June 12 entitled "Selling the Green Urban Advantage."