Smart Growth and Housing Affordability

Smart growth regulations seek to influence new development in ways that will reduce sprawl, congestion, pollution and environmental degradation, as well as improve the overall quality of life in urban areas. Such regulations are increasing in popularity: between 1994 and 2004 over 100 cities, counties, and states adopted smart growth regulations. This study reviews theoretical and empirical evidence on the effects of growth policies—such as smart growth—on housing, and uses it to develop a taxonomy of the housing affordability effects of growth regulations. Given the growing debate about the housing affordability effects of smart growth policies, and lack of rigorous research, much more work in this area is warranted. Future researchers can learn from the pitfalls of past research; using this taxonomy as a guide they can construct more accurate accounts of what happened, provide better guidance for future policy efforts, and help bridge the distinct discord between opponents and supporters of growth regulations, whose differences are right now are grounded as much in philosophical orientations as in methodologically unsound research.