|elimination of subsidies that fuel sprawl|
policies encourage and even require suburban sprawl and urban disinvestment.
These consist of subsidies, taxes, zoning practices and regulatory regimes
at all levels of government. It is important to identify the many public
policies that favor sprawl so that we can understand how sprawl is an artifact
of very specific public policies, not a natural, inevitable condition of
Although defenders of the status quo like to portray the issue as "free markets" versus government intervention -- with free markets being presumptively more efficient and responsible -- the real issue is which kinds of government intervention should prevail: policies that subsidize sprawl and reward short-term business investments? Or policies that support more affordable, environmentally sensitive, socially equitable and financially efficient patterns of development?
Myron Orfield's research into urban disinvestment and suburban growth in the Twin Cities showed how uniform regional pricing for sewers means that the city and older suburbs are subsidizing new infrastructure for developing suburbs. This pricing arrangement is not only grossly unfair to urban residents, it encourages sprawl. In the early 1990's a major independent study of infrastructure costs in the Twin Cities region showed that the central cities and older suburbs are indeed the biggest subsidizers of infrastructure in the affluent, developing suburbs.1
This pattern is common in many metro areas: a disproportionate share of money for new freeways, sewers, schools and other public services is channeled to the richest communities, and paid for by the city and older suburbs.
Some local governments have begun to work together
to develop regional strategies to counter sprawl-type development patterns.
Minneapolis/St. Paul is a good example of a regional approach that encourages
investment in the central cities:
2 Rusty Hoover, The Detroit News, April 4, 1999.