Suburban sprawl came with a price. Urban living can reduce housing costs, political divisiveness, and carbon emissions.
We spoke with Andy Paul, a founding member Affordable Asheville, a chapter YIMBY Action, a national organization dedicated to affordable housing.
Less affordable housing, needing a car, and policies that promote wealth-based segregation have led to homelessness, increased carbon emissions, and produced mono-cultures of like-minded people, which fuels political division.
Increasing the availability of affordable housing diversifies neighborhoods, which leads to innovation and education. That creates a vibrant culture people want to visit, which drives tourism and retail revenues as a result.
Adding public transportation makes it easier for people to visit these areas and enables middle class people to live in them, both of which increase revenues for both businesses and government. It can also reduce traffic, which reduces carbon emissions.
Society can’t afford sprawl
Almost one-third of American households spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent or mortgage.
- 31%of all households are spending 30% or more of their income on housing.
- 50% of renting households are spending 30% or more of their income on housing.
- 21% of owning households are spending 30% or more of their income on housing.
The typical cost of having ONE car is $1,000 a month, including the payment, gas, insurance, maintenance, and required government fees.
Flight from the city, whether forced or by choice, separated people into islands of “people like us” — tribes devoid of the sometimes uncomfortable mix of cultures, that leads to innovation, tolerance, empathy, and learning.
At least part of the total volume of carbon emissions is caused by all the driving sprawl created.
Population Density, Rezoning, Public Transportation
To increase the availability of affordable housing and address the aforementioned challenges, we need to change zoning rules to allow more multi-family housing like duplexes and quadplexes.
At the same time, our communities need to build out more robust public transportation to reduce the need for cars.
To be a just society, provide subsidies so the poorest have homes. Housing is foundational to help people get on their feet to become as productive a possible. The root cause of homelessness is unaffordable housing, not substance abuse.
Productivity, Vibrancy, and a Positive Impact on Climate Change
One way to fund this is through tourism revenues.
Adding affordable housing diversifies neighborhoods, which leads to innovation and education. That creates a vibrant culture people want to visit, which drives tourism and retail revenues as a result.
If people can afford their homes and don’t need cars, they can spend more in the local businesses. That leads to more opportunities to reinvest in infrastructure and business, which increases tax revenues for parks and infrastructure.
That attracts more tourists, which drives up revenue at hotels, tourist attractions, bars, and restaurants. It becomes a productive cycle.
With greater density, worker productivity could improve. People could spend less time driving to and from work and have peace of mind that they could leave work as needed to take kids to and from childcare, school, and doctors’ appointments.
More subsidized housing means fewer homeless camps on the roadside or under expressways.
Fewer cars on highways means lower carbon emissions.
If this sounds good to you, find an affordable housing advocacy organization in your area and volunteer. If you own a business, advocate for more affordable housing near your business.