Sprawl's share of new US housing starts has declined dramatically, says EPA

A new report from the US Environmental Protection Agency documents a dramatic shift in the pattern of new development in the nation over the past two decades: Central cities and counties are now claiming a much larger share of overall regional development, and sprawl locations are claiming a much smaller share, than in the early 1990s.

In particular, Dr. John V. Thomas examined US Census data on residential building permits for the 50 largest metropolitan regions in the country over an 18 year period from 1990 to 2007. He compared the number of permits issued by central cities and core suburban communities in those regions to the number issued by suburban and exurban communities.

Although the shift in the geography of development has not been uniform, it has been common throughout the country. In roughly half of the metropolitan areas examined, urban core communities dramatically increased their share of new residential building permits.

For example, in the early 1990s, New York City issued only 15 percent of the residential building permits in its region. Over the past six years, by contrast, it has averaged 44 percent. Chicago saw its share of regional permits rise from 7 to 23 percent over the same period. Thomas believes that this acceleration of residential construction in urban neighborhoods reflects a fundamental shift in the real estate market.

Go here for my summary of the report.

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Word spreads..

The fantastic DC-based blogger BeyondDC saw Kaid's posting via CNU's Twitter feed and shared the news in the EPA report with BeyondDC readers.

The graphic above really drives home the dramatic nature of what's happening. Look at Atlanta, a market where sprawl has been a powerhouse for decades but walkable urbanism quietly built its own momentum. BY 2007, as the exurban market began to hit a wall, downtown and inner-ring burbs accounted for 20% of area housing starts.

Glenwood Park is one of the fine infill new urbanist projects that helped show Atlantans the value and joys of walkable mixed-use neighborhood. At CNU's board meeting this week, I spoke with Glenwood co-developer Katharine Kelley who reported that the project is weathering the storm better than exurban sprawl counterparts, seeing perhaps a 10% decline in values compared to the 30% or more that is common among unwalkable exurban developments. Demographic data shared by market analyst and fellow board member Todd Zimmerman — data showing surging numbers of small households headed by 50-59 and 20-29 year olds in the coming years — indicate that projects like Glenwood are where development activity will return when the housing market recovers.

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