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Horeb's Corners Support Information
Government's Impact on Wasteful Development Bullet Point Sheet

“…We shall use up tires, wear out road surfaces and gears, consume oil and gasoline. All of which will necessitate a great deal of work…enough for all””
(Le Corbusier, The Radiant City, 1967).

”The immense new suburban sprawls of American cities have not come about by accident and still less by the myth of free choice between cities and suburbs. Endless suburban sprawl was made practical (and for many families was made actually mandatory) through the creation of something the United States lacked until the mid-1930’s: a national mortgage market specifically calculated to encourage suburban home building” (Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961).

“The idea of diverting huge sums of money to thin suburban growth at the expense of starving city districts was no invention of the mortgage lenders (although they, as well as suburban builders, have now acquired a vested interest in this routine). Neither the ideal not the method of accomplishing it originated logically within our credit system itself. It originated with high-minded social thinkers. By the 1930’s, when the FHA methods for stimulating suburban growth were worked out, virtually every wise man of the government from right to left was in favor of the objectives, although they might differ with one another on methods. A few years previously, Herbert Hoover had opened the first White House Conference on Housing with a polemic against the moral inferiority of cities and a panegyric on the moral virtues of simple cottages, small towns and grass. At an opposite political pole, Rexford G. Tugwell, the federal administrator responsible for the New Deal’s Green Belt demonstration suburbs, explained, ‘My idea is to go just outside centers of population, pick up cheap land, build a whole community and entice people into it. Then go back into the cities and tear down whole slums and make parks of them.’

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The cataclysmic use of money for suburban sprawl, and the concomitant starvation of all those parts of cities that planning orthodoxy stamped as slums, was what our wise men wanted for us; they put a lot of effort, one was and another, to get it. We got it” (Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961).

“For almost seventy years the federal government has played an important role in shaping the housing patterns of metropolitan America. From the New Deal onward, a variety of federal finance, tax, and loan programs have sought to stabilize housing markets and, especially, expand home-ownership opportunities. These programs have been extraordinarily successful in building home ownership. Almost two-thirds of all American households own their houses—one of the highest figures in the world and the highest in history. Yet, at the same time, the same credit policies have encouraged sprawl and inequity in all metropolitan regions by favoring mortgages for single-family homes, especially those in traditional suburban neighborhoods” (Peter Calthorpe and William Fulton, The Regional City, 2001).

“…From the beginning of its involvement in ownership housing in the 1930’s, the federal government has encouraged the creation of conventional single-family suburban neighborhoods—communities that are auto oriented and segregated by use. For decades, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the Veterans Administration (VA) have provided loans only for houses that fit this description. And the home-ownership efforts of Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association) and other federally chartered secondary companies have hewed closely to this traditional suburban notion of ‘good’ housing and neighborhoods” (Peter Calthorpe and William Fulton, The Regional City, 2001).

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“The federal government’s role in shaping the Regional City is not always obvious, but it is far reaching. Since the 1930’s, federal policies and investments have been instrumental in creating the sprawl found in today’s metropolis. Those patterns of sprawl cannot be overcome unless federal policies are reshaped and federal investments are reprioritized to reinforce the concept of a Regional City” (Peter Calthorpe and William Fulton, The Regional City, 2001).

“…The federal government contributes $50 billion per year to regional and local transportation construction and operations throughout the country—the single biggest source of such funding in most locations…” (Peter Calthorpe and William Fulton, The Regional City, 2001).

“…In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the prevailing philosophy was one of capacity. The entire focus was on constructing a transportation system—specifically, a highway system—capable of carrying more vehicles” (Peter Calthorpe and William Fulton, The Regional City, 2001).

“The nature of the land-use-transportation feedback loop is obvious. Land-use patterns dictate the need for travel, while at the same time, the location, size and character of our transportation facilities determines which land uses are likely to develop in given locations. Highways make suburban sprawl possible, and sprawl constantly requires more highways. The pattern feeds itself but never seems to reach resolution” (Peter Calthorpe and William Fulton, The Regional City, 2001).

“One powerful possibility for such a reversal of incentives exists at the federal level. Those regions with declining VMT (Vehicles Miles Traveled) should be rewarded with more federal transportation dollars, whereas those that continue to allow increases should lose. Today the regions with the worst traffic congestion and a dramatic increase in VMT are often rewarded with more money to ‘fix’ the problem by adding new roads” (Peter Calthorpe and William Fulton, The Regional City, 2001).

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“Regulators, environmentalists, and developers have known for years that ‘non-point source’ pollution, or runoff from urban and agricultural land uses, is the primary cause of surface water problems nationwide. In spite of that awareness, regulatory programs have failed to address runoff adequately. In fact, existing programs, such as Section 6217 of the Coastal Zone Management Act, can have the perverse effect of worsening water pollution by inadevertently promoting low-density sprawl” (Dana Beach, “How Federal ‘Non-Point Source’ Programs Promote Sprawl”, New Urban News, January/February 1999).

“The coastal program is grounded in a simple and logical assumption: if each development within a watershed is designed to minimize runoff, the total runoff from all developments in the watershed will also be minimized. According to the program, new developments should reduce sediment runoff be 80 percent of the ‘uncontrolled’ rate. The easiest way for developers to reduce runoff of each project is by limiting the impervious surface e.g. roads, driveways, and rooftops—and by requiring developers to employ ‘Best Management Practices (BMPs)’ such as swales and detention ponds, to capture most of the remaining pollution.

Using this strategy, a 100-acre development will be judged less environmentally damaging with 300 houses that with 1,000 houses. BMPs will be less rigorous, engineering less expensive, and approval will likely be easier to obtain, all of which creates an incentive to build at lower densities. Unfortunately, this approach to non-point source pollution controls works against the environment rather than for it.

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While the assumption is true that runoff from a low-density project will be less that from the high-density project, the runoff per unit will be higher, and the ‘missing’ 700 units will not simply disappear. For the sake of example, assume they are constructed in the same watershed in two other 100-acre projects. In this scenario, more roads, more acreage of lawns, and more driveway surfaces are constructed in the low-density projects. The total pollution produced by 1,000 low-density units will be higher than by 1,000 high-density units. A study funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the Charleston Harbor project confirms this, finding that low-density sprawl is almost three times as polluting as compact, higher density development, other factors being equal” (Dana Beach, “How Federal ‘Non-Point Source’ Programs Promote Sprawl”, New Urban News, January/February 1999).

“From local codes to federal automobile subsidies, there is a long list of regulatory forces that have proved destructive to communities in unexpected ways” (Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Jeff Speck, Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, 2000).

“To what extent is automobile use a ‘free’ good? According to Hart and Spivak, government subsidies for highway and parking alone amount to between 8 and 10 percent of our gross national product, the equivalent of a fuel tax of approximately $3.50 per gallon. If this tax were to account for ‘soft’ cost such as pollution cleanup and emergency medical treatment, it would be as high as $9.00 per gallon. The cost of these subsidies approximately $5,000 per car per year is passed directly on to the American citizen in the form of increased prices for products, more often, as income, property, and sales tax…Because they do not pay the full price of driving, most car owners choose to drive as much as possible…One needs to look no further for a reason why American cities continue to sprawl into the countryside” (Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Jeff Speck, Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline or the American Dream, 2000).

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”How did sprawl come about? Far from being an inevitable evolution or a historical accident, suburban sprawl is the direct result of a number of policies that conspired powerfully to encourage urban dispersal. The most significant of these programs were the Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Administration loan programs which, in the years following the Second World War, provided mortgages for over eleven million homes. The mortgages, which typically cost less per month than paying rent, were directed at new single-family suburban construction. Intentionally or not, the FHA and VA programs discouraged the renovation of existing housing stock, while turning their back on the construction of row houses, mixed-use buildings, and other urban housing types. Simutaneously, a 41,000-mile interstate highway program, coupld with federal and local subsidies for road improvement and the neglect of mass transit, helped make automotive commuting affordable and convenient for the average citizen” (Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Jeff Speck, Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, 2000).

“Referring to the start-up of the interstate highway system, U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan remarked, ‘It was possible to see that these roads were too big for our cities and that they were going to smash them to pieces…You could see it happening but you couldn’t get anyone to hear you’” (John Norquist, The Wealth of Cities, 1998).

“People, places, and products are the ingredients that, when mixed together in a city, generate wealth and, in turn, culture and religion.

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Nothing could be better calculated to destroy this recipe than the current U.S. transportation policy. In 1957, Congress passed, and President Eisenhower signed, appropriations for the Interstate Highway Act. Hailed as the dawn of a glowing new age in transportation, the act was to augment state highways with a network of limited-access highways. A federal gasoline tax paid for 90 percent of the system’s construction and maintenance costs, states paid 10 percent, and cities nothing” (John Norquist, The Wealth of Cities, 1998).

”Since 1957 the federal government has spent trillions of dollars on multilane freeways that slice through complex networks of urban avenues, boulevards, streets, and alleys like chainsaws. People, products, and places sit stranded and strangled by freeways—the very ties intended to bind. Freeways have subtracted homes and businesses from the city and dispersed millions of U.S. citizens and businesses to the suburbs. Classic urban transportation systems, including rail, streetcars, and trolleybuses, once privately financed and operated, have been undermined by federally subsidized intrusion of freeways” (John Norquist, The Wealth of Cities, 1998).

“Eisenhower’s appointment of a general to head the advisory committee made plain the connection between highways, national defense, and the fear Americans had about their security. An overwhelming proportion of Americans believed they lived under the shadow of a nuclear attack and were poised for World War III. In August 1953, the Gallup Poll reported that seventy-nine percent of Americans believed Russia wanted to ‘rule the world.’ Cities appointed civil defense coordinators who found spaces in public buildings that citizens might use in an atomic attack, while each day at noon they tested their air raid sirens. The case for defense could help to sell highways to Congress and the nation” (Tom Lewis, Divided Highways, 1997).

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“The best solution of all, or course, would be to escape to the country before the Russians attacked. Paul Yount, Chief of Transportation for the Army, estimated that at least seventy million people might have to be evacuated in a war. Clearly, so the popular thinking went, the new roads would enable a mass evacuation. Given enough warning, citizens would be able to pack the family in the car and head out of town on one of the new superhighways. Military planners wanted interstate highways around the perimeter of urban areas, because the roads would enable them to by pass cities ‘on a route that had suffered a direct A-bomb hit.’ Already federal civil defense agencies across the nation consulted with local highway engineers when formulating their plans to evacuate the 185 target areas, and the Bureau of Public Roads had published an assessment of the highway needs in the event of an attack” (Tom Lewis, Divided Highways, 1997).

“…On July 16, 1916, Woodrow Wilson signed the first Federal Aid Road Act into law. The act gave the new federal Bureau of Public Roads $75 million to distribute over the next five years and allowed for the federal government to pay half of a state’s costs for road improvements and construction…” (Tom Lewis, Divided Highways, 1997)

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