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Reason Foundation

News Flash to Planners: People Like Suburbia!

Leonard Gilroy
March 21, 2006, 8:51am

Despite the best efforts of planners to promote compact, high-density urban development and "smart growth," the general public still isn't buying in to the concept:
America's fastest growing counties are suburban, rural or a mixture of both as more people seek big yards and open spaces, even if that means a long commute. New Census Bureau estimates show the nation's population shifting south and west, to the distant suburbs of metropolitan areas stretching from Florida to Utah. "I think low density is the attraction," said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. "People would rather make a long commute and have a big yard and a big house."
Planners are obviously slow to get the message that they're putting a great deal of energy into social engineering schemes that run completely counter to mainstream consumer preferences and lifestyle choices. It would be "smarter" for them to embrace a market-oriented planning system designed to address the tangible impacts of growth while allowing the market to dynamically respond to changing consumer preferences, not the utopian, dehumanized visions of social engineers.

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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