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Livable Communities Act Faces Uncertain Future

The mid-term elections have created even more uncertainty for the Livable Communities Act, which has stalled in the House and has yet to be taken up by the full Senate. Critics worry about government spending and housing affordability.
December 14, 2010, 11am PST | Emily Laetz
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The Livable Communities Act has already been modified from its original form, and it is likely that modifications will continue to be made as Congress is expected to become more conservative and spending-conscious. The bill, which is sponsored by Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), aims to provide funding for selective projects that increase the stock of transit-oriented development, support density, and work to minimize the adverse impacts of development on the natural environment. Supporters of the Act claim that it will help regions and communities become more economically competitive and increase the efficiency of federal government programs such as DOT and HUD.

Of late, opposition to the bill has been focused on the relationship between smart growth policies and housing prices.

"Wendell Cox, a critic of the bill and author of War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life, maintains that smart growth strategies restrict land use and inevitably drive up the cost of housing. He asserts that typical 'so-called livable' policies force housing prices up by prohibiting development on available land and requiring excessively large suburban lot sizes. In part, research by the Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy concurs: large suburban lot sizes are found to drive up housing costs and tend to be exclusionary, but they are not 'typical' of smart growth policies, and not in line with the criteria for plans the Livable Communities Act would fund."

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Published on Tuesday, December 14, 2010 in Next American City
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