Affordable housing is a challenge, but sprawl is not the answer

Alyson Marchi-Young
Tue, 02/28/2017 - 5:50pm

"Many households spend more than they can afford on housing and transportation, but the latest International Housing Affordability Survey is wrong to recommend sprawl as the best solution. Real solutions must reduce both housing and transport costs." In his recent blog, Todd Litman of Victoria Transport Policy Institute articulately outlines a major cost burden of sprawl on low and medium income households - transportation.


As Oregon continues to see housing price increases, sprawl development through expanded urban growth boundaries has been proposed as a 'solution' - primarily from those who would like to see Oregon's land use system undone. 1000 Friends is always working to battle these false notions that spreading out will result in affordability. We know that infrastructure adds cost to housing in a sprawl development, and we also know that those developments tend to be designed in a heavily car-centric way. Neighborhoods designed so one needs a car for most daily needs not only have a higher price tag to own and operate a vehicle, there are hidden costs such as climate pollution, traffic fatalities, and increased sedentary lifestyles, which all collude to create health and environmental impacts that last generations. This combination of costs unduly burdens those with lower incomes, making the argument for 'affordable' housing through sprawl thin and ineffective.

Affordable solutions that don’t increase sprawl include Missing Middle infill, inclusionary zoning to create diverse income communities, and more flexible neighborhood zoning to work with different kinds of housing and lifestyles.

Photo Credit: Alan Sheldon, Shutterstock