Smart growth, or sustainable development, has been tested as a policy in at least two-dozen states since the 1970s, when the term first appeared. It's evolved over the decades, to be sure, but the chief goals remain: to plan better, rein in sprawl, redevelop in established urban areas, promote mixed-use growth near transit and in environments that are easy to walk around, and offer a range of housing types that are affordable to different incomes. But while governors who embraced smart growth have come and gone, there has been little empirical work assessing whether the policies accomplish what they promise.
Enter the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, which last year assembled some of the top researchers in the country to look at four states - Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, and Oregon -- that had in place an affirmative program of growth management between 1990 and 2000. For comparison, four states were examined over the same period that had no formal program: Colorado, Indiana, Texas, and Virginia. The project includes state-by-state case studies and a comparative analysis in five themes: how the states did on housing affordability, protecting the environment, a balanced transportation system, fiscal impact, and land consumption and population distribution.
Preliminary results indicate that policies and their impacts differ across states, but that several states are making progress in certain goals of smart growth but not all of them at once. The final report is expected later this year. The team of researchers include Stuart Meck and Robert W. Burchell, both from the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; Tim Chapin and Keith R. Ihlanfeldt from Florida State University; Gerrit Knaap, professor and director of the National Center for Smart Growth at the University of Maryland; Terry Moore, project director of ECONorthwest in Eugene, OR; and Allan Wallis from the University of Colorado, Denver, School of Public Affairs, along with several others.
The project is part of a new effort to provide more evaluation and analysis for policymakers, says Lincoln Institute president Gregory K. Ingram, who himself came to the Lincoln Institute after directing evaluations at the World Bank. The Lincoln Institute has long been interested in smart growth, and among many publications on the topic is the book Smart Growth: Form and Consequences, by Terry Szold of MIT and Armando Carbonell. senior fellow and chair of the Department of Planning and Urban Form.