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If you have an idea for engaging your community or group in this dialogue, please use our submission form to submit your ideas. We’ll review and post them to this blog.

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Welcome to the next phase of the Smart Growth Network’s National Conversation on the Future of Our Communities! This new blog is devoted to continuing the conversation started with a call for papers early this summer. We hope to engage even more voices and create an ongoing, real-time discussion of “what’s next” for our communities: how do we want to grow, what issues should we be considering now to prepare for the future? These are big questions, and we hope that you all will contribute, either through comments or your own post.
This blog will highlight multiple voices, including community members, business owners, non-profits, for-profits, local, regional, and federal government, the private sector, and academics, to name just a few.
Each Tuesday, we will feature a new topic and summarize a group of posts we have received. We hope to use the summary post as a way to pose questions for readers to discuss through the comments section, allowing us all to dig deeper into each topic.
To submit your own blog post (including written content, videos, PowerPoints, plans, or pictures), please visit http://www.smartgrowth.org/nationalconversation/. We look forward to your submissions!
Okay, enough background. Let’s get this conversation started!

 

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Coastal Development Collaboration: Partnering for Efficiency and Funding

November 20, 2012
Akshay Deverakonda, Intern, US EPA, for the Smart Growth Network

Coastal communities represent some of the fastest growing types of communities in the nation. While the overall population in the United States has grown by 52% between 1970 and 2010, the collective population of coastal communities has grown by 109% between the same years. As communities have expanded into and along coastal habitats, they face a greater risk of flooding, erosion, and other issues endemic to coastal environments. Climate change exacerbates these hazards, meaning that as communities grow, they have to include contingency plans for disaster events. Fortunately, there are many organizations and institutions that can help towns and cities along the coast integrate hazard mitigation into their comprehensive plans.

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Smart Growth Approaches for Rural Communities

November 9, 2012
Jen Horton, Policy and Planning Fellow, US EPA, for the Smart Growth Network

Rural and small town communities across the United States are embracing land use decisions aligned with smart growth principles. Publications, articles, and reports are targeting this increasingly popular movement, acknowledging that smart growth is not just a development solution for densely populated, urban places. This week’s blog post is dedicated to two perspectives on how preservation of open space and agricultural land can help rural communities maintain a strong sense of place, handle development pressures, and develop more livable communities for the future.

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You Are What You Buy: Buying Local and the Smart Growth Movement

November 6, 2012
Elizabeth Scott, Communications Intern, US EPA, for the Smart Growth Network

Anyone who has found themselves at a local grocery store or perusing Main Street on a Saturday morning knows that using local merchants for fresh produce, coffee, and home goods is becoming more popular. Smaller towns and larger cities are both reaping the benefits of the “buy local” movement that brings community members together in support of local business and economies. However, lots of planning must occur to stimulate existing communities and create new infrastructure that gives way to meaningful relationships between local merchants and community members.

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Can Tax Reform Make Transit-Oriented Development Communities Affordable?

October 16, 2012
Jeff Jamawat, Policy & Planning Fellow, US EPA, for the Smart Growth Network

In the best-case scenario, transit infrastructure—be it train stations, streetcars, or light rail—can spur economic growth, strengthen local housing markets, and improve the land use and development patterns around station sites. As a result, property values often go up, reflecting higher market demand for walkable, compact developments that are well served by transit. Rising prices, however, can make the station area unaffordable to some current residents. As these residents are priced out of the market, they often relocate to areas outside the city, losing their access to transit once again.

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Emergency Responders and Smart Growth- Street Designs that Work for Everyone

October 2, 2012
Jen Horton, Policy and Planning Fellow, US EPA, for the Smart Growth Network

Many local governments and developers across the country are adopting more traditional street designs that are narrower; provide a number of transportation options; and have shorter, more well-connected blocks. This increasingly popular type of street design presents important challenges for emergency responders. This week’s post considers research on how smart growth approaches can improve fire response times and provide a safer environment for pedestrians and motorists.

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Development, Housing Affordability, and Gentrification

September 25, 2012
Jen Horton, Policy and Planning Fellow, US EPA, for the Smart Growth Network

Raksha Vasudevan posted recently on the National League of Cities’ blog a three-part series entitled “Development, Housing Affordability, and Gentrification.” The posts explore gentrification as an unintended consequence of economic redevelopment, and discuss tools cities are using to address mobility and affordability issues.

This first post examines why affordability and mobility are problems in neighborhoods undergoing redevelopment. Vasudevan discusses the rapidly changing Shaw neighborhood in northwest Washington, DC as an example. Vasudevan asks hard questions about the future of development trends, such as what types of housing amenities the 85 million members of Generation Y will seek in the coming years, and how their preferences will affect affordability and mobility for urban neighborhoods.

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Achieving Smart Growth for Everyone

September 25, 2012
Jen Horton, Policy and Planning Fellow, US EPA, for the Smart Growth Network

One negative consequence of economic redevelopment can be displacement of local residents and businesses due to rising costs of housing and commercial spaces. This blog post reviews two authors’ approaches to helping communities plan and develop in more equitable ways.

A Bay Area Agenda for Investment without Displacement
This paper, submitted in response to the National Conversation’s call for papers, outlines specific steps regional and local governments can take to achieve economic development that also benefits vulnerable communities. The recommendations were developed by the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Causa Justa::Just Cause, Council of Community Housing Organizations (CCHO), PolicyLink, Public Advocates, and Urban Habitat. Although the recommendations are tailored to California’s Bay Area, the paper is relevant to any local or regional government or organization interested in more equitable forms of development.

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Perspectives on Increasing Transportation Options for Older Adults

September 18, 2012
Jen Horton, Policy and Planning Fellow, US EPA, for the Smart Growth Network

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the number of Americans over the age of 65 will more than double by 2030. This projection adds a layer of urgency for smart growth advocates looking to provide more transportation options in communities. Of course, improving mobility for older adults in a community has the added benefit of providing more transportation options for everyone.
This week’s blog discusses two perspectives on how to provide more transportation choices for the elderly.

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Community Engagement

September 10, 2012
Jen Horton, Policy and Planning Fellow, US EPA, for the Smart Growth Network

Think about this: as someone interested in achieving a healthier community, integrating smart growth approaches, and/or incorporating sustainable design in your own community, how often do you reach the people you want to? Engaging a large percentage of a community in new community plans and visions is a goal of many local planners, government leaders, and organizations. However, bringing together an inclusive group of citizens that represent an entire community is no small task. Because of this difficulty, many people are trying to find easier ways to engage entire communities in planning processes.

Jennifer Hurley, an urban planner with Hurley-Franks & Associates in Philadelphia, facilitates public engagement in planning and development. Hurley says the most important challenge communities will face in the future is increasing capacity for community dialogue and collaborative decision-making to better address complex issues.

Below is her submission entitled, “Collaborative Decision-Making: The Killer App”

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Since 2004, AARP has promoted the creation of livable communities for all ages

Since 2004, AARP has promoted the creation of livable communities for all ages, and the coordination of land use, housing, and transportation plans and policies. Making communities more livable is a goal that every urban, suburban, and rural community can adopt. Achieving this goal requires reflecting the needs of the entire community, including older adults, in the plans and policies that government adopts and implements. Coordinated policy decisions can better address the realities of transportation and housing costs and create more efficient communities. For example, policies such as transit-oriented development (TOD), a strategy primarily for urban and suburban areas that encourages compact development and a mix of land uses located within a half-mile of a public transit station, can provide many benefits for community members. Among the potential benefits of TOD are expanded transportation and housing options, improved access to community amenities and se rvices, and increased opportunities for community engagement. Additionally, TOD communities create walkable environments that can provide more opportunities for exercise and healthy behaviors.

Maximizing these benefits requires a focus on equity, so that the needs of all in the community are considered. Equitable TOD seeks to develop healthier, more affordable neighborhoods that offer convenient and safe access to jobs, stores, schools, and services; expand transportation options connecting regional areas and economies; and ensure that all people regardless of age, income, race, and ability, can participate in development decisions and share in the benefits. Similarly, small towns can benefit from mixed-use, walkable development on a smaller scale where community amenities and services, transportation and people are closely connected. Successful mixed-use development and TOD require coordinating several government functions, and working with the local community, including the private sector.

To view a video, produced by AARP’s Public Policy Institute in collaboration with Streetfilms, on TOD and the mobility of older adults in Arlington, Virginia please visit the AARP Public Policy Institute’s Livable Communities website: http://www.aarp.org/videos.id=1556940949001/.

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Healthy Communities

September 5, 2012
Jen Horton, Policy and Planning Fellow, US EPA, for the Smart Growth Network

What does it really mean to live in a healthy community? From recreational opportunities and safety to access to health-oriented programs and services, most everyone has a different definition of what a healthy community looks like. Whatever your definition, planning is usually key. There are many ways that using smart growth strategies can help increase a community’s overall health, through increasing its walkability, providing multiple forms of transportation, reducing traffic congestion, and making streets safer for drivers and pedestrians. Such strategies can pave the way for programs and policies that increase opportunities for exercise and access to healthy food.

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