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Statistics and Trends in Sprawl

  • Between 1982 and 2001, nearly 34 million acres of forest land, crop land, pasture land, range land and other undeveloped land in the U.S. were converted to developed land [(NRCS, 2003)].
  • In the U.S., the rate of development was 1.4 million acres per year between 1982 and 1992. This rate increased to 2.2 million acres per year between 1992 and 2001 [(NRCS, 2003)].
  • Sprawl is influenced by market forces such as low land values, rising wealth, job growth outside of traditional business districts, and consumer preference for large lots [(O’Sullivan, 1996, Gordon & Richardson, 1997)].
  • Research concludes that home buyers are significantly more willing to pay higher prices for homes in areas with environmental amenities and locations based on the quality of local public services, particularly school districts [(Jud & Bennett, 1986)].
  • Other research indicates that sprawl is influenced by market failures, government policies, inappropriate land use regulation [(Pendall 1999)], excessive highway building [(Jackson, 1985)], the difficulty of reshaping older residential areas to meet changing tastes for housing [(Morrow-Jones, 1998)], and competition among local governments for tax revenue [(Rusk, 1999, Lewis, 1996)].

Specific to New York State

  • Between 1982 and 1997, Upstate New York’s population grew by 3%, but its urbanized land area expanded by 30% [(Pendall, 2003)].
  • Most of Upstate New York’s cities and villages lost population in the 1990s, while areas outside city or village limits grew significantly [(US Bureau of Census, 1980, 1990, 2000)].
  • The number of households in Upstate New York is increasing, even though population itself is decreasing. Therefore, average household size (number of occupants per household) is decreasing [(US Bureau of Census, 1980, 1990, 2000)].
  • Households in Upstate New York are earning higher incomes, especially the top 20% of earners. Greater amounts of capital will continue to encourage home buyers to seek out greater amenities and luxuries when purchasing new homes [(Pendall, et al, 2004)].
  • In 2000, Governor Pataki created the Quality Communities Interagency Task Force, which recommended in 2001 that the state … “adopt a set of uniform Quality Communities Principles” and that the Governor direct state agencies to use them as they carry out their responsibilities. Some of these recommendations were incorporated into a bill in the 2001-2002 legislative session. Although the bill failed to pass, other bills continue to be introduced and debated.