Journal Archive > 2001 > October

Benefits of sprawl

Sprawl produces affordable housing

Suburban sprawl does have its benefits, according to a new Tufts study, including increasing the supply of affordable housing and providing greater opportunities for home ownership, particularly among blacks.

David Buffington

The study by Matthew E. Kahn, associate professor of international economics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, found that restrictions on suburban growth can reduce the supply of affordable housing. Many metropolitan areas, including Boston, are trying to curb that growth because of concerns about losing precious open space, increasing traffic and damaging the environment.

Kahn's research includes a ranking of a dozen metropolitan areas characterized by spreading development. In areas where there has been sprawl, the research found there is more affordable housing and a closing of the gap between black and white home ownership.

The report concludes that as more communities legislate against growth, it will continue to deplete the supply of affordable housing.