Take The Coronavirus Poll: “Density vs Sprawl vs Stopping Growth”
As of 6/5/2020, ~1,100 people have responded to the coronavirus poll. Results:
Question 1. = 96.2% voted ‘no’ on Density.
Question 2. = 83.3% voted ‘no’ on Sprawl.
Question 3. = 84.8% voted ‘yes’ on Stopping Growth.
The dramatic impact of the coronavirus has fundamentally changed the conversation in the United States about the future of growth and urban planning. Prior to coronavirus, the prevailing political agenda was to promote growth by either packing people more tightly into cities with “density”; or to allow “sprawl” around the edges of cities with more people and subdivisions. “Density vs Sprawl” has played out in thousands of cities across the U.S. as the population of the U.S. grew dramatically over the last century.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the debate because the disease’s transmission increases in densely crowded cities, workplaces, and residences.
First, many urban Americans are now questioning if staying in densely-packed cities makes sense — talk of moving to the suburbs and moving out of apartment buildings and into single-family homes is rampant in media outlets throughout the urban U.S.
Second, renewed attention on the negative impacts of population growth in the U.S. has risen sharply. Since Earth Day 1970, the U.S. population has increased by exactly 60 percent, from 205 million to 328 million, and it is expected to reach 440 million by the year 2065.
Should America keep getting bigger and bigger in a pandemic world?
Population growth occurs both at the 1) state/local level in the U.S., and at the 2) federal level, each of which has different drivers, respectively. At the state and local level, businesses and people are lured and enticed to move into a state or city by promotions, incentives, and tax subsidies. Here in Colorado, for example, population growth is rampant as the state, local governments, and the growth industry (real estate, development, construction) lure and entice more and more people to move here.
At the federal level, population growth is mostly driven by federal immigration policy. Pew research reports that about 55% of population growth in the U.S. since 1965 was due to immigration policies, and 88% of the future growth through 2065 will continue to result from U.S. immigration policies. Federal immigration policy, changed in 1990 by Congress, is driving the U.S. population higher and faster at the same time that U.S. birth rates have fallen to historic lows in 2019.
Central to the question of “Density -vs- Sprawl -vs- Stopping Growth”, immigration-driven population growth is causing a new Los Angeles-sized city to be added to the U.S. every few years either by packing people more tightly into current cities through density, or by sprawling people out around cities, or increasingly by both.
So, if this question was put before voters in the U.S., which would you vote for?
1. DENSITY: Keep growing the population, and try to force or encourage as many people as possible to live in denser cities?
2. SPRAWL: Keep growing the population, and let people and subdivisions sprawl farther out around cities?
3. STOPPING GROWTH: Slow or stop population growth by changing local, state, and federal policies?
You could think of it as a nation-wide game of “Sim-City”, where you get to design and define the future of the U.S. landscape and population. Any of the three choices will have significant pros and cons for the economy, the environment, government service needs, and for individual people and businesses.
The “Density -vs- Sprawl -vs- Stopping Growth” decision is at the forefront of the coronavirus conversation right now in the U.S.