All Sprawled Out: How the Federal Regulatory System has Driven Unsustainable Growth

Chad D. Emerson

Faulkner University - Thomas Goode Jones School of Law

August 12, 2007

The United States faces a serious threat that grows more troublesome every year; one whose negative effects run the gamut from environmental concerns to social and fiscal harms.

The threat - often called sprawl - is evidenced by the proliferation of unsustainable land development patterns throughout this country.

Significantly though, sprawl is not simply a problem of bad design or planning. These are, in fact, merely symptoms of a much more prolific cause. Indeed, the true driving force behind sprawl has been a series of federal laws and regulations that, over the last century, have facilitated development patterns in the United States that are neither fiscally sound nor physically sustainable.

This article examines three specific areas of federal regulation that have exacerbated sprawl: federal tax policy, federal transportation policy, and federal housing policy. It analyzes these laws and regulations within a historical context to determine why and how they came to be.

To accomplish this, the article surveys specific examples of federal laws within each of these categories that have served to promote the near unfettered growth of American sprawl. By doing so, the article identifies those areas of federal regulation that, if modified or repealed, can facilitate a move away from sprawl growth and toward a more sustainable land development strategy.

Ultimately, this article exposes the federal laws that have driven sprawl in this country - and, by doing so, have exacerbated the numerous negative impacts of sprawl on our society.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 38

Keywords: sprawl, smart growth

JEL Classification: K23

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Date posted: August 19, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Emerson, Chad D., All Sprawled Out: How the Federal Regulatory System has Driven Unsustainable Growth (August 12, 2007). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1006825 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1006825

Contact Information

Chad D. Emerson (Contact Author)
Faulkner University - Thomas Goode Jones School of Law ( email )
Montgomery, AL 36109
United States
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