The Promise and Perils of ‘New Regionalist’ Approaches to Sustainable Communities

47 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2011 Last revised: 26 Apr 2011

See all articles by Lisa T. Alexander

Lisa T. Alexander

Texas A&M University School of Law

Date Written: April 21, 2011


This Article argues that "new regionalism" is a form of "new governance." New regionalist approaches include collaborative efforts between cities and outlying suburbs to resolve metropolitan challenges such as affordable housing creation, transportation and sprawl. Such practices focus on regions as key sites for the resolution of public problems that transcend traditional local government and state boundaries. New regionalist praxis responds to local government law's failure to advance equity and sustainability throughout metropolitan regions. New regionalism promotes voluntary agreements and interlocal collaborations, rather than formal government or mandated regulation to resolve regional problems. New regionalism, then, is a form of new governance. The term new governance describes problem-solving processes that shift away from traditional government and regulation, towards voluntary, public/private collaborations including multiple stakeholders. New governance supporters assert that such approaches can enhance the participation of traditionally marginalized groups in reform and lead to more equitable outcomes. This Article examines the institutional design of the Obama Administration's Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program (the "Grant Program"), as well as its initial implementation in the Madison, Wisconsin/Dane County area, as a test of these claims. This Article identifies the Grant Program's promise and perils in advancing meaningful stakeholder participation and distributive justice. The Article concludes by making recommendations to improve the Grant Program and by outlining the implications of these observations for new regionalist and new governance practice.

Keywords: Local Government Law, New Regionalism, New Governance, Housing Law & Policy, Sustainablilty, Distributive Justice, Law & Society

JEL Classification: K11, K3, R5, H7, I3

Suggested Citation

Alexander, Lisa T., The Promise and Perils of ‘New Regionalist’ Approaches to Sustainable Communities (April 21, 2011). Fordham Urban Law Journal, Vol. 38, 2011, Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1160, Available at SSRN:

Lisa T. Alexander (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law ( email )

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX 76102
United States

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