Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces


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Voters: Give Use Redevelopment

April 29th, 2005 by

  •  More than two-thirds of New Jersey voters surveyed in the past month (71 percent) said they favor state government giving funding priority to maintain services in existing communities, rather than encouraging new development in the countryside.
  • More than half of voters (53 percent) said investing in already developed areas, such as inner cities and older suburbs, should be a higher priority for New Jersey than buying open space (36 percent).
  • New Jersey’s results coincide with national research that predicts one quarter of all Americans, some 15 million people, will want to rent or buy near transit in the next 25 years – homes for the most part located in existing communities.
  •  Despite these clear voter preferences, “exurban” housing distant from existing communities and transit remains the most affordable option for many buyers and renters. New Jersey’s two fastest-growing counties are still relatively rural Warren and Ocean counties, where the population growth of 8.3 and 7.4 percent respectively, was more than double the statewide rate of 3.4 percent between 2000 and 2004.

(Source: April 2005 poll for New Jersey Future conducted by the Bloustein Center for Survey Research at Rutgers University; and “Hidden in Plain Sight: Capturing the Demand for Housing Near Transit” by Reconnecting America’s Center for Transit-Oriented Development)

In a state where voters care as deeply about their open spaces as New Jersey, it’s no surprise that voters also see redevelopment as a top priority: not only in its own right for improving quality of life in today’s communities, but as a preferred alternative to developing our last open lands.

Nor is high voter support for redevelopment new: the majority of New Jersey voters have consistently favored existing communities over new development as a state funding priority in polls conducted over the past few decades.

Unfortunately, state policies on land use, property taxes, business relocation and more have made it easier and cheaper to build on open lands than to rebuild or strengthen today’s communities. These policies make outlying suburbs and rural areas look like the smart choice for new development, when in reality, they’re the default choice.

The popularity of sprawling, large lot homes is due in part to the limited choice of desirable housing in many older communities that have suffered under state policies that favor new development over redevelopment. Candidates for state office this fall will enjoy an edge if they heed the clear call of most voters for priority attention to New Jersey’s existing communities.

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