Texas and Georgia Are Paying the Price for Sprawl

A couple sitting on front porch

The old growth recipe of boundless land and cheap housing isn't working anymore as cities in the Sunbelt South mature.

March 15, 2021
Conor Sen - Bloomberg

Cities in the Sun Belt South have been needing a more modern development model for a while. That's created tensions, both economically and politically, that have only accelerated during the past year's pandemic. My colleague Noah Smith wrote a column about this specific to Texas, but it's broader than any one state and it's useful to think about how we got to this point and why these issues are relevant in 2021 in a way they weren't a generation ago.

There's an institutional reluctance to pivot away from the Sun Belt model defined by low taxes and cheap land because of how successful it was for key constituencies for decades. Coming out of World War II, there was a scramble nationwide to build more housing in response to soldiers coming home from war and pent-up demand for family formation.

The combination of the automobile as the nation's now-dominant form of transportation and the passage of the Federal Highway Act of 1956 made building out the suburbs of less-populated southern states an irresistible growth model for politicians and economic development interests alike. If it required tax breaks and fewer regulations to lure jobs and people from northern states to accelerate the process, so be it.

Mr. Sen may be contacted at csen9@bloomberg.net


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