Infill is Key to California’s Future
By Jennifer Goodman
28 March 2017
Photo courtesy Pixabay
Building the right kind of housing in the right places can help California meet its 2030 climate goals while growing the economy, according to a new report co-authored by College of Environmental Design faculty members Carol Galante, Donald I. Terner Distinguished Professor of Affordable Housing and Urban Policy and Faculty Director of the Terner Center, and Karen Chapple, Professor of City & Regional Planning.
“Right Type, Right Place: Assessing the Environmental and Economic Impacts of Infill Residential Development through 2030” finds that encouraging new housing development in infill areas would spur economic growth, reduce monthly household costs, and cut greenhouse gas emissions, keeping the state on track to achieving its climate goals.
The study is a collaboration between CED and the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at the Haas School of Business, and was commissioned by the nonprofit, nonpartisan group Next 10 which focuses on innovation at the intersection between the economy, the environment, and quality of life issues for all Californians.
The report is the first comprehensive academic evaluation of the potential economic and environmental impacts of infill housing development on California’s 2030 climate goals under SB 23, a 2016 law that requires the state to slash greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.
The study models three different scenarios for California’s housing future through 2030: business as usual, where development follows the same patterns it did from 2000 to 2015; a “medium” infill scenario, featuring much more infill housing and more multifamily housing; and an infill “target” scenario where all new housing development happens in infill areas, which also features more multifamily housing than the business-as-usual scenario.
While the business-as-usual scenario results in more car-dependent housing farther away from jobs and schools, the infill target scenario meets the same demand, spurring economic growth with a much smaller carbon footprint. Target scenario benefits include:
- Annual economic growth that’s over $800 million higher than business-as-usual; and
- Annual reductions of 1.79 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is the equivalent of taking 378,000 cars off the road.
- Resident savings on commuting and gas costs.
But the infill scenario isn’t possible without policy change, at both state and local levels. As California lawmakers consider over 130 bills written to address the state’s housing crisis, the report provides several recommendations for policymakers to consider, such as reducing barriers and increasing incentives for regions that generate infill housing, creating anti-displacement policies to protect affordable housing, and directing more funds towards public transit.
“Where people live is a crucial part of California’s sustainability conversation,” explained Professor Galante. “More housing in compact, walkable communities can significantly enhance residents’ quality of life, boost local economies and make a real dent in reducing emissions. But it won’t happen without the right mix of policies to facilitate this type of development.”
Read the Terner Center's newest paper here.