Friday, October 13, 2006

300 million people, on the same amount of land ...

  The United States' population is estimated to reach 300 million early next week, according to the Census Bureau.  This compares with only 200 million in 1968, 150 million in 1949 (when Presidents Bush and Clinton were toddlers), and only 100 million in 1916, when the first generation of zoning laws were being adopted.  While the population of our nation has grown (few other affluent nations are growing as quickly, largely because of immigration to the U.S.), the amount of land has in effect stayed the same.  The population milestone provides a good moment to reconsider the wisdom of land use policies that encourage sprawl, discourage infill, require separation of uses, and discriminate against certain types of uses, including multi-family housing.  And the traditional American Dream of a single-family house with a suburban yard -- which was fulfilled for most people in the 20th century -- may have to be reconsidered in a more crowded America.

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