Land Use and Development

The “built environment” is just another way to say: what we build, where and how we build it, and whom we build it for. These decisions shape the contours of our lives. Can we walk to work? Can we find housing we can afford in locations with low transportation costs that are close to jobs and opportunities? Are we at greater risk from future climate shocks because of our zip code? Do the places we build create new shared prosperity that we can harness to solve other problems, or do they make us poorer?

To ensure that everyone gets a shot at living in a place that is healthy, prosperous, and resilient, this team works to reform the old zoning codes that separate people and destinations, organizes private real estate developers who want to build walkable, equitable places, restores polluted land to productive use, and works to protect the land that feeds us and provide opportunities for recreation.

Our land use and development work:

Economic Development ›› 
Our Economic Development program uniquely combines SGA’s policy expertise with an in-house team of researchers that leverage quantitative and data analysis to assess the fiscal impact of smart growth and land use policy choices.

Form-Based Codes Institute ››
The Form-Based Codes Institute offers classes, technical assistance and other resources to communities and professionals interested in learning about form-based zoning codes—the regulatory framework for mixed-use, walkable urbanism.

The pre-eminent national coalition of real estate developers and investors who advocate for sustainable, equitable, walkable development in America’s communities.

National Brownfields Coalition ››
SGA co-manages this coalition which develops and advocates for policies and practices that support the responsible cleanup and reuse of underutilized, blighted, or environmentally impacted land.

Notable research and analysis from the team

Foot Traffic Ahead 2023

Foot Traffic Ahead 2023 ranks the top 35 metro areas by their walkable urbanism using an index that considers premiums in commercial rents, multifamily rental rates, and for-sale home prices. The report also provides policymakers with recommendations on how to increase both the supply of and access to equitable, walkable urban development while safeguarding affordability and providing benefits such as improving community health, lowering emissions by reducing car use, and advancing equity by bringing access to economic opportunity.

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Zoned-In: Economic Benefits & Shared Prosperity with Form-Based Codes

This 2021 report shows how, when communities turn to form-based codes instead of conventional, complicated zoning rules that tend to separate uses and encourage sprawl, communities can more easily add more homes for more people while increasing property values and tax revenues—but not necessarily the overall cost of housing.

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Unrealized Gains

Are the investments pouring into Opportunity Zones supporting small business stability and growth, achieving the stated goal of place-based economic development and job creation in distressed communities? If not, why not? And what are the risks and rewards specifically for minority-owned legacy businesses within Opportunity Zones? Unrealized Gains, led by our economic development team, took a close look at these questions, and specifically the impact on the minority-owned and legacy businesses that form the social fabric of many neighborhoods in these areas.

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The Great Real Estate Reset

Real estate plays a defining role in the American economy and in every American’s life, but the industry is failing to keep up with changing demands and build resilient, affordable, diverse communities where everyone can prosper. LOCUS partnered with the Brookings Institution to release The Great Real Estate Reset, which consists in part of five briefs that examine the state of the real estate industry with data-backed insights, unpacking a series of five trends that are converging to create a mismatch between what the real estate industry is building and what is sorely needed to build a prosperous economy where everyone gets a chance to succeed:

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Core Values: Why American Companies are Moving Downtown

Hundreds of companies across the United States are moving to and investing in walkable downtown locations. As job migration shifts towards cities and as commercial real estate values climb in these places, a vanguard of American companies are building and expanding in walkable downtown neighborhoods. Why are companies choosing these places? What are the competitive advantages they see in these locations? And what features do they look for when choosing a new location? This landmark report examines the characteristics, motives, and preferences of companies that have either relocated, opened new offices, or expanded in walkable downtowns between 2010 and 2015.

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