Energy Costs, Urban Development, and Housing

Energy Costs, Urban Development, and Housing

Energy Costs, Urban Development, and Housing

Energy Costs, Urban Development, and Housing

Excerpt

STEEP increases in energy prices during the 1970s strongly influenced urban development and housing, though not always in ways most people expected. Many planners thought that higher energy costs would have a centralizing effect on urban areas. They reasoned that higher commuting costs would induce people to live closer to city jobs and that the higher heating and cooling costs of suburban single-family houses would make city apartments more attractive. Yet the 1980 census revealed that the population of all central cities grew by less than 1 percent from 1970 to 1980, whereas that of all suburbs combined grew by 18 percent in the same period. Thus costlier energy did not seem to have fostered urban centralization. And what--if anything--the city governments or the federal government should do about higher energy prices was not at all obvious.

Even so, Congress and the federal administration were strongly urged to help households and organizations adjust. Pressure was applied in the belief that the outcome determined by the free play of market forces alone would not be adequate and hence that public policies that would promote energy conservation and help some people pay higher energy costs were needed. Various proposals--for assisting poor households with heating bills and for requiring that all new structures embody specific energy-saving requirements, for example--were advanced. But the wisdom of such proposals depends greatly on how well households, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and public agencies are likely to adapt to higher energy costs without added government action.

Thus formulation of public policies suitably responsive to higher energy costs requires a factually and analytically sound basis for judging how . . .

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