What is Smart Growth?

Smart growth is development that supports economic growth, strong communities and environmental health.                                                     

“Smart growth” covers a range of development and conservation strategies that help protect our health and natural environment and make our communities more attractive, economically stronger, and more socially diverse.

Development decisions affect many of the things that touch people’s everyday lives — their homes, their health, the schools their children attend, the taxes they pay, their daily commute, the natural environment around them, economic growth in their community, and opportunities to achieve their dreams and goals. What, where, and how communities build will affect their residents’ lives for generations to come.

Communities of all sizes across the country are using creative strategies to develop in ways that preserve natural lands and critical environmental areas, protect water and air quality, and reuse already-developed land.

  • They conserve resources by reinvesting in existing infrastructure and rehabilitating historic buildings.
  • They design neighborhoods that have homes near shops, offices, schools, houses of worship, parks, and other amenities, giving residents and visitors the option of walking, bicycling, taking public transportation, or driving as they go about their business.
  • They provide a range of different housing types to make it possible for senior citizens to stay in their neighborhoods as they age, young people to afford their first home, and families at all stages in between to find a safe, attractive home they can afford.
  • They enhance neighborhoods and involve residents in development decisions, creating vibrant places to live, work and play.

The high quality of life makes these communities economically competitive, creates business opportunities, and strengthens the local tax base.

Based on the experience of communities around the nation that have used smart growth approaches to create and maintain great neighborhoods, the Smart Growth Network developed a set of 10 basic principles to guide smart growth strategies:

  • Mix land uses.
  • Take advantage of compact building design.
  • Create a range of housing opportunities and choices.
  • Create walkable neighborhoods.
  • Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place.
  • Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas.
  • Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities.
  • Provide a variety of transportation choices.
  • Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective.
  • Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions.