Community Development:

Local Growth Issues--Federal Opportunities and Challenges

RCED-00-178: Published: Sep 6, 2000. Publicly Released: Sep 7, 2000.

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Stanley J. Czerwinski
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on state and local governments' efforts to manage community development, focusing on: (1) growth-related challenges facing local communities; (2) tools and techniques that state and local governments are using to help plan for and manage growth in their communities; and (3) federal programs and policies that state and local governments believe serve as barriers or aids in their efforts to plan more effectively for and manage growth.

GAO noted that: (1) across the nation, local communities are pursuing a variety of growth-related strategies in response to a range of challenges and concerns; (2) in Atlanta, Georgia, where rapid population growth has led to serious traffic congestion and air quality problems, state and local decisionmakers are considering higher density development around established business and population centers and are planning for greater use of public transportation; (3) yet despite their concerns about growth-related challenges, local communities are placing a high value on economic development when planning for the future; (4) overall, infrastructure needs, traffic congestion, and the adequacy of their local tax base, for supporting schools and services were the growth-related concerns most frequently cited by the cities and counties responding to GAO's survey; (5) when asked about their priorities in planning for the future, the greatest number of counties cited increasing their local tax base, attracting businesses, and enhancing transportation systems--mirroring their areas of highest concern; (6) cities cited similar planning priorities, but for them, revitalizing their downtown areas was more often a high or very high priority than enhancing transportation systems; (7) communities are also concerned about "sprawl"--development characterized by, among other things, low densities, rapid land consumption, and dependence on the automobile; and (8) 53 percent of the countries and 35 percent of the cities responding to GAO's survey said that "sprawl" was a high or very high concern, compared with 35 percent of the cities and 16 percent of the counties that said it was not a current concern or a low concern.

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