Solving Cities

The high cost of sprawl [infographic]

The high cost of sprawl [infographic]

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Florida is approving an alarming amount of new housing developments, despite low demand. And it's having a huge financial impact on taxpayers.


Sprawl doesn't only have impacts on the environment through increased car use and the development of open space, but it also has major economic impacts.

As developments move further away from city and town centers infrastructure must follow. Everything from roads, schools, and police/fire services must be built and maintained, and it isn't cheap. Building more infrastructure would make sense if demand called for it, but as a new infographic shows, that's hardly the case.

A group of Floridians who are concerned about the sprawl's costs to taxpayers put together Priceofsprawl.com, and the map above, to highlight the cost of sprawl in 100 cities and counties throughout Florida. The results aren't pretty.

For starters, Florida will build housing that would support a huge population surge that isn't coming anytime soon. The amount of housing that has been approved (but not yet built) would house over 100 million people — over 5 times more than Florida’s current population of around 19 million.

But is it benefiting the taxpayer? Not even close.

Florida taxpayers pay $1.39 – 2.45 for every tax dollar paid by a new development. The higher price is paid by homes that are further away from the urban core.

Let's take a closer look at how this will play out.

In Collier County, property values have plummeted 52% since 2006 and almost 9% in the past year. Despite this, the county has approved enough housing for the county's population to grow 233%. And more housing units are being approved even though 10% of homes are vacant. The cost to support all this extra infrastructure for these housing units is through the roof. To support more schools, taxpayers will spend $952 million, more than $12,500 per student, and $2.6 billion on roads, more than $9,000 per home. All of this increased housing is coming despite the fact that there isn't enough water to support to county's current population.

Click on the map above to get a more in-depth look at cost of sprawl in other cities and counties.

[h/t Streetsblog]

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure