It’s called “smart growth” and it has been the rage in local communities for a few years now. The concept boils down to this: restrict growth and land use, increase density, and divert public resources into transit options  such as rail and bike paths rather than roads and highways. Problem is, “smart  growth” is misguided and ineffective policy, as explained in this JLF report. So what is the alternative? Flex-growth policies. Here are just a few of the recommended policies outlined in JLF’s flex-growth report.

Flex growth’s market-based principles look to the future, not the past, Lowrey said. “First and foremost, flex growth requires that growth pay for itself.” 

“For example, the true cost of connecting a specific new development to water mains should be the basis for a hookup fee, rather than the average cost,” Lowrey explained. “In other words, the price will reflect existing water capacity, labor markets, and expected future demand. The principle should be that the user, as much as possible, should bear the costs of services.”

A second key element of flex growth calls for governments to avoid impact fees for public schools, Lowrey said. “Schools are different from public utilities, and school use bears no direct relationship to the construction of a new home,” he said. “It’s both inequitable and inefficient to charge either impact fees or real-estate transfer fees to fund schools.”

Third, flex growth involves zoning reform. “Zoning based on smart growth often focuses on preservation or restricting new residents from moving into an area,” Lowrey said. “Instead, public policy should offer communities flexibility to adapt and change to new demands.”

“Focus on the actual impacts of development, not land uses,” he added. “Restrict detailed planning to public infrastructure investments. Abandon comprehensive zoning, which creates a political environment impeding change and subordinating property rights to political pull.”