We all know sprawl is costly to local communities. Roads, schools, sewers: It all adds up.
But the total price-tag is hard to determine, and that ambiguity undermines efforts at reform. What qualifies as sprawl? How much additional infrastructure is needed to support it?
That’s why it’s exciting that a group of concerned Florida homeowners has tackled this difficult question. Priceofsprawl.com shows that Florida communities pay dearly for “growth” that is often sold as a win-win. In reality, every dollar generated by new development in Florida costs taxpayers $1.34-$2.45. The more rural the setting, the higher the cost.
This project, presented as an interactive map, allows Floridians to see how sprawling development affects their local taxes and home values. Numbers were determined using existing impact studies and local comprehensive plans.
Just scroll over Lee County and the map will tell you that property values are down 54 percent here since 2006. Thirteen percent of the county’s homes are vacant. In fact, this region of Florida — the Greater Fort Myers area — has been something of a poster child for the foreclosure crisis. “There is arguably no single housing market with a worse long-term outlook than southwest Florida, and the Cape Coral-Fort Myers region is the worst of these,” wrote investment blog 24/7 Wall Street last week.
Despite all this, Lee County authorities have authorized a massive amount of new development. Local zoning laws have reserved enough land for new housing development to allow the building of 1.1 million homes, or 228 percent more than the current 346,000 homes. According to Priceofsprawl.com, building out that plan would cost suffering Lee County $3.12 billion in road construction, or about $10,000 per household, plus another $943 million to build the necessary schools. The oversupply of housing further drags down the value of existing homes.