Right Type, Right Place: Assessing the Environmental and Economic Impacts of Infill Residential Development through 2030

March, 2017
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Building the right kind of housing in the right places can help California meet its 2030 climate goals while growing the economy.
 
Our report finds that encouraging new housing development in infill areas would spur economic growth, reduce monthly household costs, and cut greenhouse gas emissions, keeping the state on track to achieving its climate goals.
 
A collaboration with the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley and commissioned by Next 10, this report is the first academic, comprehensive evaluation of the potential economic and environmental impacts of infill housing development — compact housing in already urbanized land near transit, jobs and services — on California’s 2030 climate goals under SB 32 (Pavley).
 

The study models three different scenarios for California’s housing future through 2030: business as usual, where development follows the same patterns it did from 2000 to 2015; a “medium” infill scenario, featuring much more infill housing and more multifamily housing; and an infill “target” scenario where all new housing development happens in infill areas, which also features more multifamily housing than the business-as-usual scenario.

 

Key Findings

While the business-as-usual scenario results in more car-dependent housing farther away from jobs and schools, the infill target scenario meets the same demand, spurring economic growth with a much smaller carbon footprint. Target scenario benefits include:

  • Annual economic growth that’s over $800 million higher than business-as-usual.
  • Annual reductions of 1.79 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions compared to the business-as-usual scenario, which is the equivalent of taking 378,000 cars off the road and almost 15 percent of the emissions reductions needed to reach the state’s Senate Bill 375 (Steinberg, 2008) targets from statewide land use changes.
  • Lower overall monthly costs for average households.

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Policy Recommendations

The target infill scenario isn’t possible without policy change, at both state and local levels. As California lawmakers consider over 130 bills written to address the state’s housing crisis, the report provides several recommendations for policymakers to consider, such as reducing barriers and increasing incentives for regions that generate infill housing, creating anti-displacement policies to protect affordable housing, and directing more funds towards public transit and affordable housing.