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Virginia is growing. Between 1990 and 2000, Virginia’s population rose by over 14% - the largest population growth experienced by the state in a single decade (Pollard, 2007). And the state continues to grow. It has been estimated that by 2030, Virginia’s total population may exceed 9.8 million people (Pollard, 2007). Along with population growth, land development has increased which in turn affects transportation, housing and job placement across the Commonwealth. In fact, in many parts of the state, development has outpaced population growth. According to Pollard, “If current patterns continue, Virginia will develop more land in the next 40 years than in the previous 400 years (p.8).”
In an effort to curb sprawling development and decrease transportation expenditure, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Bill 3202 in 2007. One major outcome of this multifaceted legislation was the introduction of mandatory Urban Development Areas (UDAs). The goal of UDAs was for localities to concentrate growth and development in order to reduce the cost of transportation and increase opportunities to build multi-use developments and expand affordable housing. In 2012, the General Assembly passed House Bill 869 and Senate Bill 274 which effectively make UDAs no longer mandatory but optional for all localities in the Commonwealth.
In this paper, we analyze the racial impact and explore the political history of HB 869/SB 274 while addressing the larger issue of sprawl across the Commonwealth. Smart Growth policies are known to positively impact the environment but they also positively impact low-income and minority communities by increasing access to housing, transportation and ultimately jobs. The story behind Urban Development Areas in the Commonwealth is one of politics and regulation but issues as critical as housing, transportation and job access should be focused much more on the citizens of the Commonwealth. The friction created by the UDA policy between the localities and the state has the potential to spark a statewide conversation about land use and more importantly - the need for people-centered solutions to a growing problem.
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VCU L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs Publications