Smart Growth Touches All

March 1, 2000

One of the most challenging issues of the year--maybe of the decade--facing all of us is the land-use issue of growth management, sometimes called “smart growth.”

Smart growth touches who we are as REALTORS®, consumers, and members of the community, and almost everything we do in life--from where our homes and neighborhoods are built to the location of streets, sidewalks, grocery stores, shopping centers, businesses, government buildings, parks, public schools, and playgrounds. You name it.

The concerns about how our communities grow are so widespread they’ve taken on political importance at the national level. The solutions are not to be found at the national level, however. The right place to find them is within the local communities.

At the national level what we can best do is clear away the obstacles that block state and local governments and organizations from taking effective action. Last year NAR authorized an advisory group to explore issues and develop plans and principles to deal with smart growth. The advisory group surveyed both the public and REALTORS®.

What it found was this: REALTORS® and the public have a lot in common. Both believe that local government should make growth decisions in close cooperation with citizens. Federal and state governments should have little, if any, role in the process.

Two very important points also became clear from this study: Providing homeownership opportunities at affordable levels is critical to increase homeownership; restricting growth raises home prices and can become an obstacle to homeownership.

With these guiding principles in mind, NAR in the next few months is rolling out a multitiered plan to position REALTORS® as leaders on land use and growth management and help you influence the debate on smart growth in your communities. The plan includes an educational program for REALTORS® on growth management issues, in-depth public opinion surveys, an enhanced land-use initiative program, and a specialty publication on land-use practices.

More programs will follow later this year to strengthen the guidance NAR can offer you.

What we do about smart growth now will affect how we live for years to come. Now is the time for REALTORS® to get involved, to participate in the decision making at the community level, and to influence the debate.

Dennis R. Cronk was 2000 president of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

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