Suburbs are expanding farther away from urban centers than ever before. The distance that people are willing to commute for a good job has increased, giving employers in more developed areas a wider geographic reach when it comes to attracting workers. The problem with rural towns becoming bedroom communities is that there is generally not enough quality housing for workers who want to commute to jobs closer than the city.
Odis Jones explains this problem and examines available government incentives as well as the reasons why rural development is important to a healthy economy.
Rural residents and town leaders are not always willing to let developers build large housing developments on their land. They believe that large housing developments take away from the rural character of their town and that an influx of new residents will cause problems with infrastructure and crime. They are also concerned about the environmental implications of these developments.
Sometimes these fears are justified, but for the most part, the development of rural areas is a win-win for the builder and the community alike.
A popular program promoted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency as well as a large number of state and local planners is called “smart growth.” This program encourages the building of walkable neighborhoods where families can live near their daily destinations. Rural areas are more likely to accept these human-scaled developments rather than the large, homogenous developments typically associated with new construction. If construction companies and planners can work together to create sustainable growth, the problem of “suburban deserts” will not exist and the residents will not have to drive long distances to reach shopping areas, schools, and libraries.
Smart growth also helps to preserve the rural character of undeveloped areas. Residents who already live in these areas are more likely to accept the development if it does not fundamentally change the nature of their town.
In order to receive approval from local authorities, builders of large projects will often have to show whether their new construction will help or harm the environment. Sustainable building technologies can help builders receive approval while making a positive contribution to the community.
One of the most important considerations when approving rural growth is the protection of waterways and wetlands. Much of the country’s wetland area has remained undeveloped, and builders must be careful to minimize their environmental impact.
The preservation of forest and farmland is also important in maintaining the rural character of the land. Too many farms are broken up and sold as individual housing lots, permanently changing the character of the community. Encouraging farms to remain in the neighborhood can help to keep a “country” feel while encouraging sustainable growth.
Encouraging Proper Suburban and Rural Growth Through Incentives
Suburban development receives preferential tax treatment in the United States when compared to urban development. In the United States, it is less expensive to spend money on new housing than on redeveloping older neighborhoods, so naturally companies gravitate toward building new housing. Homeowners are able to deduct their mortgage interest and property taxes. Profits on home taxes are not taxed. New construction is also a tax shelter. This incentivizes new construction over rehabilitation of existing properties or redeveloping existing neighborhoods.
This can be a major advantage for developers of rural properties, but a glut of housing can cause further problems with overcapitalization. Housing needs to be built at the pace that it is needed, not all at once.
One of the programs that benefited rural and suburban development is the depreciation tax write-off. Under this program, depreciation of rural and suburban properties could be written off within the first few years of owning the property. This program is more beneficial for new construction than for renovation. It is also more beneficial in areas with lower land costs, like the suburbs and rural areas. Urban areas with high land costs tend not to attract this kind of development.
The influence of government incentives for suburban and rural construction cannot be overstated. When developers add housing to underserved areas, they stand to profit from their homes. Owners of existing homes also see a rise in their property values based on these changes.
Rural Development Makes Sense
When rural development is thoughtfully done, it can cause communities to grow in beneficial ways. Workers who have to travel to the city each day are able to live in thriving, sustainable communities without the congestion and crime experienced in many urban areas. Building a home in the suburbs or in a rural area is less expensive than rehabilitating older construction, and tax codes are set up to prefer rural and suburban construction over urban construction.
Odis Jones underscores the importance of sustainable development for the good of the United States, and encourages developers and homeowners to look into moving to rural areas.