The concept of “livable community” is becoming quite an important one in the United States, and far more than an urban planning “buzz word.” The development of the interstate highway system after World War II resulted in disinvestment and flight from major urban centers and unprecedented suburban sprawl.
However, urban sprawl is now becoming obsolete, and for good reason. Gasoline prices are around $4 per gallon and our newest “suburbs” are sprouting up sometimes 50 miles or more from urban centers, making for longer and longer commutes to work and to the cultural amenities offered by our large cities. As a result, many Americans are moving to urban communities that are walkable, accessible to public transit, and offer an overall quality of life that far out suburbs cannot match.
Livable communities offer a wide variety of transportation choices, equitable and affordable housing across demographic lines, short commutes to major urban job centers, and an enhanced sense of community through easily accessible and walkable amenities like parks, schools, churches, and business districts. The City of Berwyn is a perfect example of such a community.
These features offer tangible and important benefits to their residents. Greater transportation choices decrease household transportation costs, reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, and promote public health as their residents walk or bike to cultural amenities and necessities more frequently. Short commutes to job centers enhance regional workforce competiveness and ensure that the economies of major urban centers, like Chicago, will remain viable throughout the 21st century. An enhanced sense of community promotes overall mental health, and personal safety as neighbors watch out for one another.
The U.S. government has determined that fostering livable communities is a national necessity. When establishing the Livable Communities Act of 2009, Congress determined that the population of the U.S. will grow more than 40% between 2009 and 2050. It also noted that between 1980 and 2000, the growth of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States consumed 16 million acres of rural land: about 1 acre for every new household! Another observation was that in 2007, people in metropolitan areas spent 4.2 billion hours on the road and purchased an extra 2.8 billion gallons of fuel as a result of traffic congestion. This represents a 5-fold increase in wasted time and cost since 1982.
Americans are beginning to recognize the unsustainability of exburban living. Congress noted in its findings that as much as 30% of current demand for housing in the U.S. is in dense, walkable, mixed-use communities, but less than 2% of new housing fits this need. City of Homes is dedicated to helping fill this gap by promoting the fact that Berwyn is an existing walkable and mixed-use community that urban planners are attempting to create, and encourage families and individuals to move to Berwyn and enjoy the various personal and financial benefits of its livability.