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

March 28, 2017

Location, location, location: real estate choices help California meet climate goals, grow local economies, and benefit residents

Right Type, Right Place: Assessing the Environmental and Economic Impacts of Infill Residential Development through 2030 – the first comprehensive academic study of it's kind – 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.

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.

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, which is the equivalent of taking 378,000 cars off the road

For residents, those living in infill areas would drive about 18 fewer miles per weekday than those in non-infill areas. That’s 90 fewer miles every week. The target scenario also provides more housing that meets the growing demand for compact, walkable neighborhoods, and results in lower monthly costs from reduced driving and lower utility bills, which balance out the slightly higher rents and mortgage payments required in the target scenario. Add it all up, and the study found renters would save, on average, $312 annually, while homeowners would save $156.

The report's Target Scenario results in environmental, economic and quality of life improvements that can help California address both housing and climate challenges. But achieving this level of infill development will not be easy; it will require policy changes at the local and state levels. With California lawmakers currently considering over 130 bills written to address the state's housing crisis, the policy recommendations offered by Right Type, Right Place report authors provide important and timely options for consideration.