Americans for single-family homes and lower-density suburban settings that are often associated with related benefits, such as greater privacy, less noise, more access to open space and recreation, and in some cases, less congestion and pollution than more densely developed urban settings.28 Restricting the amount of single-family housing through zoning or other measures that increase compact development could raise the cost of that housing, contributing to housing affordability problems.

These affordability problems may be mitigated, however, as the baby boomers withdraw from their suburban single-family homes, increasing the supply of such housing. As noted in Chapter 4, moreover, it is unclear that more compact development would greatly restrict housing choices or increase single-family housing prices because exclusionary zoning may have forced a greater mix of single-family housing units than consumers wanted in the past. Moreover, building more compact, mixed-use developments does not necessarily mean building only multifamily housing. Reducing the lot size of single-family housing should also result in VMT reductions. Finally, housing preferences may change with the aging of the population and the withdrawal of the baby boomers from their suburban homes; the coming of age of succeeding (albeit smaller) generations of young single-person households that may prefer urban living; and the socioeconomic circumstances and cultural preferences of growing immigrant populations, who often favor high-density locations. (See the discussion of these trends in Chapter 4.)


Changing development patterns to encourage more compact, mixed-use development has the potential to reduce VMT, energy use, and CO2 emissions. The question is by how much. In an upper-bound scenario,


As noted previously, congestion levels depend in part on the capacity of the existing road system, and reduced pollution from automobile travel is complex to calculate.

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