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Smart Growth and Equitable Development

Background

The Mission Creek Senior Community project in San Francisco transformed a brownfield into an attractive, mixed-use community. It provides affordable apartments for seniors using green building techniques and materials. Photo courtesy of Mercy Housing California.

The Mission Creek Senior Community project in San Francisco transformed a brownfield into an attractive, mixed-use community. It provides affordable apartments for seniors using green building techniques and materials. Photo courtesy of Mercy Housing California.

Note: This page focuses on the intersection of smart growth, environmental justice, and equitable development. More comprehensive information on environmental justice is available from EPA's Office of Environmental Justice.

Low-income, minority, and tribal communities face an array of challenges, including proximity to polluting facilities, barriers to participating in decision-making processes, disproportionate levels of chronic disease, neighborhood disinvestment, and poor or no access to jobs and services. Many of these challenges are related to how communities and regions are planned and built. Smart growth approaches to development can be key tools to help address long-standing environmental, health, and economic disparities and provide new opportunities for low-income, minority, tribal, and overburdened residents.

Smart growth approaches encourage cleaning up and reinvesting in existing neighborhoods; providing housing choices for people of all income levels, household sizes, and stages of life; offering transportation options that are affordable, reduce air pollution and associated health impacts, and increase mobility for residents who do not drive; and improving access to jobs and services by creating development that is walkable and transit-accessible. Low-income, minority, tribal, and overburdened communities across the country are using these strategies, along with environmental justice and equitable development approaches, to design and build healthy, sustainable, and inclusive neighborhoods.

EPA defines environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”

The concept of equitable development draws on both environmental justice and smart growth and generally refers to a range of approaches for creating communities and regions where residents of all incomes, races, and ethnicities participate in and benefit from decisions that shape the places where they live.

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EPA Resources

General Resources

Creating Equitable, Healthy, and Sustainable Communities: Strategies for Advancing Smart Growth, Environmental Justice, and Equitable Development

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Technical Assistance Reports

EPA's Office of Sustainable Communities conducts technical assistance projects through the Smart Growth Implementation Assistance, Greening America’s Capitals, and Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities programs, as well as ad hoc assistance, to help tribes, states, regions, and communities find solutions to development-related challenges. Some of the projects that have paid particular attention to equitable development issues include:

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National Award for Smart Growth Achievement Winners

While many of the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement winners include equitable development strategies such as widespread public involvement, affordable housing, and transportation choices, the winners below focused particularly on low-income and underserved communities.

Photo of booths set up on sidewalks. Photo courtesy of the Denver Housing Authority.

Mariposa is home to a diverse group of residents who benefit from neighborhood events, nearby amenities, and proximity to public transit. Photo courtesy of the Denver Housing Authority.

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Other Resources


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