The U.S. is a growing nation, and growth sometimes brings controversy. "Urban sprawl," the outward, low-density development of towns and cities into previously undeveloped or less developed areas, has become part of the public debate and discourse. The effects of urban sprawl are even visible from space: NASA satellite technology has documented from high above the spread of urban environments. While urban sprawl often provokes criticism, it has some beneficial aspects as well.
Sprawl sometimes occurs when developers build homes at the outlying areas of a metropolis, where land costs tend to be lower, according to the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). As a result, residential and commercial real estate costs become more affordable for the home buyer or entrepreneur, resulting in a generally lower cost of living.
So-called "strip development," which occurs along major roadways and is another factor of urban sprawl, contributes another positive effect. PERC reports that by concentrating commercial establishments that rely on auto traffic within a confined space, strip development actually minimizes traffic by reducing the number of cars on the road and the distance they must travel to a given business. Moreover, this form of development "creates natural locations for residential development" that conveniently link residents with the businesses they patronize.
Urban sprawl may also benefit the environment. A Congressional report on sprawl states low-density development is better for air quality because it disperses air pollution over a wider area. Additionally, low-density areas make more room for green spaces--trees, parks and yards--which help minimize both air and water pollution.
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