The beginnings of urban sprawl in the United States may be traced back to the 1950s suburban exodus. People desired to live outside of city centers in order to avoid traffic, noise, crime, and other issues, as well as to have larger homes with greater square footage and yard space. Unfortunately, there were no viable options available for them to do so, as most cities and towns had zoning laws that prevented people from building beyond their neighborhoods.
At this time, the only way to build farther from town was by moving away from your job, which limited its effectiveness as a means of escaping the problems of the city. Additionally, since there were no viable alternatives available, people began to invade neighboring properties, causing owners to seek legal action against trespassers. This led to the development of underground power lines and telephone cables that service most large cities, as well as highways built to connect suburbs to the cities they surround.
Urban sprawl has been spreading at a rapid rate since then, particularly due to developments in technology and the housing market. Today, millions of Americans live in areas characterized by empty fields and shopping malls instead of houses and businesses. The only option for getting closer to civilization is through expensive commuter routes that can be difficult to navigate during rush hour.
Urban sprawl is becoming a serious issue throughout the world.
The requirement to accommodate a growing urban population contributes to urban sprawl. In many metropolitan regions, however, it is driven by a need for more living space and other residential amenities. The term "sprawl" has several definitions, but generally refers to the dispersal of suburban houses beyond the original development area on land often far removed from employment or educational opportunities.
There are several reasons why urban sprawl occurs. One reason is that most cities in the United States are limited by law as to how large they can be, so new areas are always needed to meet growth requirements. If available land was not already being used for other purposes, such as agriculture or mining, then developers would have no choice but to spread out into the surrounding area which leads to sprawl.
Another reason is that people want to live close to where they work and go to school. This is especially true for young families who might not be able to afford a house in an older established neighborhood. They will usually choose to go into debt or move away from their friends and family if they cannot find housing near all the things they need.
Yet another reason is that transportation costs money, and people want to pay as little for their housing as possible.
Low-density, peripheral urban regions expand as a result of the transfer of homes and companies out from metropolitan centers. Proponents of limiting urban expansion claim that, in addition to being ecologically detrimental, sprawl causes urban degradation and a concentration of lower-income individuals in the inner city. However not all cities experience urban decay, suggesting that factors other than density alone determine whether or not a region experiences decline.
The term "urban decay" was coined by American photographer Walker Evans in his 1952 book Let's Go Places: Urban Photographs 1946-1951. Evans described it as "the deterioration of city neighborhoods produced by the shifting of population out of city centers into more spacious homes and offices on the periphery". He went on to say that such places lacked any "semblance of community life", were often infected with crime, and were generally unpleasant to be in. The phrase has since been applied to similar processes occurring in other large cities around the world.
In Europe, urban decay is most evident in former industrial cities that have fallen under the shadow of skyscrapers.
The rapid growth of the geographic range of cities and towns, frequently typified by low-density residential development, single-use zoning, and growing reliance on the private vehicle for transportation, is known as urban sprawl. Urban sprawl is often characterized by its lack of focus on any one particular area of activity, such as trade or industry. Instead, urban sprawl tends to spread out activity over large areas.
Urban sprawl can have many negative effects on the environment, including increased traffic congestion, air pollution, soil erosion, climate change, and the destruction of natural habitats. The impact of urban sprawl is especially severe in developing countries where there is a lack of regulation of building practices that result in high-density housing developments being built far away from city centers with no consideration given to transport infrastructure such as roads or public transportation.
In addition to having a negative effect on the environment, urban sprawl is also expensive. The cost of transporting people and goods over long distances is higher for individuals who own their own vehicles because they are not able to use their energy more efficiently. In addition, there are additional costs associated with building and maintaining roads over longer distances. Finally, urban sprawl can lead to the expansion of local governments' tax bases since more people means more revenue. However, since urban sprawl does not promote economic activity there is less demand for services which results in lower taxes.