Land Use Indicators
  • Number of permits issued
  • Number of housing starts
  • Change in urban area vs. change in population
  • Acres of farmland lost to development
  • Land per capita used for transportation
  • Change in amount of impervious surfaces

Talking Points
  • Which of these indicators address carrying capacity?
  • What types of capital are being addressed?
  • Which are measuring pressures, states or responses?
  • Which take a long-term view?
  • Which address links within the community?

For example, "number of permits issued," and "number of housing starts," although good measures for a housing department or a real estate developer, do not address carrying capacity or have links to other aspects of the community. Some aspects that are missing include: how much land is being used up in creating new houses, whether those houses are affordable to people living in the area or only to people moving in from outside the area, whether the housing results in more transportation needs or whether the housing is close to existing places of employment, shopping, education, and recreation.

"Change in urban area versus change in population" addresses "carrying capacity" in that many communities have increased the amount of land that they use at a much greater rate than the population is increasing. Clearly this is not a sustainable trend.

"Acres of farmland lost to development" and "land per capita used for transportation" also address carrying capacity in that there is a fixed amount of land available. These indicators also link land use to other areas, specifically food production and transportation.

"Change in the amount of impervious surfaces" links transportation and land use to water quality and addresses carrying capacity in that the impervious surfaces do not absorb water and increase the risk of flooding.

(If there is time, ask the participants for additional ideas for better indicators.)
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Copyright © 1998 Maureen Hart. All rights reserved.