Meeting sustainable urbanism's goal of complete, compact and connected communities (see Urban Design with Nature) depends on mixing land uses, which lowers infrastructure costs, increases property taxes/acre, increases walkability and decreases traffic fatalities, and minimizes environmental impacts and increases a community's health and quality of life. A city can use its land use authority and other tools to help create a vibrant community that attracts jobs, fosters economic development, and that is an appealing place in which people can live, work, and recreate without having to drive everywhere for every activity of daily living. Growth can happen in a manner where roads, transit, schools, ecologic services, and access to retail, commercial, jobs, and industrial facilities are planned for and efficiently provided through connection and coordination with existing local and regional infrastructure and services.
In cities across the nation, neighborhoods and districts of compact development with a mix of land uses, transportation options and pedestrian-friendly design have reduced driving from 20% to 40% compared to large single-use zoning districts. And such areas have resulted in, to use the Urban Land Institute's phrase, cities of convenience, conviviality, and charm. And as the Congress for the New Urbanism phrases the challenge before cities: Disinvestment in central cities, the spread of placeless sprawl, increasing separation by race and income, environmental deterioration, loss of agricultural lands and wilderness, and the erosion of society’s built heritage is one interrelated community-building challenge.
As of July 1, 2009 the new Minnesota Education Omnibus Law includes provisions to eliminate minimum acreage requirements for schools, and to remove the bias against renovating, rather than rebuilding, old, typically more compact schools within walking and biking distance of residential neighborhoods.
The National Association of Realtor's 2011 Community Preference Survey reveals that most Americans would like to live in walkable communities where shops, restaurants, and local business are within an easy walk from their homes, as long as those communities can provide detached single-family homes. The survey also shows that most Americans would choose a smaller home and smaller lot if it would keep their commute time to 20 minutes or less.
The Livability Economy (AARP: 2015) report/design guide and infographic shows how livability initiatives contribute to improved economic performance and a more vibrant, desirable and competitive environment for housing and commercial investment. See links to 65 studies that quantify how urban places increase human, economic, and environmental wellness, and links to 135 studies on the impacts of form-based codes and compact, mixed-use development patterns.
Measuring the Health Effects of Sprawl (Smart Growth America: 2003) found that people living in sprawling developments tend to weigh more and have higher blood pressure, partly due to sorting themselves and partly due to lack of routine exercise opportunities. Active living by design, or design for health, focuses on making changes in the physical design of a city that facilitate people incorporating physical activity into their daily routines.