ULI: Infrastructure Investment Can Yield More Equitable, Sustainable Communities

Real estate developers and policymakers can promote equity, environmental resilience and economic mobility by investing in forward-looking infrastructure, said the Urban Land Institute, Washington, D.C.

“Recognizing infrastructure, land use and real estate development as interconnected facets of the built environment is necessary for creating both long-term real estate and community value,” ULI said in a new report, Prioritizing Effective Infrastructure-Led Development.

“Simply maintaining existing infrastructure without new and restorative investments is not enough to support and create sustainable growth,” said Craig Lewis, Chair of the ULI Curtis Infrastructure Initiative Global Advisory Board. “Nor does it tap into the unique value-enhancing relationship created by the real estate development process between those who build and maintain infrastructure, the developers of buildings and the end user.”

Curtis noted the report includes a “framework” to give policymakers, real estate developers and community leaders a path forward toward more social and economic health in communities.

The framework focuses on five key areas, saying infrastructure investments should:

–Increase equity and sustainability: “The U.S. must address the legacy of past investment that has divided communities physically, socially and digitally,” ULI said. “Holistic and integrated infrastructure investment requires efficient allocation of resources and must help to repair systemic inequities.”

–Invest in public transportation and mobility: “Enhancing public transportation is essential for increasing access to jobs and bolstering economic opportunity. People-centric urban development must include reliable, frequent and accessible public transportation,” the report said.

–Combat the global threat of climate change: “As the cost of inaction related to climate change increases, promoting decarbonization and other net-zero strategies is vital,” ULI said. “Adaptation and resilience are critical components of infrastructure investment so communities can withstand and bounce back from extreme weather events.”

–Increase access to the Internet: “In today’s digitalized world, the availability of high-speed Internet is critical for economic participation and mobility. Broadband should no longer be viewed as a luxury, but instead as necessary infrastructure akin to electricity and water,” the report said.

Finally, the report suggested developers and policymakers increase housing affordability and attainability. It called providing more affordable housing “imperative” for ensuring communities can thrive and noted infrastructure investment, along with smart land-use regulations, can catalyze new private-sector housing production.