Inner-city vacancy, environmental degradation and social inequality are fundamental concerns for 21st century America. Post-Second World War America was a place of prosperity and rapid economic growth. Government investment, in the form of federal incentives — including the G.I. Bill and the Federal Aid Highway Act — allowed Americans to spread out from the city-center farther than before. Termed suburban sprawl, this land-use pattern had, and continues to have, disastrous effects on the environment.

A study by Edward Glaeser shows that suburban CO2 emissions in New York City are 14,127 pounds greater per average household than their central city counterpart. Additionally, as suburbs and exurbs flourish and tax dollars are funneled into these communities, central cities increasingly become economically, academically and physically stressed. Cities such as Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit and Philadelphia are littered with the effects of urban decay. Philadelphia, for instance, has more than 40,000 parcels of vacant land, according to the nonprofit Take Back Vacant Land. These properties cost the city of Philadelphia $70 million in lost taxes, and $20 million is spent by the city, annually, for safety and upkeep.

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