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Land development in New Jersey continues to slow

September 09, 2020

Land development in New Jersey has slowed dramatically since the 2008 Great Recession, but it's unclear how the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to fight societal and housing inequality will affect future trends, according to
Between 2012 and 2015, 10,392 acres in the Garden State became urban land. That's 3,464 acres a year - far lower than the 16,852 acres per year in the late 1990s and continuing the trend of decreasing urban development that began in the 2008 Great Recession.

While the rate of farmland converted to urban land decreased dramatically in recent years, the conversion of upland and wetland forests increased, according to the report.

That's concerning since these ecosystems play a critical role in removing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas linked to climate change, from the atmosphere and storing it in wood and forest soils.

New Jersey also lost nearly 4,400 acres (almost 7 square miles) of coastal salt marshes from 1986 to 2015 due to rising sea levels and coastal erosion. Such marshes are important fish and wildlife habitat and serve as important buffers against coastal storms.

"We have been tracking changes across the New Jersey landscape for nearly three decades and observed as the state transitioned from sprawling development through the 1980s and 1990s toward more concentrated urban redevelopment in the 2000s," said co-author

The report analyzes change in the state's land use/land cover between spring 2012 and spring 2015, based on N.J. Department of Environmental Protection data. The research, co-authored by Professor John Hasse at Rowan University, is part of an ongoing series of collaborative Rutgers and Rowan studies examining New Jersey's urban growth and land use change since 1986.

Between 2012 and 2015, the residential piece of the development pie dropped dramatically, becoming 40 percent of the urban development footprint. But as the economy began recovering post-2011, more housing units were built on less land, signaling a significant shift toward denser residential development. A trend toward urban redevelopment was also evident in Hudson, Union and Bergen counties.

Here are some of the report's other findings:

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