Real estate developers and policymakers can promote equity, environmental resilience, and economic mobility by investing in forward-looking infrastructure, according to a new report from ULI. The report indicates that 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.

The report, Prioritizing Effective Infrastructure-Led Development, from the ULI Curtis Infrastructure Initiative, provides a comprehensive framework as the United States prepares to make its largest infrastructure investment in a generation.

“Simply maintaining existing infrastructure without new and restorative investments is not enough to support and create sustainable growth,” says Craig Lewis, chair of the 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. Our goal with this framework is to provide a resource that a diverse coalition of policymakers, real estate developers, and community leaders can use to move us forward and make a real difference in the social and economic health of communities.”

The report is informed by the views of national experts and practitioners who were brought together through various aspects of the Curtis Infrastructure Initiative’s programming, including the 2021 Shaw Symposium on Urban Community Issues and the ULI Member Global Infrastructure Survey. The framework identifies five key focus areas, outlining that infrastructure investments should:

  • Increase equity and sustainability: The United States must address the legacy of past investment that has divided communities physically, socially, economically, and digitally. 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.
  • 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. Adaptation and resilience are critical components of infrastructure investment so that communities can withstand and bounce back from extreme weather events.
  • Increase access to the internet: In today’s digital 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.
  • Increase housing affordability and attainability: As the United States continues to face a housing shortage, providing more affordable housing is imperative for ensuring that communities can thrive. Infrastructure investment, along with flexible and smart land use regulations, can help catalyze new private-sector housing production.

“We are excited to bring together members and other land use practitioners to discuss how historic levels of U.S. federal infrastructure investment can support the priorities identified as part of this framework,” said Paul Angelone, senior director of the ULI Curtis Infrastructure Initiative. “ULI can act as a guidepost to support transformative impact locally by leveraging the global membership network to ensure any infrastructure projects that advance as part of the real estate development process are people-centric and build stronger community and place.”

Over the course of 2022, ULI will also host an Infrastructure and Land Use Exchange Series, with each session focusing on a key priority of the Prioritizing Effective Infrastructure-Led Development report and a discussion on how to advance local projects. Register here for the series.

The full Prioritizing Effective Infrastructure-Led Development report is available on ULI’s Knowledge Finder platform.