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The Chicken-and-egg issues of sprawl; the high price of living in the centre...

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  • Todd Edelman
    Hi, Recently I think the following was posted on the Carfree Network list: Urban growth and cars: Chicken-and-egg issue By Elisabeth Rosenthal Full story:
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 12, 2007
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      Recently I think the following was posted on the Carfree Network list:

      Urban growth and cars: Chicken-and-egg issue
      By Elisabeth Rosenthal

      Full story:

      Carlos Pardo <carlos.pardo@...> reposted it on the Sustran list and

      "Its funny how it seems that people cant choose to live inside the cities"

      and I replied:

      "THE insides of cities in many cities in Europe are generally really
      expensive right now. This is a complicated problem directly related to all
      our sprawl and mobility discussions but I dont see enough discussion about
      it, never mind solutions."

      To which Lee Schipper <SCHIPPER@...> said:

      "Six years ago I raised this issue to the UITP guy selling the Millennium
      data base... why was there nothing about housing and land costs/rents
      etc. The insides of most Asian and L American cities are also expensive in
      the central, most desirable areas.

      The UITP answer was that this was a fiduciary problem, almost a fiction.

      In fact it is what drives sprawl. Land farther out is cheaper. Homes are
      larger. And in the densest of cities, living space is less than in the
      less dense cities. The World Bank's "Sustainable Transport" from 1996
      takes the Newman And Kenworthy data (which morphed into the Millennium
      data base) and looks at gasoline per capita vs housing space per capita,
      and voila.. those living in the cities with the highest NK "gasoline per
      capita" have the highest home area per capita and by implication from N
      and K the lowest population densities.

      Yet look at all the environmentalist generated blather on sprawl and you
      never see housing costs; how much more does it cost to live 100 m from a
      metro vs 1 km away? We hear about which people spend the most or least
      on transport, but not how much the same people spend on housing, yet we
      know that housing cost may be a more sensitive function of location than
      distance travelled.

      I am writing this from a hotel in Tokyo close to the center and some of
      the most expensive land in the world. And the Tokyo city residents who
      live near in without a car have less space/capita to live in than those in
      the rest of japan or even in the outer suburbs of Tokyo

      So in discussing sprawl, lets talk about what could be the main driving
      force, desire for living space. And let's remember in the US case tax
      deductions let us deduct all our mortgage interest from the home loan, in
      contrast to (more compact) Canada. Kinda makes you wonder whether in all
      of the studies of km we should have been studying square meters of home


      SOME thoughts:

      * More internalisation of the costs of transport will make living in the
      suburbs even more expensive relative to living in the centre, and it will
      effect construction costs, depending on where the materials and machines
      are coming from.

      * I propose that the green mobility people start talking about
      densification and the densification people start talking about its
      unintended effects :-)

      Seriously, this issue IS rarely mentioned, BUT sometime in the past six
      months or so someone on the Carfree Cities list mentioned they were
      working on it or familiar with some particular parts of it, and Joel
      Crawford recognized that the issue was important and asked for info...

      What became of that?

      Is there more research and real examples which people can share?

      On one hand it seems densification could lower prices as it will add
      housing units, but on the other it would make the neighbourhood more
      desirable (e.g. for self-selecting home-seekers, who are prepared to live
      in less space and carfree) which would counter that.

      Clearly, there are some "little piggy" issues here, as with getting people
      out of their cars: We spend lots of energy on creating alternatives to
      cars (and motorised two wheelers), and not enough on holistic and
      sustainable reasons why people should sacrifice (of course for many people
      the sacrifice is an illusion: it is only relative to their current overuse
      or resources) and simply be more responsible, i.e. lowering their
      ecological footprint to a reasonable level).

      So, this means people have to live in smaller homes, not just bigger homes
      for the same price further away. There are discounted loan programmes in
      some places for people that liver near transit hubs, and that may be a
      good start but it is certainly not enough, as the evidence shows.

      I would really like this issue to be a central theme of among other things
      the Towards Carfree Cities events in 2007 in Istanbul and 2008 in
      Portland, Oregon OR San Luis Potosi, Mexico. This means lots of outreach
      to urban planning and spatial planning specialists, and advisers to and
      people from public and even private housing loan entities, architects, and
      so on. Clearly we wont get too many people to help with this issue from
      UITP and other parts of the Green Mobility Mob, but of course they also
      have to participate. I spoke to middle-level person at UITP in the past
      year about this issue, and I think they are at least sensitive to it and
      possibly willing to listen, but they - and other large organisations -
      dont recruit staff who specialise in the issue... so we cant expect too
      much until our great arguments persuade them to expand their focus.



      Todd Edelman
      Green Idea Factory

      Korunní 72
      CZ-10100 Praha 10
      Czech Republic

      ++420 605 915 970
      Skype: toddedelman


      Green Idea Factory,
      a member of World Carfree Network
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