Call for sprawl
The papers and radio stations today are full of a story about a report that blames councils for unaffordable housing in New Zealand. Apparently, "loony" councils are locking up land, thus reducing the supply and driving up prices beyond what the average New Zealander can afford.
So who is it that cares so much about the affordability of housing? A poverty action group? A grass-roots movement of disenfranchised would-be homeowners? Not exactly: the study was carried out by Christchurch property developer Hugh Pavletich, in association with right-wing American think tank Demographia. Demographia's Wendell Cox and his various organisations are well known for wrapping themselves "in a mantle of libertarianism to advance the interests of large corporations" (from Architecture Chicago Plus). They have always claimed that attempts to control urban sprawl drive up house prices as well as restricting the rights of "individuals" (read: developers and corporations) when in fact there is "plenty of land" available. See Sprawl Watch for information on these pro-sprawl advocates and a rebuttal of some of their common claims.
One policy that they object to is the "developers' contribution". Essentially they object to councils that refuse to subsidise private property developers, instead insisting that developers actually pay for the infrastructure (roads, water, sewerage) that greenfield development requires. If uncontrolled sprawl produces housing that is cheaper in the short term, it makes up for it in the long run, even for the homeowners themselves. The Sierra Club has published a report showing how sprawl drives up rates, and their transport costs will soar with increased commuting distances. And everyone else shares the cost of the extra infrastructure, not to mention putting up with increased pollution, road deaths and having motorways driven through their neighbourhoods.
Pavletich says that there is plenty of land, and says that he can look out onto the Canterbury Plains and wonder why the councils aren't zoning it for residential use quickly enough. He can't wait to convert this into a debased landscape of McMansions, megamalls and motorways, pocketing a quick profit while the rest of the city is left to pay for the physical and civic infrastructure required to turn it into some semblance of a city.