WellUrban

Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cheerleaders for sprawl


Suburban property developer Hugh Pavletich and his allies at the American right-wing lobby group "Demographia" are at it again: blaming soaring house prices on rules designed to limit urban sprawl. I won't repeat the arguments that I wrote last year (in this post and letter), but it's good to note that people don't seem to be falling for it. There's a string of reader comments on the Herald's website, few of whom seem to buy the line that insufficient sprawl is to blame for high property prices. I especially like the comment by Julie Anne Genter: "Unlimited suburban development could perhaps lower the cost of housing in the short term, but it will create huge burdens for society in the medium and long term." There's also a thread on Public Address Cafe, which if you ignore my ill-informed comment on the CPI, also has some interesting reading.

It's perhaps worthwhile to consider that among Demographia's targets is Vancouver, which has the 13th "least affordable" housing in the world. Vancouver also regularly tops surveys of the best places to live, hinting at a simpler explanation of why anti-sprawl cities are becoming expensive: they're great cities, so people want to live there!

5 Comments:

At 3:52 PM, January 25, 2007, Blogger mikeymike said...

How lucky we are as Wellingtonians! A super efficient transport system that allows an easy commute from up the coast/Hutt in to work.

Then again we could be looking at Pavletich's Christchurch as the model city. Nice wide streets that you can stack full of cars. Not a bus to be seen. Certainly no rail!

Sprawl it up baby!

The Herald commenter you refer to is bank on Tom. A property developer rarely sees land use impact beyond settlement date.

 
At 4:44 PM, January 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Erm... I can't tell if guv is being sarcastic or not when he talks of being luck as Wellingtonians with a super efficient transport system. I'm guessing he must be.

On topic, I'd suggest sprawl isn't even a short term fix when you consider the costs of building new roads and utilities and such to service it.

 
At 6:10 PM, January 25, 2007, Blogger mikeymike said...

yep anon. sarcastic. not clever. i'll desist.
most of the infrastructure costs you speak of are paid for by the developer. unless you're talking environmental cost - in which case we all pay...

 
At 1:24 PM, January 26, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

"I can't tell if guv is being sarcastic or not when he talks of being luck as Wellingtonians with a super efficient transport system."

Possibly sarcastic, but by NZ standards it approaches the truth. I just love this quote from David Hayward's post on Public Address today:

"I love the staid bustle of Lambton Quay and the Wellington waterfront. I love the trolley buses, and the cable-car to the botanic gardens. I love the green belt that swaddles the city. And I love the commuter rail system -- public transport that actually works! Wellington feels like a proper city: the sort they have in other countries."

I should use that as my tagline for WellUrban!

"most of the infrastructure costs you speak of are paid for by the developer"

And that's one of the things that Paveltich is complaining about: he's trying to get us to believe that the "developer's contribution" (along with zoning) is what stops people affording housing. In other words, he's trying to get everyone else to subsidise developers' profits.

And AFAIK, the developer's contribution only covers basic physical infrastructure, such as local sewerage and roads, not social infrastructure such as libraries and schools. And certainly not the bloody big motorways required to move all those people from their far-flung "cheap" housing!

 
At 4:49 PM, January 26, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the developer's contribution only covers basic physical infrastructure, such as local sewerage and roads, not social infrastructure such as libraries and schools. And certainly not the bloody big motorways required to move all those people from their far-flung "cheap" housing!"

Yep.

In actual fact developers of new subdivisions should be required to develop the main arterial roads and so forth that go along with making it viable. In this day-n-age that should also include transit rights of way. A good example in Wellington might be whats going up out at Linconshire Farm (if I remember its name right). I'm not entirely opposed to this development because on a regional scale it is actually quite close to the city. Though I do think its design could be a little denser and more "urban". (Perhaps a bugger the hills grid approach which I love about most north american West Coast cities.)

Anyway back to the point. There is actually a viable Johnsonville Light Rail extension route that could service this development and the proposed business park, however because development has been proceeding without any thought to this in the planning by the Council, or requirements for ROWs to be allocated, it'll never be feasible once the suburb is complete.

So the Business Park will be only accessible by the new 4 lane Grenada to Petone highway, rather than the terminus of a light rail line. This is the reason I'm opposing the development.

Is a bit of forward thinking too much to ask for?

 

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