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

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Don't fall for sprawl

I haven't written many rants to the leters pages this year. I thought I might have a go at John Macalister's letter today (continuing with his insistence that the waterfront is about to be "built-up"), but the whole waterfront debate is getting a bit stale and it's nice to look at the good things that are happening. Instead, I thought that the Demographia "report" promoting suburban sprawl demanded a critical attack, and not just in an obscure blog. So I wrote a letter (mostly adpated from my post the other day) and sent it off to the Dominion Post:
How sweet of Hugh Pavletich to care about the affordability of housing. In reality, what actually concerns him and right-wing American lobby group Demographia is the ability of suburban property developers to make a quick profit from subdivisions while externalising the cost of infrastructure.

We're already running out of land that's close enough to the city to enable cheap, sustainable transport. The price of a house is only part of the story: how "affordable" will it be to live in his sprawling, car-dependent suburbs when oil prices soar even higher? Meanwhile, the entire city shares the costs of roading, sewerage and water, as well as having to put up with increased pollution, road deaths and having motorways driven through our neighbourhoods.

We need more housing supply, but in medium-density mixed-use communities close to the city or public transport, not further and further out into the countryside. Pavletich, on the other hand, can't wait to convert the country into a debased landscape of McMansions, megamalls and motorways, pocketing the profit while the rest of us pay for the physical and civic infrastructure required to turn it into some semblance of a city.


At 4:15 pm, January 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was wondering who Demographia were, and why the media would report on this (complete with comments that suggest serious bias) as if it was a legitimate study. Coming up next: heavily-funded "think tank" publishes non-peer-reviewed report that agrees completely with its sponsors.

Odd how the sprawling cities of Auckland and Christchurch are less affordable than Wellington...

At 8:52 pm, January 26, 2006, Blogger Baz said...

Demographia have an interesting spin to put on a long run of economic growth fuelling a bouyant housing market, not normally considered a bad thing.

I'm sure they have done plenty of research: but if you start with a conclusion and then sift through a mass of statistics, you can cherry pick until you're able to 'prove' your point. Why did they pick 100 cities in 6 countries if they're comparing legislative effects? Why not 100 cities in 20 countries? How did they factor in available land per person or different interest rates or regulations for overseas buyers? And of course timing is critical: housing in NZ was more affordable a couple of years ago, and by most guesses will become more afforable in the next few years.

I would take the report more seriously if it had come from a neutral and statistically literate organisation. The NZ author is a property developer who riddles his his commentary with politically-loaded language like "excessive land use regulation", "land supply in New Zealand has been stuffed up" and "their loony tunes policies".

Treat as you would a Philip Morris report on tobacco risks.

At 11:35 am, January 27, 2006, Blogger s. said...

Good on ya, Tom, give 'em heaps.

You will have noticed the piece in the Dom Post (A2, the other day - possibly even yesterday) which addressed complaints by Rex whatever (the Working Style guy) reminiscent of your remarks on the brick planters in Woodward Street. One assumes you would have noticed, anyway.

At 4:52 pm, January 27, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

You assumed correctly, Stephen: I was thinking about posting about it, but haven't got around to it yet. I have a hunch that Mr Working Style was responsible for the sign, and I might pop in and ask some time.


Post a Comment

<< Home