Op-Ed: Newer Model Density Falls Short of its Promise

The general principle is simple: more density equals lower prices and less environmental impact. But suburbia's imprint is deep, both on cities themselves and on how we expect to inhabit them.

July 27, 2015, 8:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

Yuppies Out

John M / Flickr

In an article on Grist, Ben Adler doubts whether the urbanist trend will be enough to combat the ills of low density. Although urban populations are rising, "We're watching the demographics of cities change without getting the carbon-emissions-reducing benefits that the back-to-the-cities movement promised."

After decades of what we now consider underdevelopment, cities face chronic housing shortages. "Given that it's the capital of a country with twice as many people as in 1950, you wouldn't expect Washington to have shrunk, would you? Well, it has, and it hasn't fully bounced back."

And even though developers are steadily adding units, social factors stemming from the suburban boom are getting in the way. "D.C. doesn't suffer from a shrinking stock of housing. In fact, it has the most dwelling units in its history — it just has fewer people in each home [...] Middle-class Americans have simply become accustomed to more private space and comfort than previous generations."

Adler traces part of the problem to the racial and spacial vagaries of urban infilling. "In certain neighborhoods that have become trendy, high demand bids up housing prices, empty lots get filled in, and the population grows. In other neighborhoods, demand remains low and abandonment continues." Environmentalists (and some urbanists) want to fill in these empty spaces, only to confront inevitable gentrification and displacement as prices rise. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015 in Grist

Soldier Field

Phase 1 Revealed for $20 Billion Chicago Megaproject

Plans for One Central, a proposed megadevelopment that would add 22.3 million square feet of buildings to the city of Chicago, are taking shape.

October 19, 2021 - Chicago Tribune

A screengrab of the Caharlotte Future virtual open house.

Top Websites for Urban Planning – 2021

Planetizen's annual list of the best of the urban planning Internet.

October 25, 2021 - James Brasuell

GIS Mobile App

Survey: What Mobile Apps Are Most Useful for Planning in 2021?

Planetizen is requesting your input in creating the definitive list of mobile apps for professional, student, academic, or citizen planners—updated for a planning profession forever altered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

October 18, 2021 - Planetizen

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.