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A Dissenting Opinion on the Subject of Compact, Affordable Cities

Writing for New Geography, Fannis Grammenos expresses skepticism that more compact cities are more affordable cities. In fact, Grammenos argues that just the opposite is true.
March 16, 2016, 8am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"We regularly hear the argument that living in a compact city is more affordable than living in one that is more spread out," according to an article by Fanis Grammenos. "But what does the data actually show about the cost of housing in compact cities, and the cost of transport in these dense places?" In exploring that question, Grammenos hopes to reveal more about what kind of places are most affordable, "since those two costs together dominate household budgets."

Grammenos is writing from a position of skepticism about the indices used to advocate for Smart Growth. Grammenos also states clearly that the conclusion of the analysis contained in the article contradict the prevailing wisdom of planning theory:

Yes, greater compactness is associated with higher housing costs and lower transportation costs. But, contrary to unsubstantiated assertions, when these are combined, the result is less — not more — overall affordability.

In response to this conclusion, Grammenos also provides a policy suggestion:

If anything, these results suggest that, because average housing expenses are double those of transportation, a yet-to-be-determined density ceiling might be an effective means of increasing a city’s affordability.

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Published on Tuesday, March 15, 2016 in New Geography
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