- freely available
Sustainability 2014, 6(9), 6467-6487; https://doi.org/10.3390/su6096467
2. Global City Comparisons
3. 10 Density Myths
3.1. Myth (1) High Density Housing is Bad for Your Health and Creates Social Problems
- Because biologists suggested it was unnatural and did tests with rats and monkeys in overcrowded conditions showing how their social organisation collapsed [17,18]. None of this research seems to have been repeatable (i.e., it was poorly done and others cannot see the same effects). When transferred to human conditions no evidence of density causing health and social problems can be found [19,20].
- Because from the industrial revolution cities there was a long held view that disease was spread through the air (via “miasma”) and thus the early town planners in Britain sought to reduce densities to provide a “wholesome supply of good air” [21,22]. Disease was afterwards discovered to be caused mostly by water-borne germs but the myth continued. In the 1960s, poor people in the UK, Australia and America were put into high-rise public housing; the result was health problems and crime with high-rise being blamed. Now crime and health problems are higher in low density poor suburbs but we do not tend to blame the housing density.
3.2. Myth (2) High Density Housing will Lower Land Values and Create Slums
3.3. Myth (3) Nobody Likes High Density Housing
3.4. Myth (4) The High Density Problem is Caused by Population and this Should be Stopped or People Put in Country Towns
3.5. Myth (5) High Density Housing Removes Trees, Places for Children to Play and Opportunities to Grow Food and Collect Rainwater
3.6. Myth (6) High Density Housing Consumes More Energy and Produces More Greenhouse Gas
3.7. Myth (7) High Density Housing is Not Necessary as Renewable Energy and Electric Vehicles will Mean we can Drive as Much as we Like
3.8. Myth (8) High Density Housing Development is Destroying the Heritage Buildings of Our Suburbs
3.9. Myth (9) High Density Housing Redevelopment is Wasting the Materials and Embedded Energy in Suburban Housing
3.10. Myth (10) High Density Housing is Not Good for the Economy
- Urban fringe housing is subsidized by State and Local governments. In Australia, this is around $100,000 per dwelling [51,67]. Similar data are found in American cities [68,69]. In Perth, this means $45.4 billion in the next 30 years unless redevelopment happens on appropriate sites in inner and middle suburbs .
- Urban fringe housing costs the economy hugely in extra transport costs due to the extra car travel. In Australian cities, each dwelling built on the fringe involves an additional $250 k over the lifetime of the house in travel cost. In the next 30 years, this will cost Perth $133.6 billion just in time lost to travelling. Denser cities have 5%–8% of their GDP spent on transport, low density cities have 12%–15% of their GDP spent on transport .
- Walkable high density areas have improved health due to greater walkability and improved productivity outcomes due to greater attentiveness and less days lost.
- Much more of the revenue from its residents is spent locally on personal services such as restaurants, childcare and entertainment rather than on cars and housing DIY, which invariably go out of the local economy.
|Benefits of Redevelopment in Denser |
Centers of Low Density Fringe Development
|Transport Cost |
|Greenhouse Cost |
|Health Cost |
|Total Savings |
Due to Density
4. Ten Density Truths
4.1. Truth (1) High Density Housing Provides the Opportunity to Use Population Growth as the Way to Create New and Exciting Housing Options Rather than Continuing Urban Sprawl
- better locations close to urban amenity,
- walkable urban design,
- affordable housing as well as top end apartments,
- aged peoples’ housing with universal access features, and
- renewable energy,
- automated waste collection,
- greywater recycling,
- biophilic urbanism, and
- low embedded energy construction materials.
4.2. Truth (2) High Density Housing Provides Architectural Diversity Opportunities in an Urban Townscape
4.3. Truth (3) High Density Housing Contributes to Solving the Big Problems of Oil Vulnerability and Climate Change
4.4. Truth (4) High Density Housing is the Only Way to Provide Affordable Housing in Good Locations that Enable Affordable Living
4.5. Truth (5) High Density Housing is Necessary to Enable New Distributed Small-Scale Green Technologies
4.6. Truth (6) High Density Housing Creates Opportunities for More Community and Creativity
4.7. Truth (7) High Density Housing Creates Better Economic Outcomes through Agglomeration Economics, Local Economic Benefits, Reduced Avoidable Costs and Less External Costs
- Agglomeration economies—Bringing more jobs together, bringing more people together in a city creates economic benefits due to greater face-to-face interactions, more sharing of skills and greater social capital . This is a major reason why high value jobs are mostly available where there is high density urbanism.
- Local economic benefits—when money earned locally is spent locally creating many more jobs in restaurants, entertainment and other local services .
- Reduced avoidable costs—when money is saved on fringe suburban development through using established infrastructure, services and transport (see Myth 10).
- Less external costs—less traffic, less pollution, less climate change, less rural land loss, less biodiversity threats... All end up as an economic cost in some way .
4.8. Truth (8) High Density Housing Provides Greening Opportunities through Biophilic Urbanism
4.9. Truth (9) High Density Housing Provides Cultural and Economic Diversity Opportunities in an Urban Townscape
4.10. Truth (10) High Density Housing Provides the Best Opportunities to Build Connected City Fabric, without Car Dependence, Especially with Urban Rail
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