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Suburbs are so last century, planners want dense urban cores

Houston. A classic doughnut city.

Houston. A classic doughnut city.

City planners who want to drain those bothersome suburbs and doughnut cities and put people in walkable urban cores ignore economics and basic facts, says New City Journal in Australia. Jobs are not always in the core, plus jamming people together creates horrendous traffic jams, no matter how much the area is planned for walking and sustainability.

Platitudes like “we must locate people close to where they work”, or “we must locate jobs close to where people live”, have little basis in reality. They infringe another immovable law of economics, relating to economic rents or bid-rents. This mechanism determines how industries and firms are distributed. Put simply, a parcel of land will go to whichever use delivers the highest profits. Centrally located land (near major transport or infrastructure hubs) commands high prices, and goes to the most profitable uses.

Among other things, living in a redeveloped city core means rental and condo prices will be at nosebleed levels with only the well-off able to live in their sustainably designed downtown, with the little people commuting in from elsewhere.

  • DJ

    The suburbs are an economic phenomenon. Change the economics, and your change living patterns.

    Suburbs resulted from the availability of cheap transportation (an abundance of cheap fossil fuels) combined with the sudden availability of decent highways allowing middle-class people to live away from their work. Both resulted from taxpayer subsidies – in the former case, the installation of friendly dictators (at the point of a taxpayer-purchased gun) in certain key oil-producing nations, followed by generous tax incentives for oil development; in the latter, the construction of the federal interstate highway system. The interstate system was intended to provide mobility for the military, but it also had unintended economic consequences. Let’s face it: Walmart (and the suburbs) could not exist without the interstates.

    As we pass peak oil, and as the national debt reaches seven times annual federal revenues, it should be clear that the days of cheap, taxpayer-subsidized petroleum are numbered. Rising fuel prices have an economic effect on housing: people seek to live closer to their jobs to avoid the crushing cost of commuting. Will the suburbs go away? Probably not. There are indeed jobs there. But the days of “urban sprawl” as a development plan will no longer make sense.

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