Up or Out?

Examining the Trade-offs of Urban Form

+ Jason Krupp, Khyaati Acharya


Co-authored by Jason Krupp and Khyaati Acharya, Up or Out?  Examining the Trade-offs of Urban Form analyses the assumption that in order to accommodate an ever-growing population, cities need to build up, not out. The idea behind this suggestion is that denser, more compact cities achieve higher levels of productivity, greater housing affordability, better health outcomes and less traffic congestion. But do they really?

Research into the historical trends and academic literature on the subject finds the argument for compact cities is far from clear cut. In many cases this urban ideology exacerbates the very problems it looks to solve. Quantitative research reveals US investment in trains has not alleviated traffic congestion, compact cities often have the least affordable housing markets, and urban form changes only have a marginal influence on obesity.

The aim of this report is not to say that rail is not an important part of the urban transport mix, or that suburban housing is preferable to apartments. Rather, the goal is to lay bare the trade-offs that urban residents will have to live with when choosing to adopt a compact city development plan.


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Jason Krupp is a Research Fellow at The New Zealand Initiative and a former business reporter at The Dominion Post.

Khyaati Acharya is a Research Assistant at The New Zealand Initiative working alongside Dr. Bryce Wilkinson on the FDI project.

Tile image courtesy of Geof Wilson via Flickr.

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