Urban Expansion

Humanity is now halfway through a massive multi-generational urbanization project. Over the past two centuries, most people in the more developed countries have moved to cities. Now, people in the global south are voting with their feet, and cities in the less developed countries are growing so that they can accommodate rural-to-urban migrants and the natural increase in their populations. The Urban Expansion program works with rapidly growing cities to better prepare them for their inevitable growth.

We believe in “stakes-in-the-ground”—a focus on tangible results, rather than on idealistic master plans that gather dust. We work with visionary leaders at the local, regional, and national levels to assist them in making long-term preparations in urban peripheries that facilitate orderly, efficient, equitable, and sustainable expansion.

This means embracing the idea of “Making Room” for population growth by preparing cities for both urban expansion and densification. Orderly urban expansion has governments acquiring public lands to lay out the periphery of the city in advance of development, providing an organized framework for growth. Effective densification takes place when municipal governments allow for redevelopment and infill of existing areas by implementing supportive regulations. When cities are unable to guide expansion or densify—whether due to bureaucratic ineptitude, lack of resources, or political resistance—the city continues to grow, but in a chaotic manner that is less inclusive, less productive, and less sustainable.

The Making Room agenda is based on evidence and data. We monitor global and national urban expansion. More specifically, we collect and analyze data on the quantity and quality of urbanization in a global stratified sample of 200 cities. By understanding past urban population growth and expansion, we can project realistic scenarios and study their possible effects on housing affordability, sustainable development, climate-change resilience, and metropolitan governance. Armed with this knowledge, decision-makers can better address the challenges of urban growth and expansion.

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