Density is good

Increasing urban density not only increases the transport mode share of active travel but is makes housing more affordable too. Of all the things that the Governments could consider, “boosting density in inner and middle suburbs” has the most positive and greatest impact on housing affordability.

Perhaps it is not surprising that that measures that are political easy, have less impact on housing affordability and the benefits are less positive or even negative. One of the favourites – FHB grants/concession – has the most negative of impacts. is not really about housing affordability. We are about urban forms that improve our health, wellbeing, sustainability and builds stronger communities. Canberra is entering a period of urban renewal. Increasing urban density, from the low which is typical now, to medium density greatly increases the attractiveness of active travel and with it cycling.

The National Housing and Homelessness Agreement needs urgent repair: submission to the Productivity Commission review, Brendan Coates and Joey Moloney, Grattan Institute, March 2022, 16.

Victor Gruen on density

Before we are able to apply the tenets of our planning philosophy successfully, we will have to rid ourselves from some deeply ingrown beliefs, concepts and prejudices.

You will have to throw overboard the prejudice that high density is in all cases a devil and low density therefore an all cases angelic. The low suburban densities arrived at by placing detached houses with useless side yards in length wasting manor on a subdivision can be diabolical. High density, on the other hand, is a prerequisite for concentrated activity areas. Our greatest efforts I believe, must go into the direction of inventing and developing methods of multiple length usage, by which the highest practical density of land can be obtained without infringing on the supply of air, life, mobility and privacy.

You must forget the idea that it is virtuous to separate human activities from each other… The encroachment, if properly planned is exactly what creates urban interest, variety and dynamism and ease of communication. Encroachment is the salt of the earth. The compartmentalised cities are unworkable and unliveable. The filing cabinet principle is not applicable to human life.

We must throw away the old wives’ tale that a free choice must be given everywhere to everybody between using length wasting private transportation and land savings public transit in highly developed urban areas. This is just like stating there should be a free choice between making an honest living or stealing from society. Wherever land is in short supply, it is an irreplaceable natural resource and misusing this resource is just like feeling… (we should not misuse this resource).

Victor Gruen speech at the AIA, San Fernando Valley Chapter, undated. 1964. University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Centre (AHC), YouTube, accessed 6 January 2022.

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