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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

 

Urban Sprawl Not Just a Problem for the Developed World

It seems to make sense that urban sprawl isn't just a problem that the developed world faces. As the article states, the developing world is facing problems with sprawl as well, but for different reasons. The developed world's sprawl seems primarily due to people choosing to move out of the cities, while sprawl in the developing world is occurring because there is nowhere else to live in the highly populated cities. Too many people are being born with nowhere to live inside the cities, so they are forced to move outward, unlike the people of the developed world, who choose to move outward.

The article suggests that the developing world faces sprawl because they have looked towards the developed world for ideas of how to plan for developing, and this has caused them to fall in the same sand pit as the developed world. One solution that the article suggests the developing world should look at to help solve the sprawl problem is reusing old buildings and land in the inner cities in a more efficient way, such as turning old abandoned schools or other building into housing or other more efficient uses. The article suggests that the problem and ultimately the solution to sprawl is to look at efficient uses of land space. I agree that land should be used in an efficient manner; however, I don't believe that this solves the problem.

While efficiency, by definition, makes the best use of the land possible, doesn't necessarily mean that it will solve or even inhibit sprawl. For instance, it depends on how efficiency is being weighed. What is more efficient, housing for people, or skyscrapers for businesses for income? From an economic standpoint, it may make more sense to use abandoned land in the inner city for enormous skyscrapers to attract more business, more taxes and wealth, which would force people to move outward because of lack of available land for housing in the inner city. In this situation, the land within the city appears to be being used in the most efficient manner (if efficiency is weighed heaviest by economics and wealth), yet sprawl will continue to exist because people are forced to live outside the city where land exists for housing. If too much land within the city is designated to housing, then it seems that you could either end up with too much housing and not enough people since there isn't enough land for businesses and thus no jobs so people don't want to live there, or if people do occupy all the dwellings then businesses would naturally follow to make profit from all the people and because people are making money, they would naturally want to move out of the concentrated areas (outside the city), creating sprawl or businesses would buy up housing within the city to build their business, which would force people to the outskirts to live. Either way it seems like you end up with sprawl, if you use the broad reasoning given in this article.

Sprawl almost seems to be a natural occurrence where cities exist. This article shows that it exists within high density cities in developing countries, and we know it happens within less dense cities within the developed world, which are two examples on both ends of the spectrum (one by necessity and one by choice of luxury). Within the developed world, sprawl happens by choice and within the developing world, sprawl happens by necessity, and in both situations would seem to still occur even if land was used in it's most efficient manner (because defining efficient land use in terms of housing doesn't curtail sprawl and neither does it seem that weighing efficiency in terms of building offices for economic benefits). Perhaps sprawl is a natural occurrence in cities by either necessessity, choice or other unknown reasons and perhaps this is why it is so difficult to address all of the major causes of sprawl and more importantly determining a solution for sprawl.

Comments:
". . . which would force people to move outward because of lack of available land for housing in the inner city."

I think you posted before we talked about the location of economic activity within a city, so you may not have noticed the question I'm about to ask. What does it mean to say that there is a lack of available land for housing in the inner city?

When we discussed the location of economic activities within an urban area we said that the economic use for a parcel of land would be the use that was willing to pay the most for the parcel. So, doesn't saying there is a lack of available land for housing, really mean that other economic users are willing to pay more to use than land than are people who would use the land for housing?
 
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