DO WE HAVE TO GROW UP TO BECOME MORE AFFORDABLE?2018-03-09 16:06:29 Posted By Amir Hamzehali
Cities facing high housing demand can respond by growing in two ways—outward, through the construction of new communities at the urban fringe, or upward, by accommodating more residents in existing urban areas. When the outward option butts up against mountains, oceans and rivers, or protected lands, cities looking to accommodate newcomers must grow upward, resulting in what city planners call “higher density.”
Our largest cities like Vancouver or Toronto are under high amounts of pressure to grow quickly as the population and housing demand increases fast. In both cities and their surroundings, the vacancy rates are at historic lows while housing prices are at historic highs.
How do population densities in our big cities compare to other wealthy growing cities around the world?
The Fraser Institute study shows that, relatively speaking, our large cities aren’t all that dense:
Vancouver at 5,493 inhabitants per square kilometre is Canada’s densest city followed by Toronto at 4,457 inhabitants per square kilometre. Comparing these numbers with cities like San Francisco with 7,171, New York with 10,935, or Paris with 21,067 inhabitants per square kilometre confirms that our large cities have much more room to “grow up”.
Other studies made by consulting firm Mercer’s annual Quality of Living Rankings, shows no negative correlation between a city’s density and that city’s quality of living. For example, Montreal and Singapore rank 23rd and 25th on the ranking, even though Singapore is more than twice as dense.
Now the important question remains - why we are so slow in terms of “growing up” if the Canada’s cities are not all that dense and more density need not come at the expense of living standards?