We need urban green space! And yes, we have to preserve agricultural land and wilderness areas. The biggest road blocks to achieving these objectives: suburbanites demanding development freezes to halt densification. Densification results in more urban green space – not less. Also, it helps prevent urban sprawl to more distant municipalities that grow by re-zoning agricultural land and cutting down forested areas.
I live in the Montréal suburb of Pointe-Claire. After the Second World War, veterans housing built in this municipality consisted of small homes on half-acre lots. Now, most of these small homes are being demolished and the large properties divided into two lots of about 10,000 square feet (“sf”) for new homes. So four homes will sit on two of the old half-acre lots – about 43,000 sf.
So a touch more density – but not much more! However, consider instead a development like Blackbirds in Los Angeles . The development sits on a little less than 36,000 sf and consists of:
Each half-acre lot sells for about $1.0 million and the land cost per home post-subdivision is about $600,000. The land cost for 18 homes on the same land assembly – approximately $135,000! A reduction of $465,000 per home goes a long way to improving home affordability.
Also, if Blackbirds uses 36,000 of 43,000 sf, another 7,000 sf remains available for a pocket park or perhaps access to a larger municipal park. An additional 14 homes means 14 families that do not need to move further away from the city creating urban sprawl that chews up agricultural land and forrest.
Automobile-friendly suburbs have shopping centres with huge parking lots – environmentally unfriendly heat islands. In order to reduce public reliance on cars, urban areas invest in rapid transit systems and promote transport oriented developments (“TOD(s)”). So, imagine a real estate owner that has a mass transit hub adjacent to its property. When considering the right things to do for both it and the community, it plans to:
These are two easily understandable examples of how adding density not only:
But also preserve and add to urban green space.
Additionally, the justifiable focus on preserving large existing green areas and park space overlooks other possibilities. New, dense development provides opportunity to be greener. Opportunity for environmentally friendly buildings, enhanced landscaping plans, and tree plantings / shaded areas in parking lots. And often lost in the shuffle, the opportunities to build small, neighbourhood pocket parks, particularly those that provide access to larger green areas.
Urban density is not the enemy of green space – it is its ally. Municipal stalling of the development of heat islands is not heroic. it is short-sighted. Development freezes of theses areas equal lost opportunity and lead to long delays in the greening of the urban environment and contribute to the housing shortage.
Before I fall completely into the trap of opposition politics, I have decided to take a break from never-ending criticism and to start suggesting solutions to the affordable housing conundrum. Do I have a plan? No, more a collection of ideas To start with, I think there are three key issues: Home ownership is not […]
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Don’t build it! At least, Not In My Back Yard ! I acted as an advisor in the sale of a beautifully natural, 14-acre urban waterfront estate. Existing zoning allowed for the development of 30 to 35 single-family homes, which after road dedication would leave very little green space. I did not think that was […]
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Vienna on top again. This week both Monocle Magazine and The Economist unveiled their quality of life / most liveable city indexes. There are differences in the way each publication sets its index. So it is even more impressive that once again, Vienna tops both lists. I am a bit lazy today so rather than […]
Many Viennese went from hot bedding to superblocks overnight. Could they even imagine an apartment complex 1000 metres long built along two streets with even more massive landscaped courtyards? Could they conceive of 1400 apartment units built to house 5000 people on 56,000 square metres or 38 acres of land. Or a vertical build-out that […]