Author: Wendell Cox
“Urban sprawl”. Concern over this low-density suburban development in Canada, the United States, Australasia, Western Europe and Japan has prompted an “anti-sprawl” policy agenda often referred to as “smart growth.” In general, smart growth involves establishing intrusive and arbitrary controls on land use. It prohibits urban development outside “urban growth boundaries,” increases neighbourhood population densities and tries to substitute mass transit for highways to accommodate population growth. A world leader in smart growth has been Portland, Oregon. Many urban planners view Portland as a model for limiting sprawl. While most urban areas in North America are not willing to adopt Portland’s more radical policies, some Canadian cities are expressing considerable interest in smart growth.
In the latest paper in AIMS’ Urban Futures project, “Smart Growth”: Threatening the quality of life, author Wendell Cox challenges the many assumptions promoted by smart growth advocates. He argues the evidence is mounting that Portland’s smart growth policies simply don’t work. Traffic congestion has worsened considerably. Housing prices have been forced up by land rationing and a shortage of commercial land appears to be hurting the regional economy. Voters have gone so far as enacting a referendum prohibiting further densification of existing neighbourhoods. As a result, Portland finds itself retreating from its smart growth policies.