Speaker Argues Against Compact Cities

Media Appearances, Housing Affordability, Frontier Centre

Participants at a housing innovation and infrastructure forum heard a defence of detached housing and against compact cities.

Wendell Cox, an international public policy consultant specializing in urban policy, transport and demographics, told the audience at the forum cities that have urban containment policies push up housing prices and make them less affordable.

"Urban containment is essentially the idea of drawing lines around urban areas and not allowing growth on the outside," Cox said, citing cities such as Vancouver and Portland, Ore., with these policies in place.

"The test of a successful city is a city that maximizes discretionary incomes and this requires housing affordability and mobility."

He said the problem with urban containment policies is that it rations land.

"To maintain housing affordability, you must maintain a competitive land supply," he said. "It's not the house prices that are the problems. It is the land prices."

He thinks urban policies in many places are misplaced.

"No one moves to the city for good urban planning. Nobody moves to the city for the fountains. You move there because of the economic opportunity."

Cox, who is based in St Louis and has links with conservative think-tanks, said housing affordability is key to the economic growth of a city.

People with more discretionary income will spend more, creating growth, he said.

"We need to be thinking about moving urban policy from means … to objectives, to encourage and facilitate economic growth and household affluence."

The forum, which continues Thursday, is put on by the Saskatoon & Region Home Builders' Association.