The Debate Continues: Pros and Cons of Urban Intensification

The dream of most couples used to be 2.5 kids and a house in the suburbs surrounded by a white picket fence. Now, according to municipal planners, families should scratch out “suburbs” and insert “smart growth urban communities” instead.

Arising from a shift toward urban intensification, these communities include high-density housing where everything you need is available at your fingertips. No more gas-consuming commutes. Urban intensification offers amenities and promotes walking, biking and transit-taking.

Furthering their claim, supporters of smart growth communities note that the shift not only accommodates fast-paced population growth but also protects the environment in several ways.

However, critics are wary of the move. For them, “high density” living is a colorful way to describe cramped housing. They’re expressing concerns over the depletion of local resources and a diminished quality of life.

They also note that the higher cost of real estate, caused by shortages of housing and buildable land, may have an opposite of what is intended: It may send people (and jobs) to the suburbs for more affordable housing.

But aren’t communities that encourage walking and biking more “healthy”? The jury’s still out, but studies comparing activity levels of kids in the ‘burbs and city kids indicate that city kids play more outdoors. However, this isn’t yet linked to their health status.

The debate continues. Whether the new dream becomes the condo in the sky will be determined, ultimately, by where people want to live. As always, we’ll vote with our feet.


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