Toronto architect Jack Diamond writes in the Globe and Mail about the real costs of sprawl, noting the economic burden for the homeowner, the community and the whole country. He notes that it just costs too much to support low density sprawl, but that doesn't mean we all have to live in high-rises.
Clearly low-density suburbs are unaffordable. Alternative housing types that meet child-rearing requirements and private ownership, but at densities that make supporting infrastructure affordable and public transit viable, are entirely possible and practical – and critically necessary.
Allowing single-family housing to become duplexes would double suburban density. The redevelopment of underutilized sites at densities somewhat higher than that of townhouses would go further. The redevelopment of shopping malls, with their acres of parking, into mixed-use developments served by public transit would transform them into vital new urban centres. None of these measures would detract from those who wish to remain in single-family housing.
Addressing the true costs of sprawl will reduce economic distortions and boost economic efficiency. Medium urban density will spread the fixed cost of infrastructure over more individuals and businesses – while bringing social, environmental and quality-of-life benefits. It will also improve access of businesses for workers and vice versa.
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