Word on the Street

Perverse Cities: Hidden Subsidies, Wonky Policy & Urban Sprawl

  • Date: Monday, November 07, 2011
  • Time: 7:30 PM
  • Location: First Unitarian Church
  • Address: 170 Dundurn Street South, Hamilton ON (Google Maps)
  • Contact: Friends of Red Hill Valley

In the Seventh Annual Spirit of Red Hill Valley Lecture, Dr. Pamela Blais discusses the thesis of her book, Perverse Cities.

Urban sprawl — low-density subdivisions and business parks, big box stores and mega-malls — has increasingly come to define city growth despite decades of planning and policy.

Urban planning has focused on curbing sprawl by treating its symptoms — aiming to regulate more compact, livable urban forms into being.

Most urbanists view sprawl as an expensive and unsustainable pattern of development. Yet a few defend it as the natural expression of the market neutrally responding to consumer demand and as a reflection of consumers’ lifestyle preferences.

In Perverse Cities, Pamela Blais argues that both views fail to recognize market distortions and flawed policy that drive sprawl. She shows that, as a result of crude public policies, a wide range of urban goods and services are subject to inaccurate price signals, including housing, non-residential properties, transportation and utilities.

Mis-pricing creates hidden, “perverse” subsidies and incentives that promote sprawl while discouraging more efficient and sustainable urban forms — clearly not what most planners and environmentalists have in mind.

Perverse Cities makes the case that accurate pricing and better policy are fundamental to curbing sprawl and shows how this can be achieved in practice through a range of market-oriented tools that promote efficient, sustainable cities.

This lecture is organized by Friends of Red Hill Valley and co-sponsored by Environment Hamilton, Urbanicity, OPIRG McMaster, Kirkendall Neighbourhood Association, Dundas Ontario in Transition, Strathcona Community Council, Raise the Hammer, MACgreen, the Conserver Society, Hamilton/Burlington KAIROS Committee, and Skydragon Cooperative.

Posted by Ryan

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