Out of Control Policy Blog

"Smart Growth" Down Under

Think "smart growth" is a U.S. phenomenon? Not so fast...

A Sydney Morning Herald writer skewers that city's "smart growth" policies:

    We are the first inhabitants of Sydney who will leave this city worse than we found it. In pursuit of the policy called "consolidation", we are turning one of the most liveable cities in the world into a congested rats' nest. Artificial restrictions on growth have increased housing prices so much that many of our children cannot afford to live here. It's a mighty political and social failure.

    Things are about to get worse. About 70 per cent of all new housing in the next quarter-century will be built within the existing city boundaries. That will be half a million new homes, most of them as part of an estimated 7000 blocks of flats, to be built in streets like yours and mine. More and more people will be forced to live in concrete boxes or to spend their lives paying off some of the largest mortgages in the world. More suburbs will be blighted, deprived of oxygen, grass and space by denser housing, as remnant bushland disappears and roads and rivers become clogged like arteries running through fat.

    The policy of consolidation, sometimes also known as "smart growth", is international and enshrined in the State Government's Metropolitan Strategy. It is based on a number of false assertions that fly in the face of common sense or have been exposed as false by academic research. Yet they persist, for reasons we will consider later.

    . . . .

    In [U.S. researcher Wendell] Cox's view: "The government advocates prefer to think Sydney's growth is the root of the housing affordability problem. Nothing could be further from the truth. Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Atlanta are the fastest growing large urban areas in the English-speaking New World. Each is already larger than Sydney and growing faster. They also have the most affordable housing markets. This is because [they] have been careful not to apply Soviet breadline policies to their housing markets."

    Sydney is like the frog being slowly boiled in warm water. Cast your mind back 10 years and reflect on how your suburb, your city, has changed. Changes to views, to the number of cars on the road, to our sense of space and place. These changes are not the inevitable product of growth. They are the product of certain ideas and choices. Bad ones.

Sounds familiar, huh? Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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