Link: Cities Need Goldilocks Housing Density

Happy Monday! Well, at least it’s Spring…

While I’m not sure I on board with everything Lloyd Alter discusses in this article for The Guardian (UK), I thought it was a worthy perspective to share being relevant to this week’s updates.

Cities Need Goldilocks Housing Density–Not Too High Or Low, But Just Right

Lloyd Alter
April 16, 2014

In so-called hot cities such London, Toronto and New York, the planners and politicians are letting a thousand towers bloom. In others such as Seattle, Washington or San Francisco, battles are raging over height limits and urban density, all on the basis of two premises: 1) that building all these towers will increase the supply of housing and therefore reduce its costs; 2) that increasing density is the green, sustainable thing to do and that towers are the best way to do it.


I am not sure that either is true. I am an architect and I certainly consider myself an environmentalist, but it appears to me that in a lot of cities, these new glass towers don’t add much at all to the city in terms of energy efficiency or quality of life. Often they don’t add many more housing units than the buildings they replace. I am also a heritage activist, not because I particularly love old buildings, but because there is so much to learn from them and from the neighbourhoods. and cities that were designed before cars or electricity or thermostats, and were built at surprisingly high urban densities.


Then there’s this paragraph:

There is what I have called the Goldilocks density: dense enough to support vibrant main streets with retail and services for local needs, but not too high that people can’t take the stairs in a pinch. Dense enough to support bike and transit infrastructure, but not so dense to need subways and huge underground parking garages. Dense enough to build a sense of community, but not so dense as to have everyone slip into anonymity.


Part of the reason I posted this particular article: This week I’m going to unveil the Development Index and what really stands out to me is the remarkable number of 4-9 story development projects compared to 2005-2008, when there were numerous 10+ story development projects (including the 34-floor Boise Place, seen below).


One thought on “Link: Cities Need Goldilocks Housing Density

  1. Douglas

    I think this article should be taken with a grain of salt. I live in Seattle, and the battle isn’t about high-rises or their heights. The battle is about this so called ‘goldilock’ density replacing single-family homes.

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