DataIndustry News

Expansion or densification? Growing cities at crossroads

  • BuildZoom study shows all major cities decreased densification from 1980 to 2010 compared to 1950 to 1980.
  • In Las Vegas, where densification dropped the least (down 16.6 percent) and expansion skyrocket by 230.7 percent, real home prices went up just 4.7 percent.
  • Expensive cities are showing less sprawl and less densification, yet the economy and demand remained strong.
  • Redevelopment could sustain increasing demand while avoiding urban sprawl.

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As population swells, so does the need for housing. A new study from BuildZoom reviews how cities have historically dealt with newcomers, particularly where expansion is skyrocketing to increase housing supply. “The popularity of dense urban living hit rock bottom in the 1970s and has been growing noticeably since the late 1980s,” explained Issi Romem, chief economist at BuildZoom and author of the densification report. “As a result, dense urban cores have seen much greater price increases over the years than the same metro areas' outlying suburbs.” Nevertheless, all cities surveyed show a drop in densification from 1980 to 2010 compared to 1950 to 1980. Some cities used urban sprawl and expansion to accommodate growing demand in the last 30 years or so, the report says, while others have omitted both routes and failed to produce enough housing, which diminished affordability through boom and bust housing demand cycles. Romem says there are three catego...