Harvard’s Edward Glaeser discusses whether there’s such a thing as “proper” dense housing. He’s in favor of letting consumers decide, not “city planners” and government bureaucrats.
He’s right. Some don’t like high-rise apartments and condos. Others prefer taller buildings. Bottom line: To each his own, as they say.
But here’s a question he didn’t address: Is it okay, and even natural, for a city to develop its own personality when it comes to its general preferences for building heights and density? Bostonians generally like their smaller housing structures. Chicagoans and New Yorkers generally like their larger buildings.
In many respects, Bostonians are paying the price for their preference for smaller structures, by limiting the amount of units built and driving up prices by limiting supply. Yet, Boston is almost a model of what environmentalists want: a compact, easy to walk city with good public transportation (when our MBTA stations aren’t exploding or catching fire). Boston’s quaintness is its own urban attractiveness.
So is there a “proper” mix of low- and high-rise housing for cities? Probably. But it depends on the city.
File under: Deep thoughts on dense thinking.