Perverse Cities: Hidden Subsidies, Wonky Policy, and Urban Sprawl by Pamela BlaisPerverse Cities: Hidden Subsidies, Wonky Policy, and Urban Sprawl by Pamela Blais

Perverse Cities: Hidden Subsidies, Wonky Policy, and Urban Sprawl

byPamela Blais

Paperback | March 29, 2011

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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.

Pamela Blais is a city planner and principal of Toronto-based Metropole Consultants.
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Title:Perverse Cities: Hidden Subsidies, Wonky Policy, and Urban SprawlFormat:PaperbackDimensions:294 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.75 inPublished:March 29, 2011Publisher:Ubc PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0774818964

ISBN - 13:9780774818964

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from A must read for urban planners Blais argues that we need "smart pricing" of the factors that contribute to housing and infrastructure costs if we are ever to get to smart growth. In making her argument, she gives an excellent course on financial tools that urban planners need to know about. She does not deal with the politics of these issues (beyond the scope of her book) or new debates about life cycle costs. But she does a great job of explaining the economics of the relevant markets in language accessible to non-economists. She also has some useful examples of places where they are implementing the policies she prescribes.
Date published: 2011-06-10

Table of Contents

Preface

1 The Price of Sprawl

Part 1: The Planning Problem

2 Sprawl: A Planning Problem

3 The Costs and Benefits of Sprawl

Part 2: The Problem with Planning

4 The Costs and Benefits of Planning

5 How Do Our Cities Grow? Plans versus Reality

6 Prices Drive Sprawl

Part 3: Subsidies, Cross-Subsidies, and Mis-Incentives: How Public Policy Finances Sprawl

7 Municipal Services: Costs and Prices

8 Network Services: Costs and Prices

9 Housing, Infrastructure, and Energy: More Mis-Pricing and Mis-Incentives

10 Driving Sprawl: Pricing and Policy Mis-Incentives

Part 4: What to Do

11 Principles for a Market-Oriented Approach

12 A Toolbox of Market-Oriented Instruments

13 Perverse Subsidies, Perverse Cities

Notes

Bibliography

Index

Editorial Reviews

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. In Perverse Cities, Pamela Blais argues that flawed public policies and mis-pricing create 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. She makes the case for accurate pricing and better policy to curb sprawl and shows how this can be achieved in practice through a range of market-oriented tools that promote efficient, sustainable cities.An even greater restraint on a back-to-the-city movement is cost ... Eventually, rising gas prices will reduce the disparity, but probably not enough. How do you reduce the gap?Greenberg points to a fascinating recent book by a fellow Toronto urban planner, Pamela Blais.The book, Perverse Cities, implies that the sort of sprawl-limiting rules that the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal is now considering are useful but far from sufficient to ensure built-up areas will become more densely developed. “More compact development cannot simply be regulated into existence,” she writes ...Read more:http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/encourage+growing+back+city+trend/4891444/story.html - Ken Greenberg, in an interview with Henry Aubin - Montreal Gazette