Planning Is the Problem, Not the Solution

New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Bill English, is an antiplanner. “The justification for planning is to deal with externalities,” he noted in a speech given a few weeks ago. But, he continued, “what has actually happened is that planning in New Zealand has become the externality. It has become a welfare-reducing activity.”

As is the case in many American (and Canadian and Australian) urban areas, planning has added tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cost of a home in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest urban area. Recent New Urbanist rules, English says, “add $50,000 to $100,000 to the cost of an apartment.” Even more costs are added by Auckland’s urban-growth boundary. One study found that the costs of one of these rules were six times the benefits.

It’s even worse than English says. Planning has become a way for the middle class to keep the working class out without being overt about it. It has become a way for relatively wealthy people to enhance their wealth at everyone else’s expense. Planners’ build-up-not-out mentality ends up destroying the character of the cities it is supposed to save. Finally, planning results in serious intergenerational equity problems, as parents get rich off their housing equity while children can’t afford to live in the cities in which they grew up.

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3 thoughts on “Planning Is the Problem, Not the Solution

  1. msetty

    Bill English said:
    …Those rules include urban limits, minimum lot sizes which prevent subdivision below a certain size, and maximum site coverage rules which prevent a house covering more than a certain proportion of the lot..

    …Many of these are three bedroom houses on quarter-acre sections only a few kilometres from the CBD – a massive misuse of scarce land. And all at the taxpayer’s expense…

    So downzoning is part of the problem, and increasing densities is part of the solution…not completely consistent with The Antiplanner’s complaints.

  2. CardGame

    msetty, if I reword your sentence as follows, will it still be a sentence you can agree with? “[I]ncreasing densities [,where there is demand for it,] is part of the solution.”

    I think msetty and I could both point to places in the U.S. where there is demand for taller buildings, but government policy prevents it. If The Antiplanner desires that government policy not attempt restrict supply of low-rise development through urban growth boundaries, that is agreeable to me as well.

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