If any country in the world should be less concerned about urban sprawl than the United States, it is Australia. Its population density of about 8.3 people per square mile is less than even Canada’s. Yet, thanks to the efforts of some urban planners obsessed with getting people out of their automobiles, most of Australia’s major cities have urban-growth limits the severely constrain development.
This 1,840-square-foot, four bedroom home in Sydney, which the real estate listing describes as “complete overhaul needed,” recently sold for more than AU$1.5 million, or US$1.2 million.
Last week, an article in The Guardian showed the result: homes in Sydney that you wouldn’t want to let your dog enter, much less your family, for sale for more than a million dollars. To be fair, a million Australian dollars is only $784,000 U.S., but still that’s more than most can afford. Judging from the photos, you could find houses in Texas for under $100,000 that are better than $1.2 million homes in Sydney.
Here is the interior of the above US$1.2-million home.
“We didn’t touch anything,” said one of the photographers who was taking pictures for the real estate company. “It was just too hazardous.” “All attendees are required to sign a waiver prior to entry,” a real estate ad announced. “No entry to anyone aged under 16. No open toe shoes to be worn.”
For the price of the above Sydney home, you could get twelve houses like this 2,130-square-foot four-bedroom home that is currently for sale for $99,000 in Fort Worth.
Why do people allow themselves to be subjected to such insanity? The claims of the urban planners about the hazards of sprawl and “auto dependence” are provably wrong, yet people have a complete blind spot to the fact that the urban-growth limits are making housing expensive.
The Fort Worth home needs a little work, but it isn’t in as bad shape as the Sydney home. Not only is the Fort Worth home 15 percent bigger, it is on a lot that is 7.6 times larger than the Sydney terrace home — 18,300 vs. 2,400 square feet.
The Australian planners promoting density published a “sourcebook” of data regarding cities and automobile usage that they said proved that people drove less in Europe because they lived in denser cities. In fact, what their data showed was that Europeans were rapidly increasing the number of cars and miles of driving per capita despite the density of their cities. European densities were also declining and, in most cities, transit ridership was stagnant.
The population density of the Sydney urban area is about 5,000 people per square mile, which would put it ahead of all major U.S. urban areas except for Los Angeles, San Francisco-San Jose, and New York. Yet the planning minister for New South Wales wants Sydney to be as dense as Barcelona, or 11,300 people per square mile.
Why does New South Wales have a planning minister at all? Like the fact that most of the problems from illegal drugs result from the fact that they are illegal, most of the problems afflicting Sydney today are caused by the urban planning policies that were supposed to solve them. Not only is housing unaffordable, the city has the worst congestion and air pollution in the country. The planners claim density will solve all of these problems but it actually makes them worse.
In Australia as in the United States, it is time to take off the blinders, fire the planners, and let people live where they want.