Thursday, December 20, 2007

Letters published - usurpation of planning powers

Sunday 4 November 07

It is astounding to learn that Landcom, an organisation set up by the New South Wales Government to offer affordable houses on the city fringe, is demanding up to an outrageous $380,000 for newly released housing lots in Helensburgh (“High-rise towers for the aged”, Sunday Telegraph 28 October). Such prices cannot be justified as agricultural land sells for the equivalent of only $6000 per housing lot. Instead of releasing sufficient land to meet demand, Landcom’s role has deteriorated to hoarding land and making housing unaffordable for most people. Those seeking a home are forced to live packed in like chooks in battery cages or to move to another State. No wonder Sydney is now numbered among the world cities with the most unaffordable housing.

North Shore Times 14 November 2007

The shortage of playing fields is yet another result of the Government’s high-density policy which crams more and more people into suburbs designed for low density without upgrading infrastructure (“Hundreds of kids miss cricket every week”, Times November 9). The result is not only children having nowhere to play, but also out-of-control crime, crumbling public transport, overflowing sewers, water shortages, power blackouts and human tragedy in our hospitals.

68 words

DAILY TELEGRAPH 5 December 2007

State Planning Minister Frank Sartor uses the "stripping back to basics" argument to justify more usurpation of planning powers (‘stripping back to basics – but no nudity,’ December 4).

But Australians overwhelmingly don't want to live in high rise, high-density suburbs (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2004), they don't want bush land built on (such as at Gwandalan and Summerland Point ) and they want their opinions about the future of their suburbs listened to and not usurped by developer donations to both the Labor and Liberal parties.

Anthony Meaney
Summerland Point

HORNSBY ADVOCATE 20 December 2007

Frank Sartor wants to grab the planing powers of Ku-ring-gai Council in order to make it easier for his Department of Planning to force high-density into the local community.
He pretends this will be of benefit to the wider public.
It will not.
Research in Australia and the United States shows that high-density is less sustainable than single residential dwellings.
Living in units generates more greenhouse gases per head than does living in low density. But Frank Sartor’s motto seems to be:
“Please don’t confuse me with the facts … my mind is made up”.

Tony Recsei

Monday, November 05, 2007

Toward a Full Accounting of GHG Transport Emissions

Accounting for greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) is no simple matter in urban transport. It is not as simple as the GHG emissions from the vehicles themselves. For example, there is the vehicle manufacturing process. There is also vehicle maintenance and the energy used to keep stations and administrative facilities open. There is simply no central source of information for such data, a situation that is a serious “GHG omission.”

Three decades ago, BART, the San Francisco area rapid transit system, published estimates of the full energy requirements for operating public transport and cars, including such factors as vehicle maintenance, right of way maintenance, and stations. Generally, the analysis found that the rail mode required 41 percent more energy than is consumed in traction (transportation), buses 37 percent and cars 22 percent. These factors may be old, but they may be the only ones available (and it is possible that they are still valid).

If we assume the BART factors, then the comparison of GHG emissions between transport modes in Australia is even more favorable for cars. The average car would emit 229 grams of GHG per passenger kilometer, compared to 212 grams for buses and 148 grams for Sydney’s rail system. Cars meeting the 2010 National Average Fuel Consumption target would be better than both buses and rail in Sydney at 137 grams per passenger kilometer. The best hybrids could better buses by two-thirds and rail by one-half.

All of which points out the needed for objective, comprehensive analysis.

The previous post on GHG emissions by mode("Public Transport Greenhouse Emissions Similar to Cars", Wednesday, October 31, 2007) does not include any adjustment for vehicle maintenance, right of way maintenance, and stations. Its calculations apply only to direct transportation.

Posted by Demographia

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Letter Published: Outrageous land prices

Sunday Telegraph 4 November 2007
It is astounding to learn that Landcom, an organisation set up by the New South Wales Government to offer affordable houses on the city fringe, is demanding up to an outrageous $380,000 for newly released housing lots in Helensburgh ("High-rise towers for the aged", Sunday Telegraph 28 October). Such prices cannot be justified as agricultural land sells for the equivalent of only $6000 per housing lot. Instead of releasing sufficient land to meet demand, Landcom’s role has deteriorated to hoarding land and making housing unaffordable for most people. Those seeking a home are forced to live packed in like chooks in battery cages or to move to another State. No wonder Sydney is now numbered among the world cities with the most unaffordable housing.

Tony Recsei
President Save Our Suburbs

Letters published - Power corrupts

North Shore Times 2 November 2007
Victoria Brookman (Labor candidate), the furore about Frank Sartor’s grab of Ku-ring-gai Council’s planning powers is no mere political beat-up (Times October 26). The community is objecting to the Department of Planning devising ever more despotic ways of forcing high-density into the community. There can be no doubt the residents overwhelmingly reject high-density, this was conclusively proved at the series of huge public meetings organised by Ku-ring-gai Council at Ravenswood School. What is more, imposed high-density is detrimental not only to the local community but also is indisputably bad for the public at large. This does not seem to concern the powers that be. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Tony Recsei
President Save Our Suburbs

Northside Courier 31 October 2007

Frank Sartor wants to take the planning powers of Ku-ring-gai Council in order to make it easier for his Department of Planning to force high-density into the local community. Over the last few years Council has bent over backwards to comply with his Department’s demands but it is never enough. Perhaps the councilors have at last discovered that it does not pay to cave in to bullies. They just hit you all the more. The community is now left with no alternative – stand up and fight. A determined campaign on all possible fronts by a united community of 100,000 people would make these would-be dictators think twice about any more despotic actions.

Tony Recsei
President Save Our Suburbs

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Public Transport Greenhouse Emissions Similar to Cars

Contrary to the repeated claims of high-density advocates that public transport travel is environmentally far superior to travel in cars, it has now been found that this is not the case. Greenhouse gas emission data posted by Demographia shows that the average petrol car in Australia in 2006 emitted 188 grams CO2 equivalent per passenger km and the figure for the more efficient cars now is as little as 60 grams.

These figures should be compared with the average bus in Australia which emits 155 grams CO2 equivalent per passenger km and with the 105 grams for travelling by rail in Sydney.

The emission figures of the Toyota Prius and the Peugeot hybrid diesel cars are indications that even the surprisingly small advantage of public transport could soon be eroded away by technology.

The reality that public transport use is not significantly more environmentally sustainable is of huge importance for planning policies. For the past two decades the NSW State Government has been implementing a policy of forcing high-density into communities. The principal foundation of these policies has been the allegation that people living in high-density will be able to travel more sustainably by public transport instead of by car. We now know this is not so.

The rationale for the despotic policies that have destroyed home ownership and grossly overloaded existing infrastructure is baseless.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Car use keeps rising despite urban consolidation

Densification arising has not reduced automobile use in Australian urban areas, despite the claims and expectations of urban consolidation policy ("smart growth") proponents. Urban consolidation policies have been adopted in virtually all of Australia's large urban areas. Their principal focus has been to force new development away from the urban fringe, while densifying already developed areas. Urban consolidation theory holds that densification will lead to reduced automobile use.

However, data in an Australian Bureau of Statistics series beginning in 1999 shows that automobile use continues to increase in Australia's capital cities.

Among the five largest capital cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide), per capital automobile use rose 11 percent between 1999 and 2006. The smallest increase was in Melbourne, at 5 percent. The largest increase was in Perth, at 26 percent.

Among the three smaller capital cities (Hobart, Darwin and Canberra), automobile use increased approximately 10 percent per capita between 1999 and 2006. The smallest increase was in Canberra, at 1 percent, while the largest was in Darwin, at 33 percent.

This is not to suggest that urban consolidation policy has had no impact in Australia's cities. Housing affordability has been virtually destroyed, as house prices have risen 70 percent relative to household incomes in just 10 years. For example:

In Perth, the purchase and financing cost of the median price house has risen more than $500,000 in since 1996 (inflation adjusted). By comparison, in Austin, Texas, an urban area of similar size and with somewhat higher demand as Perth, there has been a reduction in the purchase and financing cost of the median priced house over the same period. Generally, land use policies in the Austin area are responsive to demand rather than prescribed by the planning visions that have turned into such nightmares in Australia (see Demographia Third Annual International Housing Affordability Survey).

Data from: Survey of Motor Vehicle Use, Australia, 12 months ended 31 October 2006

Wendell Cox

Saturday, October 06, 2007

"Demand" argument nullifies rationale for urban consolidation

Less than 0.3 percent of Australia's land area is in development. In the upside-down world of politics, it should come Less than 0.3 percent of Australia's land area is in urban development. In the upside-down world of politics, it as no surprise that public policy virtually bans urban development in the other 99.7 percent. Every large urban area has adopted "urban consolidation" policies ("smart growth" or "compact city" policies) to fight the dreaded demon, "urban sprawl," which, of course, is nothing more than the spreading out of urban areas to accommodate new population and maximize economic opportunity. The reality, however, is that urban consolidation is combating the middle-income quality of life, as housing prices have predictably exploded relative to incomes as a result of the land rationing. Any competent economist would have predicted this. No economist was asked.

The urban planning community is in denial, putting forth the view that their land rationing policies have not driven up prices. Perhaps the most invoked refuge is the view that people don't want to live on the fringe, where development is banned and that they prefer to live in the cores of urban areas. Everyone has abandoned the fringe and they are all bidding for properties in places like Sydney's eastern suburbs, driving up prices. This is both disingenuous and absurd.

Before the planners managed to seduce governments into destructive urban consolidation, Australians, like Germans, French, Canadians, Americans, Japanese and Swedes were moving to the urban fringe, where housing was affordable. Then came the development bans and the perpetrators tell us that Australians are somehow different — that young families with children would much rather live in rental units without gardens and have their children play on balconies (actually the research, ignored by the planners, says the opposite).

Indeed, if the market is no longer interested in less expensive housing (and home ownership) on the urban fringe then there is no need for urban consolidation policy. Eliminate the urban growth nooses and see what happens. If we are to believe the planners, the hundreds of thousands of renting and forming households will stay put in the core… perhaps two or three will take advantage of the cheaper housing on the fringe. This is the absurdity. The planning community, which has often been more inclined to act on personal impressions, while ignoring the data, hasn't anything to support this view but a statistically insignificant sample of opinions exchanged at their inbred conferences.

There are, however, signs of hope that some states may begin to release more land for develop and release the Great Australian Dream from captivity. The governments of Queensland, which is already receiving huge migration from overly regulated (even by Australian standards) New South Wales and South Australia, with its near zero population growth. Much more is needed, but it is a start.

Wendell Cox

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sydney's Urban Consolidation (High-density) Depression

Brickworks, one of Australia's largest building materials suppliers, has warned that the Sydney area is about to enter its most prolonged housing construction downturn since the Great Depression, according to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Sydney house prices have exploded relative to incomes. In just 10 years, the cost of the median price house, including mortgage interest, has risen $450,000 in Sydney (inflation adjusted). Sydney prices relative to incomes are now running three times prices in Atlanta, which is the fastest growing large urban area in the high-income world.

Some analysts have blamed higher interest rates for the downturn, apparently unaware of the fact that interest rates today remain well below post-World War II norms. Moreover, interest rates can hardly be cited as the cause of either the price run-up or the current Sydney depression, since neither has occurred in other markets, all of which have experienced the same global interest trends.

The problem is more fundamental and is the result of government land rationing and taxing policies, which are called "urban consolidation" (called "smart growth" in many other nations). All of this has contributed to an explosion in land costs, with little new housing being constructed. The result has been a virtual destruction of housing affordability,

Housing starts in New South Wales are at their lowest point today since 1958, according to the same article. This, in context, is extraordinary, given that there are more than twice as many households today in New South Wales as in 1958.

Wendell Cox
Demographia | Wendell Cox Consultancy - St. Louis Missouri-Illinois metropolitan region
Visiting Professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris
USA..1.618 632 8507

Heart Bypass Operations a Mistake?

The efficient circulation of people and goods are as vital to a city as is the circulation of blood in the body. Restrict the flow and the results are harmful. Yet there are people who vigorously oppose the building of new roads - they say new roads will just fill up with traffic. But that indicates a pentup demand - people do not just drive around for the fun of it. The anti-road advocates say that public transport should be developed instead. But public transport cannot do the job - look at any city around the world (with the possible exception of Hong Kong where people mostly live in bird cages).

To these head-in-the-sand obstructionists Wendell Cox says:

You read it first here. I have been advised that prestigious medical research is soon to be published suggesting that heart bypass operations no longer be performed.

The problem is that the bypass arteries simply create more blood flow, creating no relief for the old arteries. It is said that researchers were first alerted to the problem when they were exposed to the theory of "induced" traffic, whereby building new roads just creates more traffic.

It is expected that medical insurance companies will soon remove coverage for heart bypass operations, since as soon as the new arteries are made available, they fill up with blood.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Dreaming About Rail in Norwest and Macquarie Park

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 24 September 2007 describes the exodus of jobs from downtown Sydney to suburban office parks like Norwest and Macquarie Park. This is simply the continuation of a trend that has long been underway, not only in Sydney, but also in Paris, Portland and Pheonix.

The clueless NSW State government, which oversees transport and planning, imagines somehow that they will serve these areas with new rail systems, and reduce automobile commuting. Norwest, probably the largest new business centre in Australia will be served by one rail station, while Macquarie Park will get three.

What they don’t understand, of course, is that rail transport is about the city centre --- that there is no way any government can afford to provide the level of service necessary to serve suburban office parks. What do they expect? Do they imagine commuters from Liverpool will somehow use the overcrowded (not to mention unreliable) rail system to travel through the city centre and then to Norwest or Macquarie Park? Will residents of Penrith choose travel by rail to Parramatta, then through the city centre or Chatswood and on, circuitously to Macquarie Park or Norwest?

What makes public transport viable, even if unreliable, to the city centre, is that routes converge there from all over the urban area. No urban area can afford that level of public transport investment in more than one centre. Rail stations in Norwest and Macquarie Park may get government ministers the odd favorable headline, but they will be of virtually no account in reducing automobile commuting.

Wendell Cox

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Developers close ranks

The Housing Industry Association was one developer body that stood against higher densities, preferring the alternative of new homes on greenfield sites. No longer. In a press release today the organisation says there is an urgent need to increase the supply of affordable rental housing. That means high density.

Save Our Suburbs is issuing the following press release:

An Appalling Call says Save Our Suburbs

"Save Our Suburbs views with great concern the call by the Housing Industry Association (HIA) for the supply of rental housing to be increased (HIA press release 20 July 2007)" says Dr Tony Recsei, President of Save Our Suburbs NSW.

He asked "why is HIA promoting the investor rental market instead of home ownership? This can only result in yet more high-density being forced onto unwilling communities".

Dr Recsei asserted "The ‘Great Australian Dream’ has been home ownership, not home rental. Self-reliant home ownership, not dependant life time rental, has been Australia's overwhelming success story. It will be tragedy if the Australian way of life, the envy of the world, is to be abandoned."

Eastern Suburbs to get "their share" of high-density

The Sydney Morning Herald 20 July 2007 reports that 20,000 houses are to be "squeezed into some of Sydney's most densely populated areas". Botany Bay has to cram in 6500 more homes, Randwick 8400, Waverley 2200 and Woollarha 2900. This is a rude shock for some of the residents who were hoping that their current high densities would quarantine them from more impositions. They can now look forward to further overloading of the locality infrastructure - clogged roads, overflowing sewers, power failures and water reticulation problems. And of course vanishing gardens and open space.

SOS Adelaide - Patrick Troy addresses AGM

SOS in Adelaide report on some points made by Patrick Troy (Emeritus Professor and Visiting Fellow, Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, ANU) in his address at their April 2007 AGM:

"Developers have inordinate influence"

"We must make the planning process public."

"Granny-flats were built in back-yards in the 1970s. Advocates said this would free up big houses for families. There never were enough grannies to go around. Dual occupancy has had a devastating effect with single houses replaced with six-packs. All the trees are gone and sites are concreted over."

"The replacement of trees and shrubs by concrete is resulting in the greying of Australian suburbs."

"The McMansion phenomenon is tragic. We’ve destroyed our own sporting capacity through the removal of back-yards where kids can play. And there’s not been a murmur about it."

"Developers almost never live in the developments they put up."

"The quite infantile idea that all you need to do is increase the density of the city and that everything will be all right is really quite bizarre."

Portland Fantasies

It seems like I encounter the fantasies preached by Portland missionaries on every shore. Unlike their 19th century counterparts, the Portland evangelists promise not a Paradise-in-the-Hereafter, but rather a Paradise-Now. In their zeal, they mistake their delusions for reality.

One of the more recent such Epistles is "Portland's Green Dividend," by Joe Courtwright . A verse-by-verse rebuttal is unwarranted; however, a few points may be of interest.

Portland: Less Compact than Los Angeles, Phoenix, Etc., Etc.: The claims that Portland is dense (or even compact) are absurd. According to U.S. Census data, Los Angeles is more than twice as dense. Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston are 90 percent as dense. Phoenix, Fresno, Bakersfield and Modesto are more dense. Among western urban areas with more than 1,000,000 population, only Seattle is less dense than Portland

Portland's Falling, Miniscule Transit Market Share: Portland's use of transit is not remarkable. Census data indicates that Portland's work trip transit market share is less than before the first light rail line was opened. Portland's overall transit market share is less than before the first light rail line was opened. Portland's transit market share is little more than two percent, which is not bad for the United States — somewhat ahead of Los Angeles, slightly behind Seattle and 80 percent less than New York. Portland's transit market share is 50 percent to 80 percent less than that of the five major Australian urban areas (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide).

Driving More Inside the Urban Growth Boundary: The over-regulated Portland side (Paradise) of the metropolitan area uses cars more than the less regulated Washington side, according to Federal Highway Administration data.

Portland: Auto Trend Follows Austin, Atlanta, Etc.: Portland's comparatively stable per capita car travel, said to have peaked in 1996, is nothing unique. Atlanta's peak came in 1994, Austin in 1986, Dallas-Fort Worth in 1995, Seattle in 1992 and Washington in 1996, according to Federal Highway Administration data as reported by the Texas Transportation Institute. Portland's per capita driving has increased at among the greatest rates since data became available in 1982.

Planning Malpractice: Traffic Congestion is our Friend: Portland's traffic congestion has become legendary. No primary urban area (urban areas not sharing a metropolitan area with a larger urban area, such as Riverside-San Bernardino in the Los Angeles area and San Jose in the San Francisco area) in the 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 size classification has worse traffic congestion except for much more dense Las Vegas. It is, of course, to be expected that higher density urban areas like Las Vegas (and Los Angeles) will have worse traffic congestion. Portland's unenviable traffic is the direct result of policies that spend far too much money on the two percent of travel on transit and far too little on the 98 percent who travel by car. Residents of Portland's west side are witness to this, having long since learned how risky it is to get on the Sunset Highway in either direction at about any time of the work day. That particular freeway has a Travel Time Index worse than any urban area in the United States except for Los Angeles, according to Texas Transportation Institute data. Recent reports indicate that Portland's transportation short sightedness is hurting its competitiveness and there are moves afoot to begin expanding highways again.

Portland: Are We in Texas Yet? Despite the claim that Portland has among the lowest consumer expenditures per household on transportation, the latest US Department of Labor data indicates otherwise . In 2004-5, Portlanders spent more on transportation than the national average. Indeed, Portland sits right in the middle of Texas — transportation expenditures per household are less than in Houston, but more than in Dallas-Fort Worth. Perhaps the ultimate insult is that Portland households spent 40 percent more on transportation than households in Atlanta, the world's least compact large urban area.

All Job Growth Suburban: A census of downtown Portland shows declining employment levels. Since 2001, all new employment growth has been outside the downtown area.

Escaping the Urban Growth Boundary: Approximately 80 percent of Portland's net inward domestic migration has been to areas outside the urban growth boundary since 2000.

Avoiding the City of Portland: Approximately 90 percent of Portland's growth since 2000 has been to areas outside the city of Portland (read "suburbs").

Planners to Young and Minority Households: Rent!: Most importantly, Portland's planners are working hard to destroy the American Dream. They are succeeding. Portland's "smart growth" land rationing has driven median house prices up 60 percent relative to historic levels, even while forcing new houses onto postage stamp lots. All of this means that younger households and lower income households (which are disproportionately minority, even in elitist Portland) have less hope of climbing on the home ownership ladder of opportunity. Were it not for the safety valve of Clark County, Washington, beyond the jurisdiction of Portland's planners, housing affordability would be even worse.

In short, "Nirvana" it is not (….oops, got my religions mixed up).

Finally, Randal O'Toole's exceptional Cato Institute study Debunking Portland casts the shortcomings of "Paradise" in the light of sordid reality.

Wendell Cox
21 July 2007

Portland Myths

The myths of Portland (Oregon) which claims to be the archetype of "SmartGrowth" policies (termed "Urban Consolidation" in Sydney) continue to be propounded. In an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald (13 June 07) Elizabeth Farrelly breathlessly writes about a visit from one of its ambassadors, Susan Anderson who raved that "Portland's remarkable achievements are expressed as savings in money, congestion, time and air quality".

Contrast this with Randal O'Toole's eye-popping report which can be accessed at:

Wendell Cox comments on the disappearance of Neil Goldschmidt, the former United States Secretary of Transportation (equivalent to a Cabinet Minister in Australia), Governor of Oregon and Mayor of Portland, who zealots give so much credit for the development of Portland's planning system. Public disclosure of the Secretary/Governor/Mayor's activities earned "Willamette Week," an alternative weekly newspaper, the Pulitzer Prize, while the establishment "Oregonian" appears to have revealed what it knew only after it was clear that the story would come.

A following posting on this blog by Wendell Cox provides a rebuttal of some of the claims made by Portland disciples.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Public Transport Losses Accelerate In Sydney

In spite of more than a decade of the State Government forcing high-density into Sydney communities on the pretext that people would use public transport instead of cars, Wendell Cox finds that the share of travel by public transport is not only dropping but this decline is accelerating. He discusses the reasons for this.

By Wendell Cox

For years, the New South Wales government has been hectoring residents to get out of their cars and get into public transport. For a variety of reasons, it just has not happened.

A review of data made available by the New South Wales Department of Planning shows not only that public transport’s share of travel is declining in Sydney, but that its decline is accelerating.

From 1999 to 2004, public transport’s share of person kilometers dropped from 16.0% to 14.9%, a minus 1.5% annual rate. Between 1991 and 1998, the annual rate of loss was less, at 1.3 percent.

Why is it that Sydneysiders do not use public transport more? The fundamental reasons are often lost in the public forum, but are clearly outlined in Department of Planning documents. The Department of Planning asked people why they use their cars.

Twelve answers were possible, of which eight related to the advantages of the car in completing door to door trips more quickly. Getting the most votes was the faster travel time of the car, followed closely by service being unavailable. Other reasons were no waiting time, the ability to travel when one likes, that the car arrives closer to the destination and that the car is either needed for work or for other trips. None of the reasons can be classified as demonstrating love for the car, though perhaps “more comfortable” comes close.

The third most popular reason for car use was “problems with public transport.” Indeed, the Sydney public transport system is obtaining an unenviable record for service reliability. This is astounding, considering the billions of dollars that Sydney area residents have poured into the system through their fares and taxes.

Public transport is losing market share in Sydney because it is not a substitute for the car. The car is faster and makes it possible for people to do more with their scarce time. Public transport is fine for getting people to work in the central business district, but cannot hope to compete for most trips to the 85 percent of jobs that are in Chatswood, Parramatta, Norwest or the rest of the area.

University of Paris research has shown that the productivity of an urban area improves as the number of jobs that can be reached in a specified time (such as 30 minutes) increases. Given the slower travel times of public transport (in Sydney and virtually all western world urban areas), a call for people to give up their cars for public transport is a call for reduced productivity and all that it entails (such as greater poverty).

Sydney’s failure to improve its public transport market share should give pause with respect to over-zealous plans to extend the expensive rail system. Recently, the United States federal government certified an analysis indicating that the construction of a new rail system in Seattle would produce so much in greenhouse gas emissions that it would take 45 years for the projected reduced automobile use to make up for it. Even that is unlikely, however, since public transport ridership forecasts are routinely high. It may take 100 years, 200 years or perhaps never.

Sydney would be better off with urban transport policies based upon reality instead of ideology.

Data at:

Friday, July 13, 2007

Climate Change Surprise

Wendell Cox has been surveying the latest information on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and observes that the Australian Conservation Foundation's findings on the emissions from different areas provide some surprising results. People living in the higher density Eastern and Inner Northern Suburbs emit more greenhouse gases than do people living in the lower density single-residential Western suburbs:


For many years, the urban elites of Australia and Sydney particularly have cast aspersions on western Sydney. Indeed, their distorted views about western Sydney have been a principal foundation of the urban consolidation policies that have destroyed home ownership in Sydney and around the nation. They claim that western Sydney was unplanned, they have divined all manner of phony society costs that were not paid by the residents. To hear the elitist newspaper columnists and cabinet ministers talk, one would imagine that pictures of shantytowns on the banks of a Jakarta river could be substituted for western Sydney photographs without anyone noticing.

This kind of elitism has no place in any nation, and certainly not in a nation with perhaps the world’s strongest egalitarian streak. Indeed, there is much to be proud of in western Sydney. Western Sydney has provided hundreds of thousands of people the opportunity to own their own homes and climb on the ladder of opportunity. If the offense of urban consolidation had been visited upon the city in the 1950s, there would have been no western suburbs. Not only would urban consolidation have priced the next generation out of the housing market, but the generation of their parents and grand-parents.

The imperative now, of course, is to greenhouse gas emission reduction. The crowd that sends off scientists to gather Greenland ice cores at the slightest suggestion of anything that would make middle income lives better is committed to using climate change as the mechanism to engineer people into the life styles that planners prefer. Thus, we must all move out of our detached houses to flats. We must give up our cars for public transport. And on and on and on. And, western Sydney is exactly the kind of place that will have to change, at least according to the creed of the elites.

It must thus have come as something as a surprise for all of this arrogance to be interrupted by reality. The reality is to be found The Australian Conservation Association’s Consumption Atlas, which allocates all of the greenhouse gas emissions based upon their final point of consumption. In fact, the western suburbs do very well indeed. In the western suburbs the annual emission of greenhouses gases is approximately 18.1 tonnes per capita. This is approximately 25 percent less than the favored eastern suburbs at 25.8 tonnes. Among Sydney’s regions, only the southwest does better, at 17.2 tonnes. The southwest includes Campbelltown and Camden, which area really not suburban – they are rather exurban.

The admirable record of the western suburbs does not stop there. The Consumption Atlas shows them to consume less water per capita and to have a smaller ecological footprint. So much for the conventional wisdom.

The reality is that residents of the eastern and near northern suburbs should be standing in line to buy carbon credits from the environmentally more favorable western suburbs (or at least the urban elites should). Rather than being a model to be avoided, as the planners have so wrongly concluded, the western suburbs have proven themselves to be a model for the future.

Data at:

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Political double talk

From the Australian Financial Review, 5 July 2007

The Labor Party argues its stingy land release policies did not drive up housing prices, then claims it would be unwise to release more land because that would drop the prices that would not have risen if they had had not been so stingy about releasing land. It is time to move from double talk to the land releases that would restore housing affordability.


Wendell Cox

Save my suburb

From the Inner West Courier, 27 June 2007

DAVID Champ is only eight years old, but he is already fighting for the preservation of his neighbourhood.

Along with his mum, Susan McGrath-Champ, and 10-year-old sister Michelle who has collected signatures on three petitions, David is part of a groundswell of opposition to plans to dramatically increase the population of Burwood.

David has made his own submission to Burwood Council, which is currently seeking public comment on its draft Town Centre Local Environment Plan (LEP).

``It's a very sunny day but the skyscraper blocks the sun from our house on the left,'' he wrote in his submission.

``The shadow comes down and will `spook' Burwood.

``The cars and crashes will increase.''

David drew a picture and wrote his accompanying letter the day after a family dinner-table discussion about the LEP.

The McGrath-Champs live in an area earmarked for 10-storey developments under the LEP.

One block from their back fence, a vacant site stands in an area that could include developments to a maximum height of 17 storeys.

Dr McGrath-Champ told the Inner-West Weekly she was one of several residents doorknocking neighbours to raise awareness of what council officers have proposed.

These include up to 20-storey developments in a ``central area'' around Burwood railway station; up to 17-storey developments in a ``core area'' of the CBD; and 10-storey developments to the boundaries of the town centre.

``Everyone we've spoken to about this has been more than concerned,'' Dr McGrath-Champ said.

``But most of them didn't have a clue about it before we told them.''

More than 100 residents have attended information sessions held by Burwood Council to discuss various issues, including traffic congestion and building heights.

The meetings have been managed by an independent adjudicator, who will make recommendations to council staff when everyone has had their say.

Mayor John Faker said the feedback had been largely positive.

``Some people are concerned with the height of the buildings but unfortunately that's the cost of meeting the population growth figures we've been set,'' he told the Inner-West Weekly.

``If we set the building heights shorter, they'd be spread out more.''

The LEP is on public exhibition until Thursday, July 5.

There is no global trend to increase density

We also need to firmly reject the claim that densifying cities is happening all over the world.

In a recent radio interview Professor Schlomo Angel, Adjunct Professor of Urban Planning, New York University said that densities are coming down in the great majority of cities all over the world. As people get richer they live better and for most living better means living in suburbs. Cities are not densifying, on the contrary they are reducing the densities, even in India, China, Sub-Saharan Africa.

Suburbs are expanding in all countries and are no longer something that you just find in the US and in Australia.

He says planners think their own cities are each a special case ... that they can densify. But there are no special cases. Planners have to recognise that cities are going to grow and and they have to prepare for it.

This used to be the case. The future population was projected, the area for growth decided upon and prepared. The minimal required preparation is an arterial road grid 1 km apart and rights of way acquired before the development occurs. If this is not done now will be impossible to do later. If development comes before the road then you can never get the road through.

He said something we have been saying for years. If you restrict the land on the periphery inevitably you increase land prices and housing becomes unaffordable and becomes unaffordable mostly for the poor. There are constraints on land supply in Australian cities that lead to increases in land prices. This is due to the regulatory environment of those cities.

Professor Angel concluded by saying that this anti-urban attitude is our major enemy. It is always taken by city people who live in the city and just don't want more people coming there.


We need to firmly reject the deceitful propaganda of the overdevelopment brigade. For example they keep on claiming, or insinuating that high-density is "more sustainable".

But my research shows single residential is more sustainable.

A recent study shows the energy use per person in high-rise is double that of those living in single-residential dwellings. Think of power-hungry lifts, clothes driers, common lighted areas and air contitioning.

Further, my calculations show that the energy embodied in the construction of high-rise is four times that of single residential dwellings (assuming in both cases the buildings last for 70 years).

These two factors far outweigh any energy saved in transport in high-density areas.

The net result is that carbon dioxide emitted resulting from living in high-rise amounts to 9.2 tonnes per person per year, compared to only 6.2 tonnes per year in single residential - about 50% more!


For decades the formidible combination of developers bestowing political donations, politicians receiving them and their bureaucrat lackeys has been more than a match for community groups opposing overdevelopment. The community is eventually worn down and the opposition ebbs away.

Not so with CAPO, the Ryde community group opposing the overdevelopment of the Royal Rehabilitation Centre in Ryde. That development proposal is for some 800 apartments up to six storeys which will exacerbate the already impossible traffic problems in the area.

Taking advantage of a political opportunity, CAPO in an election year has invited the Prime Minister to visit the site - see report below. The Prime Minister also sent an open letter to the local newspaper telling Frank Sartor to back off.

The newspaper editorial refers to a "high-handed State Government stripping away powers that rightfully belong to the local administration .....thrusting more traffic onto already dangerously-congested streets; of removing for all time treasured public space. ........ Once used or sold by this government, public land and assets are lost to future generations."

We should all learn from CAPO. Community groups need to get together action committees consisting of proactive community members, publicity specialists and those with political connections. They need to regularly think up new actions, new strategies. Untimately the overdevelopment cabal will be worn down instead of letting them wearing us down.

Meanwhile Frank Sartor does not want high-rise next to him. Latest news is that Kogarah Council recently held a closed meeting at which this matter was further discussed.

Published letter - Housing Cost

The North Shore Times published this letter on 13 June, but without the last two sentences (in italics).

The reason for skyrocketing rents and housing costs ("Pack your bags", Times 6 June) is quite simply the time-honoured principle of supply and demand. The 2003 report of the Productivity Commission reveals the NSW Government has artificially strangled the supply of land available for residential use. This has been done to drive high-density into communities. The result is an inadequate supply of land for accommodation, the price of which has risen and become unaffordable for many. These unfortunates now have no option but to move out of the region. The advocates of high-density can be proud of themselves.

Tony Recsei

Published letter


Last week the North Shore Times ran several major articles on the effects on children being brought up in high-rise. The paper asked Premier Morris Iemma whether his government was providing enough outdoor space to cater for the thousands of people pouring into the units forced into our communities. In typical politician style the Premier ignored the question by responding with a completely meaningless motherhood reply.

I thought we need to put some facts before the community and sent the following letter to the paper which published it prominantly in its edition of 6 June:


The concerns expressed in "Where will the children play?" (Times 30 May) are born out by a recent university study of children brought up in units in Fairfield. The study found there is a lack of safe active play space outside units. Few units allow for visual supervision from higher floors and parents generally cannot let younger children out of the unit unsupervised. Most parents avoid using local park areas due to poor security and due to the use of these areas by local youth and the socially dysfunctional.

Keeping children quiet leads to parenting that emphasizes activities that are sedentary. Crawling and walking is being stymied due to space problems with very young children having little access to areas for meaningful activity. This leads to children becoming overweight from an early age. It also leads to children constantly demanding attention and expecting it. When they finally enter the education system the result is behavioural problems.

For years Save Our Suburbs has been warning the Department of Planning about the deleterious effects on children of the high-density being forced onto communities. No response to our submissions has ever been received.

Of course these facts will be water off a duck's back to the high-rise developers, the politicians who receive their donations and the rabid ideologs who promote high-density. They care nothing about our children or about those who will never be able to purchase a house as a result of their disgusting policies.

(the reference to the study to which I refer is Children in the Compact City: Fairfield as a suburban case study, Professor Bill Randolph, University of New South Wales, October 2006)

Councils face losing development power

Last year the State Government passed planning legislation that caused a huge outcry. This amendment to the Environmental Planning and Assement Act allows the Planning Minister Frank Sartor to seize control from councils of development proposals it considers "state significant". The amendment permits the Minister to approve development proposals that democratically elected councils object to. Developers on the whole are very happy as this "speeds up the development application process and provides more certainty". Never mind what the local community thinks.

It seems this power grab, draconian as it is, is not the end of the story. An article in the inner pages of the Sydney Morning Herald (7 June 2007) states:

Councillors face losing development power

Catharine Munro

Urban Affairs Editor

ELECTED councillors could lose their power to approve development applications as a result of changes the Planning Minister, Frank Sartor, is considering.

Laws introduced in South Australia 12 months ago could be a model.

"The problem is that people don't believe they get a fair go because they feel, rightly or wrongly, that some councils are advocates in their own cause," Mr Sartor said yesterday.

He would not rule out the option, after the Property Council of Australia on Sunday asked NSW to copy the South Australian model, claiming applications needed to be processed faster.

But it would be a "big intervention" and he was months away from a decision.

He said increased separation between those approving planning rules and those implementing them was a priority. In NSW councillors have the option of consulting an independent hearing and assessment panel about difficult applications.

The president of the Local Government Association, Genia McCaffery said South Australia's new laws would be "disastrous" and it would be impossible to assemble panels that were independent of the property industry.

She said the bulk of most applications were handled by planning officers on council staff. In North Sydney, where she is mayor, a design panel has been appointed to advise councillors on difficult projects. "We don't believe that the community of North Sydney elected us to give powers to people they didn't elect," Cr McCaffery said.

The Urban Development Institute of Australia's NSW executive director, Scott Woodcock, said his organisation supported the South Australian model and urged more education for councillors. "You would not appoint a hairdresser to the medical board and yet we allow councillors with no knowledge in planning to approve all these investment dollars," he said. .....................................


It seems that this proposal will take away all development powers from elected members of councils leaving a council's function only to control the implementation of the planning proposals.

Our democratic rights are being swiftly eroded in favour of giving developers and politicians what they want. We need to start countering this immediately.

A gift for charities

A gift for charities
Sydney Morning Herald, 11 may 2007, page 10

The hypocrisy of Morris Iemma and Barry O'Farrell wanting to investigate political donations is mind-boggling ("Show us the money", May 10). If they were genuine, all the Liberal and Labor parties have to do is to pass on to charity the huge donations they receive from developers who are hell-bent on turning Sydney into an overcrowded, polluted, crime-ridden, treeless slum.

Hugh Knox Gordon

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Bloated House Prices

Australians Have Less to Spend due to Bloated House Prices

According to the Sydney Morning Herald a survey in the Fujitsu/JP Morgan Mortgage Industry Report indicated that one-quarter of households has had to reduce spending to pay home mortgages in the bloated property markets of Australia.

The Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey reported earlier this year that housing prices relative to incomes (the Median Multiple) had escalated to more than double the historic norm in all major Australian markets.

The net effect is house price escalation so severe that in Perth, it now takes 11 years of additional pre-tax household income to pay for the median priced house than would have been the case if housing had remained as affordable relative to incomes as 10 years ago. In Sydney, the additional income required is more than eight years, in Adelaide seven years and more than six years in Adelaide and Melbourne.

It should come as no surprise that consumer spending is taking a hit. A household with six to 11 years less income will buy fewer cars, fewer television sets, and less of just about everything. Households simply are not able to spend money that they do not have (or cannot borrow). Taking years of income away to pay for overheated house prices can only hurt the ability can only hobble the economy in the long run, leading to less job creation and less home ownership. Given the wealth creating effects of home ownership, inordinately high housing prices are likely to expand poverty, not to mention the escalating rental prices that must inevitably follow out-of-control land prices.

The housing bubble that has developed in Australia is not to be found everywhere. In a number of US and Canadian markets housing remains affordable, with Median Multiples near or below the historic norm of 3.0. Today, housing prices relative to incomes are little different than a decade ago in these markets. This includes markets such as Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Austin, which have stronger demand than any major Australian market, demonstrating that the universally available low interest rates and exotic mortgage products are not the explanation.

The difference, of course, is land use policies. Virtually all of the overheated Australian markets (as well as the overheated markets in other surveyed nations) have development restrictions, in law or practice, which severely ration the amount of land available for new housing. The law of supply and demand makes it clear that rationing supply drives up the price of any desired good or service. And, state land rationing in Australia has driven the price of land up with a vengeance --- at a rate that exceeds any element of the Consumer Price Index. Not even Typhoon Larry could drive the price of fruit up as much as urban consolidation policies have driven up the price of land. Few if any government policies in history have inflicted such horrendous losses on future generations in so short a period of time.

The loss of housing affordability in is about much more than academic discussions of home ownership rates. Rather, it is about the future of the economy and the quality of life in Australia.

Wendell Cox. March 27, 2007

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Forced out of Sydney

The land rationing policies of the New South Wales Government have resulted in the price of a house on Sydney's outskirts to balloon out at $500,000 each instead of the figure of about $200,000 which it would be if left to market forces. The $200,000 amount is made up of $100,000 to build the house, $50,000 to service the land, $30,000 for land on the outskirts converted to residential and the rest in taxes and miscellaneous. Due to the artificial land scarcity caused by the Government's land rationing, the land component costs ten times as much as it otherwise might be. As a result of these policies many people (especially the young) face the prospect of never being able to own their own home. Wendell Cox's analysis of population movements shows the results of the NSW State Government's foolish strategies:

New South Wales Exodus Continues (31 March 2007)
Faced with some of the most unaffordable housing in the world, New South Wales residents continue to move away. According to data just released by the Australian Bureau of Research, 172,500 New South Wales residents have moved to other parts of the nation during the 2000s. This is an annual average out-migration of 24,600, up strongly from the 14,900 annual loss rate of the 1990s (when housing prices were also escalating relative to incomes). Approximately 24,000 people moved away from New South Wales in 2006 to other parts of Australia. Because the Sydney area comprises the majority of the state's population, it seems likely that it has suffered most of the out-migration. The 172,500 loss is larger than the population of the city of Liverpool, one of Sydney's larger local government authorities.

Queensland has been the beneficiary of the New South Wales losses. During the 2000s, Queensland has gained 210,600 internal migrants, an annual average of 30,100. This nearly equals the strong 1990s in-migration, which averaged 31,000 annually.

Outside of Queensland, only Victoria has posted a gain in internal migration during the 2000s, at a modest 4,700. Western Australia lost 4,900 movers to other parts of Australia, though in the last year gained 3,100. Tasmania has lost 1,600 during the decade. More substantial losses have occurred in the Australian Capital Territory (8,800), the Northern Territory (11,800) and South Australia (19,000).

Wendell Cox
Demographia | Wendell Cox Consultancy - St. Louis Missouri-Illinois metropolitan region

Friday, March 30, 2007

Canada - delusion and reality

Suburbs Still the Choice in Canada (Despite Urban Elite Delusions)
An article in the Globe and Mail, Canada's oldest national newspaper, trumpets the results of the just announced national census with: the 2006 census data say population growth is exploding around Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa-Gatineau, Calgary and Edmonton. For the first time the city of Toronto comprises less than half the population of its metropolitan population

Yet the message of the article is not the continuing suburbanzation of Canada, which mirrors the continuing suburbanization of virtually everywhere that governments allow people to live where they like. Rather, the story imagines a rejection of the suburban life style by the very residents who have moved to the suburbs. The Globe and Mail's proof? A few anecdotes here and there that say more about the urban elite preoccupation with autophobia than trends as they are really occurring.

The article mentions a suburbanite who has managed to add 80 minutes to his daily commute by riding a bicycle to a rail station in Vancouver rather than using the car. The Globe apparently misses the connection between time, productivity and economic growth. What if everyone in Canada spent an additional 80 minutes each day traveling to work? Our bicycling hero spends a total of 3 hours daily traveling to and from work --- more than three times the average American commute. Surely Canada would have among the world's highest gross domestic products per capita. China, which is trading its bikes in for cars could wave good-bye to Canada in not too many years.

Here is what the story should have said. Despite considerable efforts on the part of governments and planning officials, Canadians continue to choose the suburban lifestyle ( Data).

In the Toronto area, nearly 95 percent of growth was outside the core Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, which itself includes vast expanses of suburban territory forced in by the provincial government in a 1997 amalgamation.
In Montreal, 80 percent of the growth was outside the ville de Montreal, which also includes considerable suburban territory as the result of a Quebec government forced amalgamation, some of which was undone by popular referenda.

Vancouver is the central city growth champion. Vancouverites "rejected" the suburban dream by locating at a rate of 75 percent in the suburbs.

In Canada's other large metropolitan areas, the story is similar, though sometimes masked by large central municipalities that incorporate most suburban development.

Reality never seems to get in the way of the urban elite, whose religious zeal demands nothing less than that all conform to their way of living. However, the facts speak louder than the "spin." People are moving to the suburbs; the modern urban area depends for its wealth, productivity and poverty reduction on the car. The urban elite may delude themselves in the Globe and Mail (or for that matter in the Sydney Morning Herald or Melbourne's Age), and a few naive readers may "buy" the line. The reality, however, is much different.

Wendell Cox
Demographia | Wendell Cox Consultancy - St. Louis Missouri-Illinois metropolitan region
Visiting Professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris

Excessive regulation & house prices in the USA

Regulation breeds seizure in a two-speed US housing market

Much has been written about the housing industry slowdown in the United States and the "housing bubble" evident in overvalued house prices. In fact, only part of the US market is experiencing overvalued housing prices, with the rest of the nation enjoying historic housing affordability ratios in what has become a two-speed housing market. National Association of Realtors data indicates substantial reductions in existing house sales year-to-year in a number of states, most of which are characterized by highly regulated land markets (principally so-called "smart growth" policies). These policies ration the land available for residential development and, not surprisingly inflate land and housing prices. The costs are substantial, with many years of housing expense (including mortgage interest) being added to the budgets of households now purchasing homes. In the longer run, it seems likely the "bubble" will deflate or even "burst" in the highly regulated markets. This could occur in various ways. Until the necessary correction occurs, the highly regulated markets can be expected to experience laggard population and economic growth (as is already occurring).

The Housing Slowdown

Perhaps the most covered economic story in the nation in recent months has been the housing slowdown. National Association of Realtors data indicates that in 2006, existing house sales fell 8.5 percent in the United States compared to 2005.

The Two-Speed Housing Economy

Much has been written in recent years about the "housing bubble." However, national data mask some very significant differences. Others are doing just fine. New York Times economic columnist Paul Krugman noted more than a year ago, that the "bubble" is concentrated --- in what he called the "zoned-zone" The "zoned-zone" is the highly regulated states in what has developed as a two-speed housing market. There is not a national housing slowdown, so much as there is a slowdown in some areas.

Sales volumes have generally plummeted in markets where land use regulation is strongest, where zoning and restrictions are the most severe. Conversely, where land use regulation is less stringent, sales volumes are steady or even increasing.

Market Seizure in Highly Regulated Markets

Housing market seizure --- akin to heart seizure --- has hit the most regulated markets in the United States according to an analysis the state data by Demographia. The strong land use regulations include land rationing policies, such as so-called smart growth, large-lot zoning and insufficiently rapid government land sales where there is insufficient privately owned land left for development. All 19 states with strong land use regulations experienced sales declines, with a minimum loss of 4.5 percent between 2005 and 2006. The largest losses were in Nevada (minus 28.9 percent), Arizona (minus 28.2 percent), Florida (minus 27.6 percent) California (minus 23.5 percent and Virginia (minus 22.9 percent), all states where government policies have stood in the way of sufficient land supply. Overall, the highly regulated states experienced a housing sales decline of more than 17 percent from 2005 to 2006.

At the same time, median house prices in the metropolitan markets of the highly regulated states held steady. This is to be expected, given the artificial shortage of supply that land use policies have created in these states.

Market Strength in Liberally Regulated Markets

Conversely, in the states without excessive land use regulation, annual existing house sales rose nearly one percent. Gains of more than six percent were posted in Alaska, Arkansas, North Carolina, Texas, and Indiana. Existing house sales rose three percent in fast growing Georgia, home of the high-income world's fastest growing large metropolitan area, Atlanta.

It is the Law of Supply and Demand

Some analysts have blamed low interest rates and high demand for the bloated housing prices in some markets. This view is disproven, however, by the fact that the same interest rates have been available in markets that have experienced housing cost escalation and those that have not. Moreover, the unaffordable markets do not have the greatest demand. The fastest growing metropolitan areas with more than 4,000,000 in the high-income world are Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, and each of these has remained affordable --- with Median Multiple (median house price relative to median household income) below 3.0. Economics is governed by the "law of supply and demand," not the "law of demand."

Uncharted Unaffordability Territory

Finally, virtually all of the unaffordable markets were nearly as affordable as the liberally regulated markets just a decade ago. In recent years, government policies have driven housing prices to unprecedented unaffordability in many highly regulated markets. In a number of highly regulated metropolitan areas, such as San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco, housing costs have escalated so rapidly in recent years that the Median Multiple is more than three times the historic standard of 3.0.

In highly regulated San Diego, the escalation in the median house price housing and financing (at today's low rates of interest) relative to incomes in just 10 years has been the equivalent of 14 years of median household income. This has imposed $800,000 more in costs for each household buying a median priced house and is making San Diego extraordinarily uncompetitive. The same is true, to a greater or lesser degree in other highly regulated markets.

These unnecessarily higher prices are likely to translate into lower rates of home ownership. This will disproportionately affect lower income households, which are minority to a larger degree. Today, African-American and Hispanic home ownership rates hover at or below 50 percent compared to the half-again higher 75 percent among White-Non-Hispanic households. The gap has been narrowing in recent years, but smart growth is likely to reverse that.

Irrelevant Solutions

There is no point in proposing the conventional housing affordability programs to solve the problem. "Inclusionary zoning" and home buyer give politicians the appearance of doing something, but their impact reaches little beyond headlines. Such programs are simply irrelevant to housing affordability. The depth of the housing affordability crisis in California, the Northeast and other highly regulated markets is far beyond the ability of any conventional housing affordability program to correct. The problem is that smart growth, urban planning and regional planning have manipulated the price of land so high that nothing short of a structural correction will solve the problem.

Regulation Associated with Less Economic Growth

However, the price of regulation is being paid in a housing market seizure that has seen sales volumes plummet. This is not surprising. United States Federal Reserve Board research indicates that metropolitan areas with more stringent land use regulation can expect to grow less quickly than would otherwise be expected.

Demographic Reversals

This research is validated by US Bureau of the Census migration data. The excessive over valuation of residential property appears to be a major factor in driving more than 2,500,000 residents from the high cost coastal markets to more affordable inland markets since 2000. This represents virtually a complete reversal from the demographic trends from World War II to the early 1990s. There is no reason for it to have occurred other than that housing affordability has been destroyed in the formerly strong but now highly regulated markets. Shockingly, previously fast growing San Diego is now losing domestic migrants at twice the rate of Pittsburgh.

Deflating the Housing Bubble in the Highly Regulated Markets

Housing prices have reached uncharted territory relative to incomes. Some analysts have suggested that housing affordability was nearly as bad when interest rates were high, especially in the late 1980s. But those interest rates passed and nearly all high-interest rate mortgages were replaced with lower-rate loans. Thus, the affordability crisis was "transitional." This housing affordability crisis is "structural." Buyers are stuck with the high prices they paid and the costly mortgages. It seems likely that, in the longer run, the bloated prices in highly regulated markets will be subject to correction. This could occur in various ways. For example:

(1) Slower Economic Growth: Overvalued markets could experience stagnant population and economic growth (already evident in the domestic migration data, especially in California and the Northeast) as household incomes rise over a period of many years or decades in relation to housing prices. For example, San Francisco-San Jose, which had been one of the nation's fastest growing metropolitan areas from World War II to the early 1990s, is now growing at one-third the rate of rust belt St. Louis.
(2) Inflating Away Windfall Profits from Bloated House Prices: The overvalued prices could fuel higher inflation, which would in the longer run negate the higher house prices as the rise in overall prices in the economy discounts the bloated house prices. This may be unlikely in the United States, because liberal regulation remains in so much of the nation, including some of the fastest growing markets. However, inflation may well be the easiest way out for economies that have nearly lost the housing affordability battle, such as Australia and New Zealand (where smart growth is called "urban consolidation"). They do not have the outlet of affordable markets that allow US households to find reasonable prices outside of smart growth areas. In Australia and New Zealand, political pressure could build on central banks to allow higher inflation both to minimize foreclosures on households overburdened by high debt, principally in excessively large mortgages. (Already, major political parties in Australia are treating central bank interest rate decisions as a political matter.)

(3) The Bubble Bursts: The current housing market seizure in over-regulated markets could turn into a "bust" as the already weakening demand could be converted into a massive decline in demand, precipitating huge losses in the overvalued markets.

A correction could occur by other means as well and the future is always impossible to foresee. However, the overvalued prices in over-regulated markets are not likely to be sustainable. The price of smart growth and excessive regulation is already being paid by some households. The next question is the extent of damage that the increasingly expensive mortgages created by smart growth will inflict upon regional economies, if not the national economy.
US Existing House Sales: 2005-2006.

Draft at 2007.03.07

Wendell Cox
Demographia | Wendell Cox Consultancy - St. Louis Missouri-Illinois metropolitan region
Visiting Professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Letters not published - March 2007

To Letters, Sydney Morning Herald, 6 March 2007

Simon Daley perpetuates the discredited myths promulgated by high-density advocates (letters 6 March 2007). The housing affordability crisis has resulted from the State Government throttling the release of housing land. Anything in short supply rises in price. Not only has the proliferation of units during the past 15 years not prevented the crisis - it is this high-density policy that is the root cause.
What is more, there is no shortage of farming land. Just ask the farmers about the prices they get for their produce. If our population has to increase, it is more responsible to slightly add to the current minuscule 0.25% of urbanised land in Australia than to preclude a large proportion of our young people from ever owning their own home. Also, it is far preferable for our physical and mental well-being to live surrounded by gardens and trees than in a congested heap of concrete and bitumen.

Tony Recsei

Friday, March 02, 2007

March letters published

The Daily Telegraph

Edition 1 - StateTHU 01 MAR 2007, Page 028

Both sides of politics let the faithful down

Another bungle from the Labor Party (“Calamity Costa cut out of poll picture,” The Daily Telegraph, February 28). Is Morris Iemma trying to catch up with Peter Debnam?

Both major parties have shown themselves to be grossly incompetent. One way or another, both have betrayed and ignored their supporters at local, state and federal level and made a mockery of democracy. Both accept huge donations from developers and Sydney is turning into a slum.

So put Labor and Liberal last on your ballot paper. Vote for one of the minor parties or an independent. Make the major parties work for their mandate.

Hugh Knox, Gordon
(Hugh is a member of SOS).

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Australand - WA Corruption and Crimes Commission

Evidence given before the WA Corruption and Crime Commision:

The Australian Financial Review (19 and 20 February 2007) reports on evidence given before the WA Corruption and Crime Commision. Property Developer Australand's senior executive in Perth, Chris Lewis admitted he put together a deal for Australand to secretly bankroll the election campaign of a Perth mayor, Mr Stephen Lee. Mr Lee was an open supporter of the contraversial Port Coogee $900 million Australand residential development project south of Perth. Via a front company, Australand secretly payed $43,000 to the election campaign of Mr Lee. A taped phone call reveals Mr Lewis saying "I just don't know whether I should be speaking on the phone" to which the person he was speaking to replied "Oh I see, yeah alright well mate. No, its probably a better idea not to speak on the phone". The person he was speaking to was disgraced former West Australian premier Brian Burke.

It seems the millions of dollars of donations to political parties that are reported according to the law are only the tip of the iceberg.

Paradise Lost


According to surveys about fifteen per cent of people in Sydney prefer to live in units. Through its draconian dictatorial actions the State Government is trying to force more of Sydney's population to live in units. Councils that do not rezone single residential lots to multidwelling get their planning powers taken away. The horrifying consequences are described in over 1 1/2 pages in the Sydney Morning Herald (26 February 2007).

The Herald describes how a resident and strata manager who tried to get the developer of the units he is living in to fix defects was bashed by two men with baseball bats. As a result he was in hospital for several days, is convalescing at home and has resigned as strata manager. This is not the only such case.

Sydney's deputy Lord Mayor is quoted as saying "Noise, partying all night, people throwing up on your doorstep or in the communal spa pool, illegal short-term rentals, parking rage and squashing 10 people into a two-bedroom apartment are just the tip of the iceberg. And don't forget, as you drag your neighbour through the often ponderous Fair Trading complaints system, you still have to live next to these people. It must be like living through a divorce where neither party moves out."

The articles report the biggest problem is that the Government's decisions are skewed to favour developers, who are by far the biggest donors to the main political parties. The state ALP has received more than $9 million from developers since 1998-99, according to calculations by the Greens, and the NSW Liberals and Nationals received almost $6.5 million.
"You don't hear much about the problems because the people who are affected are terrified bad news will harm the value of their homes," says Ray Newey, chairman of the Highgate apartment building in The Rocks. "And the people who should be speaking out for them - their MPs - have been bought off with the millions of dollars donated to party funds."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Letters not published - February 2007

From: Jenny Yule
To: SMH Letters
Sent: Monday, February 26, 2007 8:49 PM
Subject: Battle for NSW article: Let Sydney Grow ...

Dear sir/madam,
So developers say "Let Sydney grow or lose $6b"? (SMH, 26 Feb). How about "let Sydney grow and lose what is left of our clean air, green space, and quality of life? Let Sydney grow and watch our traffic system deteriorate even further and social problems associated with overcrowding escalate. Let Sydney grow and witness a rise in stress and pollution related diseases. Let Sydney grow and marvel at the way the developers' pockets bulge and the political parties' funds overflow. It is clear the Department of Planning refuses to develop our beautiful city appropriately and is hell-bent on high rise and maximum density. I say let Sydney be.
(Mrs) J. Yule


From: Tony Recsei
To: SMH Letters
Sent: Monday, February 26, 2007
Subject: Strata Living: A paradise lost

Our lost paradise is not restricted to strata living ("Strata living: a paradise lost", Herald 26 January). The entire community is facing the destruction of our Australian way of life. That wonderful and rare attribute in an increasingly overcrowded world – adequate space, is being wrung out of our neighbourhoods.

Only 0.25% of Australia’s land surface is urbanised. However the Planning Department dictatorially rams more and more high-density multiunits into protesting communities under the threat of taking away their councils’ planning powers.

The only people who benefit are the developers who build this cancerous high-rise and the politicians who receive their donations.

Tony Recsei


21 February 2007

To the Editor: Sydney Morning Herald

Re: Co-operation essential to great Aussie dream (21 February)

ALP Housing Shadow Minister Tanya Plibersek notes that the scarcity of land in Sydney does not explain why costs are high in other parts of Australia . True enough. However, house costs are high elsewhere in Australia because similar land shortages exist elsewhere in Australia. This is documented in reports by the Urban Development Institute of Australia and the Residential Development Council. Costs are high in Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne because of planning induced land shortages in Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne. Land for development has escalated in cost more than any of the 90 elements of the Consumer Price Index and more than double that of petrol. Prices do not rise with such a vengeance where supply is permitted to respond to demand.

In turning their backs on the Great Australian Dream, state governments have driven the cost (including interest) of the median price house up by from six to 11 years of gross annual household income (median), and that in just 10 years. The mechanisms vary. In Sydney, there are direct and ideological urban consolidation plans, while in Perth, a less direct, yet just as destructive bureaucratic morass is the cause of the land shortage. There is simply no hope of restoring the Great Australian Dream without dealing squarely with the problem of government strangled land supply.

Wendell Cox

Co-author, Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey

Visiting Professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris


To: letters smh
Sent: Monday, February 19, 2007 9:09 AM
Subject: "developer" violence charge

Dear Editor

A domestic violence charge that would "name and shame" all offenders? (Iemma recycles $2b pledges, February 19)

How about introducing a developer violence charge at the same time, Mr Iemma?


Anne Wagstaff

Friday, February 16, 2007



They have been telling us for years that high-density is "more sustainable". But...

The following letter was published in the National Post newspaper in the USA, Thursday, February 15, 2007

Two bad ideas from British Columbia
National Post
Published: Thursday, February 15, 2007
Re: It's Time To Talk About Urban Density, Sam Sullivan, Feb. 13.

Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan's wish for higher density carries a heavy price. That is already evident in Vancouver area house prices, which are among the highest in the world, relative to incomes, principally because of the region's densification-favouring policies. It is not a foregone conclusion that higher densities are more environmentally friendly. In Sydney, Australia, for example, it has been found that greenhouse gas emissions per capita are lower from detached houses than from high-rise residential buildings. The U.S. Oakridge National Laboratory found that doubling the density of urban areas would do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that vehicle technology improvements were a far better course.

And if all Canadians were to abandon their cars and sport utility vehicles, the nation would still fall short of achieving its Kyoto Accord targets. Sometimes it helps to take a good hard look at the data, without preconceptions.

Wendell Cox

Notes: The energy study referred to is: "Multi-Unit Residential Building Energy and Peak Demand Study" by Paul Myors, Energy Australia with Racheal O'Leary and Rob Helstroom, NSW Department of Planning, October 2005.

This study shows that greenhouse gas emissions in high-rise per person averages 5.4 tonnes of CO2 per year, nearly double the 2.9 tonnes per person per year in detached housing. Other studies show that average per capita water usage is no higher in single-residential than water consumption in high-rise.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

December Newsletter

Cut out the cancer source
Local residents band together to oppose an overdevelopment in their area. They stage protests, write letters and organise petitions and marches. They learn about planning issues, collect money and take their fight to the Land and Environment Court. After all these efforts the best they can usually hope for is a minor reduction in the overdevelopment proposal they oppose. What is more, this will not be the end of their problems. Like cancers, more and more overdeveloment proposals continue to spring up in their area. The result is stifling traffic and the destruction of their environment.

The primary cancer source is the NSW Department of Planning. This department spreads its despotic urban consolidation policy by means of issuing dictatorial planning policies and its officials making regular visits to the staff of councils
These secondary cancers will continue to spring up until the primary source is cut out.

Counteracting the spin.
The government tries to tell us that high-density is for the overall community benefit. It says we must all have "our share" of high density.

Under this blatant untruth the overdevelopment scourge is forced onto the community.
SOS is the only NSW-wide organisation that counters these Orwellian actions and falsehoods. In August we ran a public forum entitled "Sydney Planning - off the rails?" including Liberal Shadow Planning Minister Chris Hartcher and world authority Wendell Cox. Frank Sartor, Minister of Planning was invited to speak but was "too busy".

We continue to write letters to the press and get onto talk-back radio. With the assistance of SOS member Ted Webber we have produced a DVD that exposes Government lies and portrays what is really happening to our city. And we are active politically.

Campaign a great success

Developers are the major political parties’ biggest source of funds. In the last three years the two major parties have collected over $7.7 million in donations from developers.

It is now six years since Save Our Suburbs first turned the spotlight onto these developer donations, demanding that they be banned.

On Quentin Dempster’s ABC TV Stateline program, 30 March 2001, I criticised the policy of Urban Consolidation, which the then planning minister Dr Refshauge defended. After Dr Refshauge had said his piece Quentin Dempster said "But Tony Recsei smells a rat" and featured me bringing up the developer donation issue.

That program caused the facts to hit the fan, so to speak, and the next week Paul Keating and others, including the Greens, took up the topic. Developer donations is now a major public issue and even developer organisations have joined the chorus calling for a blanket ban on political donations, they say "to tackle public concerns that money is corrupting the planning process".

We now have the extraordinary situation of developers themselves actually asking for a ban on their political donations! Our campaign is turning out to be a great success.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Public Transport in Sydney: Where's the Beef?

Sydney Transport blog 2 20070102

Perhaps the Sydney Morning Herald is beginning to "get it." In 27 December editorial entitled "Planning with a Shovel," the paper noted that New South Wales densification policies promise to "clog the city with cars." The paper goes on to decry the ineffective government policies that have failed to materially improve public transport. That was vividly illustrated last year when the Herald's competitor, the Daily Telegraph showed that a marathon runner could beat the train over at least short distances. Today, Sydney's trains may run on time more often, but only because their schedules have been retarded.

However, it would be premature to celebrate an epiphany at the Herald. Its editorial writers quickly lapse into the tiresome anti-automobile ideology, charging, " Sydney must become a denser city lest it turn into a wasteful, car-dominated environmental disaster." The editorial implies that things would be better if only the state government had a better public transport plan.

Yes, Sydney is car-dominated. So is Atlanta. So is Portland. So is Paris and so are Stockholm and Barcelona. Moreover, none of them even, not even Sydney, approaches being an "environmental disaster." The Morning Herald needs to move from delusion (even hysteria) to reality. Urban areas today are cleaner than they have been in centuries. There is every prospect that they will continue to get cleaner as even better air pollution technologies reduce automobile emissions.

So what of this devotion to public transport? What would the Morning Herald have the government do? Any government? The reality is simply this. There is not a single serious proposal on the table in any of the high-income world's major urban areas that would establish a public transport system capable of replacing the autombile or even attracting a material share of demand from it. The research is clear --- mobility improves productivity and it makes people more affluent.

There is an applicable story from the US 1984 Democratic campaign for President. In a debate, Vice-President Walter F. Mondale turned to his opponent Gary Hart, and challenging his policies, asked "Where's the beef." Mondale was mimicking a phrase from a television advertising campaign in which a hamburger chain was implying that its competition sold hamburgers with not very much beef.

The same question could be asked about public transport. Why is there no beef? Because there can be none. Throughout Australia, North America and Western Europe, the automobile is the dominant form of urban transport. Today's geographically expansive urban areas simply cannot be served by public transport systems that are competitive with automobile travel, except principally to downtown.

If the Herald doesn't believe it perhaps they should run a contest and seek proposals from local experts and experts around the world to propose a feasible, affordable automobile competitive public transport system. The prize money, at whatever level, would go unclaimed.

When policymakers finally recognize that public transport rhetoric is largely without substance, then the focus can move from ideology to reality.

By Wendell Cox
Principal, Demographia (St. Louis, USA)
Co-author, Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey
Visiting Professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris

Published Letters December 2006

To Sydney Morning Herald
29 December 2006

Frank Sartor, is there a government strategy to force people out of their homes in fully built-up areas? Otherwise how will all these flats be squeezed in? As Ku-ring-gai has no space, does the minister have a secret plan to develop its national parks, as suggested by one prominent Sydney developer? How does all this increased high-rise density square with global warming’s effects on Sydney’s water and electricity supplies, both of which are already overstretched?
What we need for our future is water tanks and solar panels on single houses, and more trees to counteract the ever-increasing air pollution from the traffic on our overcrowded roads.
When will the Government start thinking about decentralisation?

Jeannette Tsoulos

To Sydney Morning Herald
26 December 2006

The Department of Planning hides behind councils to impose high-density on Sydney communities ("Revealed: the Sydney flats squeeze", Herald 26 December). It threatens to take away council planning powers unless councils submit strategies that will provide the new dwellings it demands. The councils then cop the anger triggered by the resulting high-rise while the Department and our politicians get off scott free.

Tony Recsei

To Daily Telegraph
28 December 2006

Developers hold city to ransom

On the night of Wednesday, December 26, ABC television news featured a story about the NSW Government's furtive plan to increase the population of Sydney enormously.
The plan is to force the development of many huge apartment blocks on local councils and to get the councils to do the Government's dirty work.
Once again, in response to huge developer donations to the Labor and Liberal parties, the State Government is giving developers a licence to print money.
The Claytons Opposition is inert, other than to smear the opponents of profit-driven development, and Sydney is rapidly turning into a slum.
Commercial donations to major political parties must be made illegal. People who buy from developers must be warned that, if they do so, they will get only a fraction of value for their money.
And at election time, put Labor and the Liberals last. Both parties have betrayed their supporters one way or another at local, state and federal levels.
Vote for one of the minor parties or an independent.

Hugh Knox, Gordon

Letters Not Published - December 2006

To Sydney Morning Herald
28 December 2006

The Department of Planning, under the "guidance" of the omnipotent Frank Sartor, continues to spread its tentacles throughout our beautiful city. Sydney will cease being beautiful if the Department has its way, and will deteriorate into a cramped, traffic-choked, polluted mass of multi storey developments with inadequate infrastructures and, of course, not enough water to support the inhabitants. Money and power are driving the people behind this overdevelopment of our fair city ... obviously the future of our children and grandchildren doesn't merit a thought.
Jenny Yule,

To Sydney Morning Herald
26 December 2006

I am so tired of listening to the arguments against sprawl. Yes it is happening here in Hervey Bay also. When are we going to start talking about population growth and a ‘sustainable’ economy not an economy based on eternal growth? If the argument that by building up we retain more open space was true I would not be so opposed to high rise but when examining the reality of what is happening everywhere, especially along our coastal fringe, we simply see all the land taken up by high rise. Setback and site coverage provisions are either inadequate or compromised. Any open space left around a high rise building is undesirable open space. It is constantly in shade, wind swept, leafless and usually not accessible to the general public. Squashing two houses into a block designed for one has the exact same result. High density living equates to ever increasing traffic congestion, less useful open space and no positive outcomes except for increased income to the developers and government (via taxes and rates). High density living steals our sky! A sensible approach to population growth combined with decentralisation is the answer, NOT urban consolidation.

Cr Sue Brooks
Dundowran Beach