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The Relationship between Urban Growth and Building Cities

Question:

Discuss about the Ecological Modernization and Environmental State.

Planning is considered as a political process that requires public actions and have an impact on the built and natural environment. It has to balance different interests, demands and views of the stakeholders. Planning leads to fundamental changes in the way people can experience their cities. Decision-makers have to deal with the future of planning issues to achieve the smart, creative and sustainable cities (Legacy & Leshinsky 2015).

The relationship between the cities and citizens have always been inspired and managed by the challenging knowledge of the contemporary planning. Hall (2014), blames governments for their bureaucratic practices that hindered creativity in half a century or more. Also, he warns from the narrow view that limits creativity and innovation in planning according to the social transition and adapts to the changes in the environmental sustainability.  

In order to answer a critical question about what could be done to make good planning, different aspects should be considered, including the complex social, economic and environmental challenges that confront the urban growth and building cities. Campbell (2012), argues that the world is complex, chaotic, uncertain and full of inequalities the relationship between knowledge and action is important to the theory of planning and practice. As the population grows, the development pressure increases and the land available for easy protection decreases. The protected land allows citizens to continue to exist. It could be divided into two groups according to their distance from the metropolitan areas. The areas near to the metropolitan areas usually enjoy high political support. But people in rural areas are considered the major reason for the urban expansion and depopulation of the rural areas (Hamin 2002).

The interest in the role of regional and local entities in growth management has witnessed an increase in the last decade. The local agencies were created to protect open spaces, manage urban growth and coordinate between the efforts of individual counties Bengston et al. (2004). The following section discusses the literature review of urban growth management. It starts with the measurement and comparison between the local plans policy content and the development controls, then it discusses the urban regulation, housing supply and affordability, followed by the problems of urban space and the contemporary planning approaches and finally it investigates the housing and urban reform under neoliberalism.

Local plans are considered common tools among the world countries, unlike the different approaches that deal with the development control and planning issues. The local plans are usually conducted by the local authority governed by the regulatory framework and imposed by the top levels in the state.  Significant results were achieved from the comparison between the plans implemented by the local authorities and the physical outcomes on the ground. Testing this assumption was made by the plan evaluation research in order to measure the conformance of the outputs of the planning process. The evaluation research could be done through content analysis or surveys (Gurran, Gilbert & Phibbs 2015). Another dimension to the planning process is the participation approach, it involves public participation of a variety of citizens. It is expected that the participation presents the community interests in a democratic way. To ensure that the participation is effective, it must have breadth and depth through the involvement in every stage of the process of policymaking. Breadth measures the extent to which the community members can have the opportunity to participate in the policymaking process. The depth reflects the extent to which the participants can control the final policy outcomes (Conroy 2004).

The Literature Review of Urban Growth Management

A proposed model of urban growth boundary by Ding et al. (1999) assumes that the trend of urban growth involves a continuous cycle of urban growth. As the urban growth boundary leads to absorption of the infrastructure capacity and limitation of the growth. Local governments can impose adjusted urban growth boundary discretely. This model provides a good instrument for the delivery of public services in the cases that marginal cost pricing is unavailable. This model did not describe if it has a significant distribution that leads to an increase in the social welfare. 

Gurran & Whitehead (2011) argue that the link between the land planning strategies and the housing price rates are due to the formulation of the strategic spatial policies. These policies take place through land, infrastructure, procurements and coordination that leads to increased housing prices. The argument of Gurran & Whitehead (2011) leads us to think about the political controversy and its effect on the housing consumption and production levels.

The political theories of regulatory capture assist in explaining the reasons that lead the policy makers to take actions that seem to be against the public interest. The capture theory assumes that the political intervention is not enough to solve the problems of market failures as the monopoly behaviour, the destructive use of private economic power and high competition (Gurran & Phibbs 2015).

Reher (2012), relates the growth in urban planning to the implication of the demographic transition that lead to the social and economic changes. Some of these changes took place on the aggregate level of the society and others have affected the individuals only, as follows:

  • Fertility reduction leads to changes in the age structure that affects the relative proportion of young and working age population. It also yields a long life generation, small family size and reduced production period.
  • The periods of high population growth in most cases coincide with waves of migration that create pressure and shape the world socially and economically.
  • The longer life expectancy has resulted in greater investments in the human capital in terms of better education and health.

Bertinelli & Strobl (2007) have considered the connection between the urban conglomerates and the economic development in the developing countries, as they have evolved from agricultural to manufacturing and service economy. He has discussed the costs associated with people concentration in cities called the 'congestion costs'.

Sustainability issues and environmental problems led the planners to consider the importance of the green belt. Experts have led the top-down approach of the state-led planning since the 1950s. The concern of planners towards the environment has shifted from the preservation of the landscape to a technocratic concern. Sustainability leads to ecological preservation of green spaces. On the other hand, the concept of social justice argues that the green belt restricts the development and could harm the society. The land supply is likely to shrink and causes shortage in housing supply and leads prices to increase (Amati & Taylor 2010). These arguments lead to the dilemma of advocating the environmental sustainability and the availability of affordable housing.

The Political Theories of Regulatory Capture


Schuetz et. al, 2011, has discussed the idea of inclusionary housing and the governmental regulations associated with it. This approach focuses on the necessity of offering affordable housing across local areas or in certain regions. Public grants and incentives, including a tax credit for low-income zones, are considered the sources of finance to the affordable housing. To ensure fairness, the main characteristics of the inclusionary zone programs determine the rate of the effective tax and its impact on the prices of housing land and housing production in the inclusionry zones. Some of these programs are planned to apply to the residential developments broadly and other programs are a grant for basic areas of development selected according to the land space, structure and the project size. As the amount of dispensations increase, the lower the strictness the inclusionary zones program will be and the lower the tax rate in comparison with programs with no exemptions.

Gurran & Ruming (2016), argue that the voluntary incentive models that deals with the provision of the affordable housing depend on market actors that are hard to be predicted. The planning system is considered as an important mechanism to ensure that the affordable housing is well located in relation to the availability of other social services and employment opportunities. 

The governments have tried to find ways to deal with the implications of the global economic crisis by using different mechanisms to deal with them. The social, economic and cultural changes should be considered as the economic crisis has affected nonindustrial areas. Accordingly, cities have to think differently and create new ways to deal with the new changes creatively. Urban planning focuses on land use more than the social dynamics that take place in cities. According to Deffner & Vlachopoulou (2011), the main idea of creative cities is about the method used in the urban strategic planning and the way the citizens plan, think and live in these cities. This type of cities connects the planning process to the urban culture, leisure, media and activities.

Urbanization cannot exist without industrialization. The concept of modernization involves the structural and institutional processes of transforming from traditional methods of production to modern methods that reflect the ways of life. Modernization takes place through the economic development that encourages the social and political development. The two basic tools adopted by the modernization schools of thought are evolutionary perspective and the functionalist approach. The evolutionary perspective assumes that the social changes that affect the urbanization are unidirectional and gradual. On the other hand, the functionalist approach argues that as the transformative changes take place, the values transform from traditional to modern through advancement in technology and the economic activities and values that lead to the industrialization of societies (Zhang 2002; Cohen 2004)

The Implications of Global Economic Crises

Urbanization is considered a vital measurement to the level of economic development and the modernization as well in a certain region or country. It is a dynamic process for creating a prosperous economy. It is a phenomenon that combines several economic or social factors that emerge as a result of the development of the social productivity. The acceleration of the process of urbanization is considered as a strategic initiative required to conduct a scientific concept and reduce the gap between the urban and rural development. According to Li & Qin (2014), there are two evaluation methods of urbanization, represented in the single and the complex index methods. The method of single index is used in calculating the urban population proportion and the urban land proportion. The research reveals that although the single index method is easy to be calculated, it has a limited significance as it reflects the quality results instead of the process of transformation to urbanization. It is clear that the urbanization process is the process of citizens, economic, ecological and social transformation. The complex index depends on several factors including, the social, economic and cultural factors that measure the changes in the urbanization level through a quantitative and a quality index system.

Nielsen (2014), has indicated in his research the idea of the role of the political economy of smart growth. It involves the examination of the organizations and vital actors related to the development process. Planning strategies that focus on building vertical, mixed-use and high-density buildings. It includes residential and commercial mixture spaces that reduce the use of horizontal and separated spaces. This type of buildings allocation the bottom floor to commercial occupation and it is usually found in modern cities and downtown.


Logan & Molotch (2007), introduces the theory of growth machine that discusses on the urban growth through the examination of the relationship between the business elites seeking to maximize their profits and the government that seeks to raise the public revenues through the urban development. Both of the two actors of the growth machine share a common interest in the urban growth that could be measured through the economic output and the building performance. Smith & Floyd (2013), concern towards Logan and Molotch’s theory of the growth machine, they assume that the major benefit of the growth machine is the maximization of urban rents that represent the collective interest. The neoclassical theories of economic agglomeration do not consider the government role in urban areas. They assume that cities are the result of the mixture of the individuals and profit-oriented organizations that seek to maximize the exchange values. As a result, the public open areas hinders the production efficiencies that could be obtained from the increased urban density. 

The Importance of Local Plans in Urban Planning

The smart growth requires more diverse technical experts, there is a need for other players rather than the entrepreneurs. The required expertise is needed to create more financially feasible projects (Nielsen 2014). In contrast, the ecological modernization theory debates the environmental issues, as the shift in the modernization process could yield in severe problems to the environment. The ecological modernization requires that the planning process have to consider three elements represented in; first: institutional reflexivity, second: entrepreneurs that act as ecological restructuring and third: a framework that provides the rules of the smart environmental. The origin of this theory goes back to the social and institutional practices that took place due to the environmental deterioration since the mid of the 1980s in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands (Mol & Spaargaren 2002).

Neoliberalism started as a political-economic movement in various advanced countries during the the period (1970s and 1980s). According to Gurran & Ruming (2016) and Forrest & Hirayana (2009), this movement had several implications on the urban governance issues, planning and provision of housing. It has reduced the governmental intervention in the market processes as its human well-being could be developed through the private property rights, free trade and the free market. The neoliberalism influenced the housing policy by shaping the housing provision, economic conditions and the property rights.

Brenner et al., 2010 have distinguished between three different dimensions, represented in:

  • Regulatory experimentation; that assumes that the regulatory changes are connected to the global governance system.
  • Inter-jurisdictional policy transfer; as an important technique for consolidating spatial and institutional variations. The prototypes of the neoliberal policy are utilized across the institutional networks of knowledge sharing, including territories, places and
  • The creation of transnational rule-regimes; is formulated through the regulatory frameworks, legal systems and institutional arrangements.

Sager (2011), argues that the neoliberalism is rooted from to the Keynesian welfare state economics and the emergence of the market liberalization that was formulated by the Chicago School of political economy. Accordingly, it depends on the economic indicators that measure the political-administrative management system effectiveness and the market controls the politics, not the opposite. By this, a new relationship is formulated between the governments and the capital owners. Sager also notes that the concept of neoliberalism could be used in theory planning as a major tool to define the political scheme and the bureaucratic transformations that form the rules of urban planning

This could introduce an explanation of the facts behind the desire of the planning scholars to adopt the neoliberalism approach, as follows:

  • It sets new perspective of the concepts used in planning theories as globalization, market liberalization, welfare state and
  • The frame of public planning represented in the public sector institutions and organizations is being transformed by the neoliberalism.
  • New planning oriented urban policies are being used.

Measuring the housing supply faces problems related to the methodology used in measuring its existence due to the planning constraints. The housing market is considered as a complex and unique one that suffers from low substitutability levels across the locations in the cities and places that have access to valuable amenities in specific. Urban growth requires a good planning process, although this process is part of a complex supply chain that different factors, directly and indirectly, affect it, including industry trends, availability of labor, cost, financial resources and the decisions of the house builders. Other factors that affect the urban growth are the income growth, the ability to finance and the cost (Gurran & Phibbs 2013).

The Participation Approach in Urban Planning

The body of research that investigates the impact of planning on the outcomes of housing are not new. Many theoretical and empirical research investigates the relation between the land usage and the planning policies, the housing market prices and the affordable housing approaches and their criticism. There are very few studies that have investigated the impact of urbanization on the economic development. Also, these few studies did not differentiate between the developed and developing economies. Both of the developing and developed economies take different ways to develop. Also, cities are highly heterogeneous across the two types of economies.

The literature has provided numerous theories to both describe and predict the urban growth. A large number of the urban growth stems from the spatial economics and economic geography that mainly focus on the concentrations associated with the economic activities. Researchers have concentrated on the central place theory that was developed as a reemergence theory.

According to the literature review, no country, has implemented the neoliberalism prototype that features its theoretical characteristics.

The neoliberalism is still a debatable issue in social geography, there are still exchanges in opinions and the neoliberalism argues that the globalization is the favorite aspect in the discussion. Also, the geographical debate extends to include the spatial effects of neoliberalism and the territorial variations from one side and the definitional difficulties from the other side. A major aspect of criticism that has been directed to the neoliberalism is the usage of the term in virtual contexts and treating it as a variable that explains most of the social phenomenon.

On the other side, from an economic welfare perspective, the governmental interference in planning the housing market is essential to manage the environmental externalities and correct the market failures. The diverse body of literature reveals the necessity of realizing the differences in the housing markets and regulations of the use of land.

In relation to this, however, the neoliberalism of housing gained the support of homeowners and private investors in housing, the usage of governmental rent subsidies and vouchers have enabled the low-income families to rent houses in the private market.

The urban growth theories have considered the role of the government in the process of affordable housing creation in the form of inclusionary zones. The role of the public institutions could not be neglected, especially for certain groups of low-income people and in crisis time by introducing financial incentives to the private and nonprofit sector to encourage them to get involved in the growth of the affordable housing growth. This approach is considered among the new approaches that take place as a public reform policy in many countries. Despite of, the increasing popularity of the inclusionary zones among the policymakers, there is a lack of imperial research on the effectiveness of these programs. No evidence exists about the real production of housing they produce in fact, their direct impact on the price and quantity of housing in the real market. The research that exists only examines certain case studies. The policies targeting lower income groups still have many limitations that were clearly obvious as a consequence of the recent global financial crisis. At the time that the rental subsidies are directed to the low income and special needs groups through a planned process, they are heavily dependent on the support of capital funding and the buoyant market conditions. Although, the ecological modernization theorists strongly criticize the social constructivism, but they do not deny the social environmental problems.

The Proposed Model of Urban Growth Boundary

Conclusions

The local plans are usually conducted by the local authority within a legal framework and imposed by the top levels in the state.  Significant results were achieved from the comparison between the plans implemented by the local authorities and the physical outcomes on the ground.

The link between the land planning strategies and the housing price rates are due to the formulation of the strategic spatial policies. The capture theory assumes that the political intervention is not enough to solve the problems of market failures as the monopoly behaviour, the destructive use of private economic power and high competition.

Sustainability issues and environmental problems led the planners to consider the importance of the green belt. Urbanization cannot exist without industrialization. The concept of modernization involves the structural and institutional processes of transforming from traditional methods of production to modern methods that reflect the ways of life. The theory of growth machine that discusses on the urban growth through the examination of the relationship between the business elites seeking to maximize their profits and the government that seeks to raise the public revenues through the urban development.

Neoliberalism started as a political-economic movement in various advanced countries during the the period (1970s and 1980s). The neoliberalism influenced the housing policy by shaping the housing provision, economic conditions and the property rights.

The inclusionary housing approach focuses on the necessity of offering affordable housing across local areas or in certain regions. Public grants and incentives, including a tax credit for low-income zones, are considered the sources of finance to the affordable housing. To ensure fairness, the main characteristics of the inclusionary zone programs determine the rate of the effective tax and its impact on the prices of housing land and housing production in the inclusionry zones.

The voluntary incentive models that deals with the provision of the affordable housing depend on market actors that are hard to be predicted. The planning system is considered as an important mechanism to ensure that the affordable housing is well located in relation to the availability of other social services and employment opportunities.

References

Amati, M & Taylor, L 2010, 'From green belts to green infrastructure', Planning, Practice & Research, vol 25, no. 2, pp. 143–155.

Bengston, D, Fletcher, J & Nelson, K 2004, 'Public policies for managing urban growth and protecting open space: policy instruments and lessons learned in the United States', Landscape and Urban Planning, vol 69, pp. 271–286.

The Link between Land Planning Strategies and Housing Price Rates

Bertinelli, L & Strobl, E 2007, 'Urbanisation, urban concentration and economic development', Urban Studies, vol 44, no. 13, pp. 2499–2510.

Brenner, N, Peck, J & Theodore, N 2010, 'After Neoliberalization?', Globalizations, vol 7, no. 3, pp. 327–345.

Campbell, H 2012, 'Planning to change the world: Between knowledge and action Lies synthesis', Journal of Planning Education and Research, vol 32, no. 2, pp. 1-12.

Cohen, B 2004, 'Urban growth in developing countries: A review of current trends and a caution regarding existing forecasts', World Development, vol 32, no. 1, pp. 23-51.

Conroy, M 2004, 'What makes a good sustainable development plan? An analysis of factors that influence principles of sustainable development', Environment and Planning , vol 36, pp. 1381-1396.

Deffner, A & Vlachopoulou, C 2011, 'Creative city: A new challenge of strategic urban planning?', University of Thessaly, Greece.

Ding, C, Knaap, G & Hopkins, L 1999, 'Managing urban growth with urban growth boundaries: A theoretical analysis', Journal of Urban Economics, vol 46, pp. 53-68.

Forrest, R & Hirayana, Y 2009, 'The uneven impact of neoliberalism on housing opportunities', International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, vol 33, no. 4, pp. 998–1013.

Gurran, N, Gilbert, C & Phibbs, P 2015, 'Sustainable development control? Zoning and land use regulations for urban form, biodiversity conservation and green design in Australia', Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, vol 58, no. 11, pp. 1877-1902.

Gurran, N & Phibbs, P 2013, 'Housing supply and urban planning reform: the recent Australian experience, 2003–2012', International Journal of Housing Policy, vol 13, no. 4, pp. 381–407.

Gurran, N & Phibbs, P 2015, 'Are governments really interested in fixing the housing problem? Policy capture and busy work in Australia', Housing Studies, vol 30, no. 5, pp. 711–729.

Gurran, N & Ruming, K 2016, 'Less planning, more development? Housing and urban reform discourses in Australia', Journal of Economic Policy Reform, vol 19, no. 3, pp. 262–280.

Gurran, N & Whitehead, C 2011, 'Planning and affordable housing in Australia and the UK: A Comparative perspective', Housing Studies, vol 26, no. 7-8, pp. 1193–1214.

Hall, P 2014, Cities of tomorrow: An intellectal history of urpan planning and design since 1880, 4th edn, John Willy & Sons, Ltd.

Hamin, E 2002, 'Western European approaches to landscape protection: A review of the literature', Journal of Planning Literature, vol 16, no. 3, pp. 339-358.

Legacy, C & Leshinsky, R 2015, 'Planning instruments and the urban change process', in R Leshinsky, C Legacy (eds.), Instruments of Planning : Tensions and challenges for more equitable and sustainable cities, Taylor & Francis Group.

Li, Y & Qin, M 2014, 'Study on urbanization process evaluation and provincial comparison', Grey Systems: Theory and Application, vol 4, no. 1, pp. 13-23.

Logan, J & Molotch, H 2007, 'Urban fortunes: The political economy of place', University of California Press, California.

Mol, P & Spaargaren, G 2002, 'Ecological modernization and the environmental state', in The environmental state under pressure, Elsevier Science Ltd.

Nielsen, E 2014, 'Smart growth machines: The ecological modernization of urban political economy', in From sustainable to resilient cities: Global concerns and urban efforts, Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Ozden, K & Enwere, C 2012, 'Urbanization and its political challenges in developing countries', Eurasian Journal of Business and Economics, vol 5, no. 10, pp. 99-120.

Reher, D 2012, 'Population and the economy during the dempgraphic transition', Institute of Economic Affairs, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.

Sager, T 2011, 'Neo-liberal urban planning policies: A literature survey 1990–2010', Progress in Planning, vol 76, pp. 147–199.

Schuetz, J, Meltzer, R & Been, V 2011, 'Silver bullet or trojan horse? The effects of inclusionary zoning on local housing markets in the United States', Urban Studies, vol 48, no. 2, pp. 297–329.

Smith, J & Floyd, M 2013, 'The urban growth machine, central place theory and access to open space', City, Culture and Society, vol 4, no. 2, pp. 87-98.

Zhang, B 2002, 'Urbanization, population transition, and growth', Oxford Economic Papers, vol 54, pp. 91-117.

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