There’s no doubt that housing is an intensely personal and critical issue around the world. Not only are millions of people displaced every year but there are countless more that simply struggle to afford to put a roof over their head. The commonly made solution is to deregulate land use and allow for more houses and apartments to be developed on what was farming land or parks.
The funny thing is that we only have so much land. It’s finite. We won’t get more, we can’t duck down to the supermarket and buy some more land. There isn’t a problem with allocating land for particular use per se. To what extent do we need to dedicate land to buildings that we mostly just sleep in? At what point do we value food supply over housing? As you probably already know most housing developments and city expansions are built on what was productive land. The case here is quite simple: if we continue to develop farm land then what land will we have to farm and where will our food come from?
The cities grow and grow and grow, until they sprawl for miles and miles. In all that growth we are reducing our capacity to feed the people in the city. More people but less food — doesn’t make sense, does it.
Other issues with this style of development include but aren’t limited to; deforestation, environmental damage, inefficient congested cities, and mental health issues. To me, these seem like big prices to pay for a backyard. To get that traditional American, or Australian dream of a house with a backyard you have to pay that price.
It’s shocking, but really that’s what we are paying by saying no to medium-high density development and saying yes to suburban sprawl. By insisting that we have our own little patch of dirt around our homes we are costing ourselves and our kids future food supply, future enjoyment in natural wonders, and giving them ever more inefficient cities.
Urban growth is inevitable and we know people are flocking to the cities in search of work, love and a range of things. We can support their move by building medium-high density housing that is affordable and designed well. Rooftop gardens, conscious building orientation, light, balconies, courtyard etc. All aspects of design to make our homes beautiful whilst minimising the impact to our selves.
The housing debate that is often raging in developed nations is focused on the short term. The notification that pops up and says BREAKING NEWS: Houses available today! Like most instant gratification effects it has long term costs. Costs that are irreversible because we really don’t consider how difficult it would be to turn houses back into agricultural land…if possible at all. So we need to consider our own futures and plan ahead. Ensure that the land stays available to put dinner on the table or to go for that Sunday hike through the woods.