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Rethinking Urban Sprawl

Moving Towards Sustainable Cities

image of Rethinking Urban Sprawl

This report provides a new perspective to the nature of urban sprawl and its causes and environmental, social and economic consequences. This perspective, which is based on the multi-dimensionality of urban sprawl, sets the foundations for the construction of new indicators to measure the various facets of urban sprawl. The report uses new datasets to compute these indicators for more than 1100 urban areas in 29 OECD countries over the period 1990-2014. It then relies on cross-city, country-level and cross-country analyses of these indicators to provide insights into the current situation and evolution of urban sprawl in OECD cities. In addition, the report offers a critical assessment of the causes and consequences of urban sprawl and discusses policy options to steer urban development to more environmentally sustainable forms.

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Causes and consequences of urban sprawl

This chapter provides an extensive review of the main drivers of urban sprawl, as well as of its impacts on the environment, economy and society. The chapter discusses economic, geographic, technological and policy drivers of urban sprawl, including household preferences, developers’ expectations, and stringent land-use policies. It also investigates a set of potential environmental effects of urban sprawl comprising: i) increases in emissions from more extensive car use; ii) changes in energy needs and emissions associated with residential heating; iii) losses of periurban arable land and their further effect on food prices; iv) losses of biodiversity and environmental amenities; v) degradation of water resources; and vi) changes in microclimate. The potential effects of urban sprawl on land and housing prices, public finance, and on human health, are also reviewed.

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