LEANZ, Law and Economics in New Zealand

Next Wellington Seminar

Next Wellington Seminar


Topic:      Markets, urban planning and local democracy

Speaker:  Alain Bertaud

Date:        Wednesday 30 July 2014

Venue:     Russell McVeagh, Vodafone on the Quay, 157 Lambton Quay, Wellington

Time:        12.30pm

RSVP:      tim.stephens@simpsongrierson.com


About the topic: 

As cities grow bigger, planning is needed to provide the transport corridors that allow rapid connections and movement of specialised labour that constitute a city. Planning may also prevent the negative externalities of proximate incompatible land uses.

However, since the middle of the twentieth century, urban planning has had “mission creep”.  Instead of limiting their activities to transport corridors and preventing negative externalities, planners have attempted to substitute regulatory design for market allocation of land uses. Recently labelled "smart growth" or "sustainability', such planning has constricted land supply for expanding cities and greatly increased land prices.

Extending the notion of negative externality to any change brought to the urban status quo without considering the large positive externality generated by urban growth extends the property rights of incumbent urban dwellers over the rights of newcomers.

The proliferation of acronyms like NIMBY (not in my backyard), BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone) and CAVE (citizens against virtually everything) reflects a deep crisis of local democracy.   

The astonishing ability to provide rapidly needed urban infrastructure in non-democratic cities in China and Vietnam or in muscular democracies like Singapore should prod us, not to abandon democratic principles, but to redefine property rights to avoid urban paralysis and possibly a housing affordability problem that could have deeper social consequences for our countries in the future.

This talk will be illustrated by examples taken from US, European and Asian cities.  

About the speaker:

Alain Bertaud is an urbanist and, since 2012, a senior research scholar at the NYU Stern Urbanization Project. Bertaud previously held the position of principal urban planner at the World Bank. After retiring from the Bank in 1999, he worked as an independent consultant. Prior to joining the World Bank, he worked as a resident urban planner in a number of cities around the world:  Bangkok, San Salvador (El Salvador), Port au Prince (Haiti), Sana’a (Yemen), New York, Paris, Tlemcen (Algeria), and Chandigarh (India).

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