Over the next two weeks, Next City will unroll short profiles of 77 people, places and ideas that have changed cities this year. Together, they make up our 2012 Disruption Index. Forefront subscribers can download the Index in full as a PDF, complete with beautiful designs and graphics by Danni Sinisi. Readers who make a $75 donation to Next City will have a full-color printed copy of the Index mailed to them.
To thrive in the modern economy, we must live in cities, and those cities must be dense. That’s the charge of Harvard urban economist Edward L. Glaeser, who has become one of the leading expert voices arguing for the wisdom of urban density in recent years. His 2011 book Triumph of the City makes an impassioned and heavily researched argument that city living is the key to the future of humanity, and that density will have to become a priority as global urbanization continues.
But there’s a reason — many reasons, in fact — why cities aren’t as dense as they probably should be. To explain the intricacies and limitations of the housing market and city zoning, recent books by The Economist writer Ryan Avent and Slate writer Matt Yglesias delve into the policies that actively work against densification. Their work cleanly lays out what needs to change to enable developers to build more densely and how the finances of the housing market need to be revised to make it easier for people to live in cities affordably. The argument for denser cities is becoming louder thanks to the work of Glaeser, Avent and Yglesias. Now, it’s time for action.
Nate Berg is a writer and journalist covering cities, architecture and urban planning. Nate’s work has been published in a wide variety of publications, including the New York Times, NPR, Wired, Metropolis, Fast Company, Dwell, Architect, the Christian Science Monitor, LA Weekly and many others. He is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities and was previously an assistant editor at Planetizen.