Despite sky high Canadian real estate prices, the country’s cities aren’t as dense as many think. The Fraser Institute, a Canadian think-tank, analyzed a number of cities and compared their density. The study concludes that Canadian cities have plenty of room for densification. Missing was whether there’s an economic need for it. The study emphasized building a city to just physically accomodate people, rather than a healthy and stable economy. Let’s take a dive through their numbers, and look at how these cities rank in terms of economic output as well.
Canadian Cities Can Stand To Be More Dense
The study from Fraser Institute’s Filipwicz concludes that Canadian cities aren’t overly dense, and can stand more densification. Debate over. Not really. Canadian cities are less dense than many of their peers on the list, but they’re also much poorer. Many of the Canadian cities on the list are already lagging on economic output. This should ring alarm bells for these governments that are advocating density, without considering the lack of economic opportunity. Without even considering this problem, this country’s major cities are looking to create less affordable places, with even less opportunity than their peers.
Canadian Cities Rank Low On Density
The most dense cities were the usual suspects. In first was Hong Kong, with 25,719 people per km2. Paris was in second, with 21,067 people per km2. In third was Athens, with 17,036 people per km2. These are global capitals, and have been for centuries – they had a lot of time to plan for density.
Canadian cities rank substantially lower on the Fraser Institute’s list. Vancouver, the country’s most dense city, came in 14th on their list, with 5,493 people per km2. Montreal was the second most dense Canadian city, at number 17, with 4,916 people per km2. Toronto was the third Canadian city, with 4,457 people per km2 (20th). Canada’s most dense city is less than a fourth as dense their list’s most dense. The conclusion, Canadian cities can stand more density.
Source: Fraser Institute. Better Dwelling.
Canadian Cities Rank At The Bottom of That List For Economic Output
Sure, we can stand more density – but how is the current density doing? Generally speaking, density is a sign of economic opportunity. Afterall, no one’s moving to San Francisco just because they can physically accomodate more people. Dense cities should have a high level of economic output as they grow, otherwise you stand to create a greater level of wealth disparity. We decided to add GDP per capita, and rank this list to see how these cities are doing in terms of economic output.
The highest GDP per capita were in the middle of the list. Innovation hub Boston, comes in first with a GDP per capita of US$76,204. The finance capital of Amsterdam came in second, with a GDP per capita of US$76,204. The business hub of Houston came in third, with a GDP per capita of US$74,204. The growing density of these cities is clearly tied to their ability to generate huge amounts of economic activity.
Canadian cities rank close to the bottom of that list for GDP per capita. Toronto had a GDP per capita of US$45,771, making it 22nd. Vancouver wasn’t far behind, with a GDP per capita of US$44,337, making it 23rd. Montreal had a GDP per capita of US$38,867, ranking it 25th. By this measure, Toronto isn’t the next San Francisco – it’s the next Detroit.
Source: Brooking Institute. Better Dwelling.
Canadian cities are placing an increasing amount of focus on density, but not what people are actually doing in these cities. Consequently, housing has become one of the most important industries in the country, which is a disastrous setup if you think about it. The country isn’t trying to figure out how to warehouse people generating economic activity. We’re trying to figure out how to warehouse people building warehouses for people. Consequently, the price of housing in these cities is amongst the highest in the world, with a relatively low amount of density. More on that next time though.
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