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Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

Perverse Cities

Hidden Subsidies, Wonky Policy, and Urban Sprawl

Urban sprawl – low-density subdivisions and business parks, big box stores and mega-malls – has increasingly come to define city growth despite decades of planning and policy. In Perverse Cities, Pamela Blais argues that flawed public policies and mis-pricing create hidden, “perverse” subsidies and incentives that promote sprawl while discouraging more efficient and sustainable urban forms – clearly not what most planners and environmentalists have in mind. She makes the case for accurate pricing and better policy to curb sprawl and shows how this can be achieved in practice through a range of market-oriented tools that promote efficient, sustainable cities.

294 pages

Table of Contents


1 The Price of Sprawl

Part 1: The Planning Problem

2 Sprawl: A Planning Problem

3 The Costs and Benefits of Sprawl

Part 2: The Problem with Planning

4 The Costs and Benefits of Planning

5 How Do Our Cities Grow? Plans versus Reality

6 Prices Drive Sprawl

Part 3: Subsidies, Cross-Subsidies, and Mis-Incentives: How Public Policy Finances Sprawl

7 Municipal Services: Costs and Prices

8 Network Services: Costs and Prices

9 Housing, Infrastructure, and Energy: More Mis-Pricing and Mis-Incentives

10 Driving Sprawl: Pricing and Policy Mis-Incentives

Part 4: What to Do

11 Principles for a Market-Oriented Approach

12 A Toolbox of Market-Oriented Instruments

13 Perverse Subsidies, Perverse Cities




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