PC argues that "sprawl is good; regulation is not" -- yet another example of libertarian short-sightedness. He points out that sprawl can help bring down housing prices, and concludes that it must be 'good', without considering all the negative consequences. Outward development has environmental costs, increases traffic congestion and commuting times along arterial roads, leads to increased water demand, requires expensive new infrastructure, and makes alternative modes of transport (walking, cycling, public transport) infeasible for most.
The Greater Christchurch region is far from unregulated at present. But further regulations, as recommended by careful urban planning, could have significant benefits nonetheless. Compared to "business as usual" for the next 35 years, the council's Option A (which concentrates new development in the central city, building 'up' rather than 'out') will save 2110 hectares of land, $130 million in public infrastructure costs for new housing, $100 million in anti-congestion costs, $400 million per year motoring costs, and 212 L water per second. Although commuting times and vehicle emissions are set to worsen in either case, the increases can be alleviated by 10 and 15 percentage points, respectively. Further advantages include better community facilities within easy access of most citizens, and much improved transport options -- with walking, cycling, and public transport all becoming much more viable and attractive options.
It's far from clear that the benefits of cheaper housing can offset all these other factors. What is clear is that it's terribly irresponsible to just ignore all these complications and advocate for further sprawl solely on the basis of its benefits and without considering the costs.
PC adds: "Sprawl is good. It's about choice, and letting people afford to have one."
The Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy team solicited feedback from local residents about the options for our region. They made their choice. Only 3% opted for "business as usual". An overwhelming number of people explicitly asked for improved transport options (e.g. more cycleways), greater environmental responsibility, urban redevelopment, and stricter regulation to prevent sprawl.
(Full disclosure: I'm currently working with the Christchurch City Council to analyse the UDS feedback and assess the consultation process.)