4. Why should medium-density be considered?
There are traditionally four reasons to argue for medium-density housing: it is good for people (social), for the environment (natural), for government (fiscal), and for business (economic). Here is a brief summary of each set of arguments:
South Africa has very segregated cities due to the legacies of colonisation, apartheid and modernist urban planning. Densification is essential for the people of South Africa and helps achieve social equity by: providing the poor with the same access to urban amenities as the rich; promoting inclusive and integrated cities that do not divide people by race and class; and enabling poor communities participate in their development to have a voice in city planning.
Unmitigated urban sprawl is not affordable for the South African government. The State can no longer afford to allow our cities to spread unchecked. It is less expensive to: upgrade inner-city infrastructure, than to build new infrastructure beyond the urban edge; provide the poor with well-located land, than to finance transport subsidies; and ensure families have access to decent, well-paid jobs, than to pay social grants.
Expanding the city outward is dangerous to the South African environment. Unless we change our current development patterns, we will do irreparable harm to our natural world. It is more sustainable to: create environmentally conscious cities, than to devour our finite resources at an unsustainable rate; build medium-density neighbourhoods that enable people to live and work in close proximity, than to heavily rely on the motor car; and develop higher-density housing typologies where walls and materials are shared amongst several units, than to deplete natural resources for construction materials.
The South African economy also suffers from low-densification. Businesses fail because there are not enough people to sustain them. It is more profitable to: enable small and medium sized businesses to be situated near higher concentrations of people to achieve the thresholds necessary to sustain commerce (about 50 dwelling units per hectare).