IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Converting land into affordable housing floor space


  • Bertaud, Alain


Cities emerge from the spatial concentration of people and economic activities. But spatial concentration is not enough; the economic viability of cities depends on people, ideas, and goods to move rapidly across the urban area. This constant movement within dense cities creates wealth but also various degrees of unpleasantness and misery that economists call negative externalities, such as congestion, pollution, and environmental degradation. In addition, the poorest inhabitants of many cities are often unable to afford a minimum-size dwelling with safe water and sanitation, as if the wealth created by cities was part of a zero-sum game where the poor will be at the losing end. The main challenge for urban planners and economists is reducing cities'negative externalities without destroying the wealth created by spatial concentration. To do that, they must plan and design infrastructure and regulations while leaving intact the self-organizing created by land and labor markets. The balance between letting markets work and correcting market externalities through infrastructure investment and regulation is difficult to achieve. Too often, planners play sorcerer's apprentice when dealing with markets whose functioning they poorly understand. The role of the urban planner is then, first, to better understand the complex interaction between market forces and government interventions, infrastructure investment and regulation, and second, to design these interventions based on precise quantitative objectives. Each city's priorities would depend on its history, circumstances, and political environment. But maintaining mobility and keeping land affordable remains the main urban planning objective common to all cities.

Suggested Citation

  • Bertaud, Alain, 2014. "Converting land into affordable housing floor space," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6870, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6870

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Annez, Patricia Clarke & Bertaud, Alain & Bertaud, Marie-Agnes & Bhatt, Bijal & Bhatt, Chirayu & Patel, Bimal & Phatak, Vidyadhar, 2012. "Ahmedabad : more but different government for"slum free"and livable cities," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6267, The World Bank.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Book Review: Order without Design: How Markets Shape Cities by Alain Bertaud. The MIT Press, 2018
      by Jason Barr in Skynomics Blog on 2019-02-05 13:11:16
    2. Revisiting 1916 (Part II): The Economics of Population Density
      by Jason Barr in Skynomics Blog on 2019-04-10 12:31:43


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Gandhi, Sahil & Tandel, Vaidehi & Tabarrok, Alexander & Ravi, Shamika, 2021. "Too slow for the urban march: Litigations and the real estate market in Mumbai, India," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 123(C).

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Prottoy Akbar & Victor Couture & Gilles Duranton & Adam Storeygard, 2023. "Mobility and Congestion in Urban India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 113(4), pages 1083-1111, April.

    More about this item


    Transport Economics Policy&Planning; Municipal Financial Management; Urban Housing; National Urban Development Policies&Strategies; Urban Housing and Land Settlements;
    All these keywords.

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6870. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Roula I. Yazigi (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.