Fox took issue with many parts of the bill, including the claim that it would wipe out existing affordable housing and replace it with out-of-scale condo developments for the rich. Fox and supporters of the bill argued over whether the bill would really reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“There are hundreds if not thousands of low income and minority households all along the transit route whose homes would be turned into rubble,” he said. “What’s green about tossing that into a landfill and pouring tons of concrete for all the new high density development?”
The fight was over how to quantify whether the high density development proposed in the legislation would cut green house gas emissions or if the demolition and construction would actually increase emissions. Fox argued, without substantiation, that the bill would actually make things worse. Advocates were caught somewhat off guard. But a recent study sheds some light on the debate (although the bill is dead).
The authors of the study, published in The Journal of Urban Planning and Development, quantified the emissions from building materials and construction, home heating and power demands, and transportation energy, in both urban and suburban neighborhoods in the Toronto metro area.
They found that downtown residents use radically less energy, and consequently emit about two-thirds less climate-warming CO2 than their suburban counterparts.
While the study has its limits — it compares just two neighborhoods in a single city– it points, as other studies do, to the evidence that sprawl and car dependence are closely linked, and are responsible for a disproportionate share of GHG emissions.
This study or dozens like it probably won’t persuade John Fox. But it is an early indicator that indeed high-density development really does produce fewer green house gas emissions than low-density sprawl.
Read more about the study at the Sightline Daily Score Blog.