Croissance verte et développement durable

Compact City Policies

A Comparative Assessment

In series:OECD Green Growth Studiesview more titles

Published on May 14, 2012

Also available in: Japanese, Chinese

This book examines the concept of the compact city and the implication of the current urban context for compact city policies. It explores their potential outcomes, particularly in terms of how it can contribute to Green Growth and looks at developing indicators to monitor compact city and track policy performance. It reviews compact city policies currently being implemented across the OECD in relation to the pursuit of Green Growth objectives and provides ideas to achieve better outcomes. And it assesses the key governance challenges faced by decision-makers as they seek to implement practical compact city strategies. This report is thus intended as “food for thought” for national, sub-national and municipal governments as they seek to address their economic and environmental challenges through the development and implementation of spatial strategies in pursuit of Green Growth objectives. It also illustrates best practices (which present key elements of successful compact city policies) based on empirical evidence that can be shared across OECD member countries.


Foreword and Acknowledgements
Acronyms and abbreviations
Executive summary
The compact city concept in today's urban contexts
How can compact city policies contribute to urban sustainability and green growth?
Measuring the performance of a compact city
Current compact city practices in OECD countries
Key compact city policy strategies
Key compact city governance strategies
Compact city policies
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policy brief

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key facts

  • There is a global trend toward urbanisation that has environmental and economic impacts. By 2050, 70% of the world's population - and 86% in OECD countries - will live in urban areas.

  • The continuing growth of urban populations calls for a policy response that optimises land resources. Land consumption for built-up areas will increase more rapidly than the population in 30 out of 34 OECD countries.

  • Demographics have changed. For example, the elderly population has doubled over the past 60 years in OECD countries and tripled worldwide. Urban policies will need to be tailored to the specific needs of the population.

  • The impacts of global warming and increasing energy prices require new responses. The recent economic crisis has exacerbated the problem by reducing governments' abilities to invest in solutions such as new infrastructure.

key policy issues

  • What are compact cities and how do they contribute to urban sustainability?

  • How can we evaluate compact city policy outcomes?

  • How can we tailor the policy response to different local circumstances?

  • What are the metropolitan governance challenges in developing and implementing compact city policies?
  • Compact cities have dense and proximate development patterns, are linked by public transport systems, and maintain accessibility to local services and jobs. As such, they play a significant role in responding to the needs of urban areas.
  • Compact cities lessen the impact on the environment, with shorter intra-urban distances and less automobile dependency. They play a part in the economy by increasing the efficiency of infrastructure investment and by giving residents easier access to services, jobs, and social networking.

  • Two types of indicators are used to measure compact city policy outcomes: those that represent "compactness" (density, proximity, public transport systems and accessibility to local services and jobs), and those that measure a compact city's performance in relation to other cities.

  • This report examines differences in policy practice in five case study areas, and underscores the need for tailoring policies to specific needs. For example, fast-growing regions where there is pressure for development, regulatory tools are important to prevent uncontrolled urban expansion.

Recommendations for compact city policy strategies: set explicit compact city goals; encourage dense and contiguous development at urban fringes; retrofit existing built-up areas; enhance diversity and quality of life in urban centres; minimise adverse negative effects.