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Monitoring the Share of Land in Streets

Public Works and the Quality of Global Urban Expansion

Shlomo Angel

November 2015, English

Whether it is microhousing for hipsters in Seattle, high-rises for the upwardly mobile in Beijing, or informal settlements on the fringe of Nairobi, the expansion of urban areas is poorly monitored around the globe. Shlomo Angel’s paper is framed by an ambitious project that monitors the global expansion of urban land. The quantitative side of this project, a collaborative effort of UN-Habitat, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and the NYU Stern Urbanization Project, uses satellite imagery to measure the geographic expansion of 200 cities around the world.

Angel outlines the importance of matching these data with analysis of the qualitative dimensions of urban expansion, enabling us to understand not only how fast cities are growing, but also how well growth is planned. As both geographic dimensions and human populations of cities continue to expand, better planning for growth is increasingly crucial. Angel advances a policy goal for cities to prepare adequate land for urban expansion, and to secure public land for the delivery of public utilities and services in advance of development, in order to pre-empt inevitable inefficiencies that arise when urban design is left entirely to land and housing markets.

This paper was presented at the Lincoln Institute’s annual Land Policy Conference in 2014 and is Chapter 3 of the book Land and the City.


Computerized, Development, Globalization, Housing, Infrastructure, Land Use Planning, Mapping, Planning, Public Utilities, Urban, Urban Design, Urban Development, Urbanism