>Recently I read “The Option of Urbanism”, which laid out the idea that real estate development currently prefers low density suburban development, even though the market in urban real estate is much more lucrative. One cause cited in the book is how development is funded.
Real estate had to be made a commodity in order for Wall St. to be able to fund and trade commercial properties. Commodities have to be all essentially identical, like concentrated orange juice or an ounce of gold.
The same became true for real estate, as described in the following paper:
According to the author, there are 19 standard types of development, which is why so many places in America look like any other. Slap a Williamsburg facade on a Virginia strip mall, a pueblo facade on a New Mexico one, etc.
The problem with the 19 standard types is that they’re all basically low-density, and don’t account for any sort of site-specific benefits like transit oriented development or mixed use.
I highly recommend the book, it’s relatively inexpensive and I read it in two evenings.