NRI Papers
No.147 October 1 , 2009
  Urban Development in a Society with Decreasing Population  
Masahiko NATORI
   In a society with a decreasing population, cities as the bases of populated areas face at least two political issues: one is the fulfillment of the role as the bases of clusters that act as growth engines, and the other is compaction. As homes to a wide variety of functions, cities are expected to facilitate the clustering of functions and increase density.
   Actually, when the relationships between sizes of cities and office location percentages are seen, upper-level industrial and city functions that drive economy such as head offices and regional headquarters are concentrated in cities where the economies of scale and the economies of scope occur. In addition, there is a tendency of increased productivity in cities with high-density urban areas (the economies of density).
   Nevertheless, contrary to such expectation, the sizes of the densely inhabited districts (DIDs) that indicate the actual scope of cities have ceased to grow and densities have remained unchanged. In smaller cities, there are areas where both DID population and DID population density have been decreasing and non-urban areas are increasing. From a microscopic viewpoint, urban sprawl in a worm-eaten manner has been accelerating, causing problems such as a decline in the efficiency of infrastructure such as roads and water supply and sewer facilities and difficulties in preserving good quality agricultural land.
   Under these circumstances, the Agricultural Land Law was amended with the aim of shifting the focus from ownership to use of agricultural land. In addition, work is under way to amend the Urban Planning Law. These moves must be effectively utilized to appropriately address the above-mentioned problems and to promote the urban development that will contribute to achieving Japan's sustainable growth and strengthening its competitiveness. For these purposes, efforts should be made to promote the following: (1) forming strategic core cities, (2) reorganizing cities/areas with focus on "city," "peripheral areas" and "networks" and (3) reviewing regulations on land use in pursuit of compactness.
Contents
I Japan's Actual Status of Cities Contradicts Political Intention
II Cities are Expected to Act as Growth Engines
III Advantages of Compact Cities
IV Concerns over the Current Status of Cities
V Toward Formation of Cities/Areas Contributing to the Strengthening of Competitiveness

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