Residential density change: Densification and urban expansion

D. Broitman, E. Koomen

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The development of residential areas over time is a complex process that is characterised by substantial spatial and temporal variation. In essence, residential growth processes lead to two types of development: the construction of new housing units within existing residential areas (densification) or the development of new residential areas on land that was formerly open (expansion). This paper aims to understand the dynamic balance between these two processes and does so by analysing local changes in housing stock over time.The analysis is carried out for urban areas in the Netherlands, a country where urban concentration ambitions were adjusted in recent years. This changing planning context adds to the uncertainty about future residential development processes. Using detailed geographical data about land use and residential densities from 2000 onwards we study residential development and density changes in relation to prevailing spatially explicit policies. The observed changes are statistically linked to geographic and policy variables, such as the availability of developable land and the presence of restrictive or stimulating spatial policies.Residential densification is shown to occur in almost all regions of the country and is generally lower when demand for new dwellings is high and a limited amount of land is available within cities. Residential development zones are influential in shifting pressure from city cores while prescribing relatively high densities in expansions. At the local level we observe great variation in residential density development, but we find that densities increase within designated urban development zones and areas that rich in amenities. Restrictive planning regulations related to natural and landscape values tend to limit residential densities, as do initial high densities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-46
JournalComputers, Environment and Urban Systems
Issue numberNovember
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Volume 54, November 2015, Pages 32–46


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