You can’t reinforce this point often enough: A “free” market has not determined our development patterns.
The Media Attacks Urbanism: A recent Newsweek article on urbanism is chock-full of nonsense, by Michael Lewyn (Planetizen)
… But where the article errs is in treating this as an immutable fact of life, rather than as something caused by a wide range of government policies. For the past 60 or 70 years, government at all levels has made suburban life easy and urban life hard: by building highways to facilitate suburban commuting, by insuring mortgages in suburbs but not in cities, and by moving urban schoolchildren around in the name of racial balance while tolerating overwhelmingly-white suburban public schools.
And because our zoning system gives neighbors of a development disproportionate weight in determining what gets built and how much, it is easier to build new housing in exurbia (where the only neighbors are trees and wildlife who don’t know how to pack a zoning board meeting) than in urban areas full of easy-to-outrage neighbors. As a result, some cities don’t have enough housing to go around, forcing middle-class households into suburbia.
Of course, large chunks of the Newsweek article are less about logic than about emotionally loaded language designed to inflame …