“Urban land use and its density respond to environmental concerns”

Tribune. Thanks to the health crisis, density, this old tool of classical geography, is resurfacing. It has the merit of rigor – since it allows a demographic (number of inhabitants) or social phenomenon (number of workers or senior executives) to be directly related to a surface – but not of accuracy.

In recent months, we have seen all the most fanciful analyzes and projections flourish through him, generally not quantified, on the decline of metropolises, the urban exodus from large agglomerations, the return to small towns. and medium, the triumph of the single-family house over the city apartment, all justified by the supposed contagiousness of the coronavirus in high densities.

It is indeed urban poverty and the misery of living conditions that are in question.

However, we have shown, in a study conducted in collaboration with Raymond Ghirardi, cartographer, Maxime Schirrer, geographer, and Pierre-Régis Burgel, pulmonologist, that the gross demographic density had to be seriously put into perspective in the spread of the Covid (“ The coronavirus in Greater Paris: demography and society “).

Excess mortality in Greater Paris during the 1er semester 2020 testifies that the dense city is not deadly in itself. It is not a direct factor of contagiousness: Seine-Saint-Denis has a density half as high as the city of Paris, but it is much more affected by the epidemic.

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The chains of contagion certainly pass through active employees living in cramped housing due to strong intergenerational cohabitation. It is urban poverty and the misery of living conditions that are more to blame than the density of the city.

And in a more recent forum (The world of August 14), my colleague Yankel Fijalkow insists in public health on the concept of “Well-being” individual inhabitants, with “The freedom of each to be able to space out”. Everything would seem to be understood: before being an objective measure, density is first of all a social process, where the scale (city, district, block, housing) plays on the perception of residents and their physical and moral state.

But the same text refers to a much more ambiguous position taken by Ian Brossat, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of housing, in the edition of World from December 16, 2020. The argument has not aged, and is worth reporting.

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