In most cities around the world rent is skyrocketing. More and more people want to live in cities and real estate is a limited resource. So why aren't more skyscrapers built to provide more living spaces for people? They have been built since the 1900s and aren't absurdly expensive to build. But in most european cities they aren't built, and even in american cities they only exist within the cities core and most people are completely priced out.
So why aren't more skyscrapers with appartments built to meet the demoand for more affordable housing in cities?

  • Beyond the standard "what does affordable housing mean", "it takes longer to build a building than does to move" and "builders want to most money", is there a particular country or scenario you are thinking of? Why US does/doesn't continuously build dense housing has different reasons than say China or EU countries. Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 9:22
  • Lets take Berlin has an example. Looking at the skyline, theres basically no high rise real estate and rents are through the roof. Considering the high land prices, it seems obvious to me that developers would think about constructing skyscrapers to optimize usage of that land by gaining more tenants. And if you look at the Soviet Union for example, that is exactly what they did. Build loads of (admittedly substandard) high rise real estate to cram more people into cities. Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 9:27
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    @user2741831, in general it actually costs more to live in high densities. The naive logic that the land for the foundations is a fixed cost may have been true in the Soviet system, but in capitalist cities usually the price of the land itself inflates dramatically if a skyscraper can be built upon it. Moreover there was zero unemployment in the Soviet system, and the blocks were built to house economically-secure people in permanent work. In the capitalist system, they later often attracted the workless, the marginal, and the mentally ill, who are not suited to living at high densities.
    – Steve
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 10:51
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    @user2741831, another thing to point out is that the Soviets often had a rational integration of public transport and workplace locations. These days, the need for personal transport doesn't sit well with high-rise buildings, as unless there is a vertical car lift to store cars at high vertical density (unheard of), then the need for parking garages at ground level makes any high-rise block scarcely more land efficient than just building normal terraced housing with individual garages beneath the living quarters. And most people would far prefer a terrace with private parking.
    – Steve
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 11:00
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    @user2741831 No idea. It's plausible. I'll just say that hoarding is destructive to the economy, because you can't improve anything without making a sizable donation to whoever won the lottery of owning it before you. Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 11:20

3 Answers 3


There is plenty of reasons, some come from the municipalities, some from potential landlors, some from the potential renters themselfes

  • Cramming lots of people on a small plot of land causes a high load on infrastructure: electricity, water, transportation, garbage collection, etc. While there are benefits of building denser (than single family homes) at some point this is just too much and your infrastructre needs to be upgraded. This is a cost to be payed by municipalities, not by the investors
  • A lot of high buildings makes your streets canyons with barely any light. Just look at the major skylines and you get a glimpse of it
  • Building high can also block the wind. The dirty air on your streets is not blown away as with low buildings
  • Building high-rise is not that cheap. Land needs to be very valuable and rents high to make economic sense to a single investor
  • People do not want to live in sub standard housing. The soviet buildings in eastern Germany are a great example of that. Many of those have been torn down over the last 30 years because people did not want to move there (that was before rents started to rise). Building a high rise that people want to live in is expensive
  • Many people do not want to live in high rise buildings. Historically in most areas only poor people have been living in such appartments, with the problem worsened by building cheap. High rise buildings have a bad reputation in most parts of the world. People would rather move to a house with 2, 4 or 8 units than to one with 200 units if they have a choice.
  • Rents in Berlin are hardly through the roof. Just compare this to NYC, Zürich, Tokyo, Hong Kong...Except for Zürich those cities are known for their skyscapers.
  • There are lots of not-substandard medium-rises in Germany. It's clearly not an inherent property of the type of building. Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 10:58
  • And rents in Berlin are through the roof, just not as much as everywhere else. In Berlin they may be merely through the roof but in the other places you listed they're through the cloud layer. Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 10:58
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    A crucial point about East Germany is that the Soviets treated it as conquered territory, and used it to subsidise the rest of the Union (much of which was far less developed than Germany had been), whilst the Western world did the opposite and subsidised West Germany for strategic ideological reasons. So that particular location is not entirely a proper comparison, although it does emphasise the consequences of economising too far on the standards of high-rise buildings (just as people in the developed world would reject hovels and mud hut bungalows, on account of quality, not density).
    – Steve
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 11:16
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    The "load on infrastructure" point is also not especially valid. It is in general cheaper to install and service the utilities in a high-rise building, although systems for transporting garbage back to ground level were often poorly considered, and have often implicitly placed too much strain on the discipline and cleanliness of residents in maintaining collective facilities, relative to the minimum socioeconomic status of the residents collectively (the minimum of which has often been abjectly poor).
    – Steve
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 11:27
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    The load on infrastructure is a completely different issue for green field developments compared to later development. On green field it is of course more efficient to build the right scale infrastructure on a small piece of land. But if you replace 4 unit buildings by 200 unit buildings you will need to upgrade everything and by a lot.
    – Manziel
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 12:26

I suppose you never had the lovely experience of living in a high rise flat. In England, we had lots of them and are trying hard to get rid of them, due to their horrible effects on crime, loneliness, neglect and the occasional fire killing lots of people if corners are cut.

High rise buildings are not made for living.

  • Is it really worse than 2000$ for a shoebox? Also how did they increase crime and loneliness? Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 10:43
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    Surely the crime and loneliness aspects are related to cheap flats, not to what kind of building they're in. If anything, robbing a skyscraper flat is harder because you can't break in through a window. In places where everyone lives in a skyscraper, they don't concentrate the poorest people and therefore there's no such effect. Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 10:56
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    @user2741831, they increased the potential for crime because they created lots of unmonitored and non-overlooked communal areas internally, which as well as being a boon for strange criminals, also allows resident criminals (or criminals present with the permission and consent of a resident) to retreat unseen from a scene of crime to their private residences. Some developments were also built with many exits - including sky bridges - which made policing difficult. Later, soaring unemployment and ensuing squalor triggered these potentials dramatically. (1/2)
    – Steve
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 11:41
  • They were perceived to increase loneliness because communal areas were often dark, dingy, cold, and somewhat smelly on account of being enclosed from rain and sunlight, and not the kind of place where residents tended to congregate to perform activity (such as sitting outside on a sunny day, or joining neighbours for a BBQ, etc.). There was also considerably less traffic, compared to a street forming part of the public highway, meaning people came less into spontaneous contact with others from the broader community, and saw less of what others were doing so as to start conversations. (2/2)
    – Steve
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 11:49
  • @user253751, the vast majority of residents do not need to be particularly poor - it only takes a small number to be abjectly poor (as little as one, really), or to be fairly poor and particularly indisciplined and uncivil, to cause a lot of trouble. The absence of windows and complexity of opaque internal areas, and the robust sound insulation, actually contributed to crime by reducing the ease of oversight - doors can be jemmied open with only modest noise, and robbers can lay in wait unseen, or lurk on a pretense, and even if people hear shouts and screams, the exact origin is not apparent.
    – Steve
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 11:57
  • Not all ground is structurally suitable for building skyscrapers (or requires deep and expensive pilings).
  • You can easily build a two- or three- story apartment building with framing lumber or concrete blocks. Skyscrapers? Not so much. They require highly-specialized iron workers/
  • There's a reason people left big apartment buildings after WW2, and it wasn't "white flight" (that came later). I do not want to live here, : enter image description here]
  • And while lots of people seem content to live here I sure as heck don't want to: enter image description here
  • Just an observation: I'm amused that you picked London Terrace in NYC and the now demolished Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong as your examples. Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 1:53
  • @MorrisonChang I wouldn't want to live in a beehive, no matter how swanky the neighborhood, and the fact is that those skyscrapers were built, and it was miserable in them. Many had to be forcibly evicted. Unless the residents are very rich, this is what happens when people are packed tight.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 2:06

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