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Dr Maxwell Hartt

Dr Maxwell Hartt

Lecturer in Spatial Planning

School of Geography and Planning

+44 (0)29 2087 5281
1.52, Glamorgan Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3WA
Media commentator
Available for postgraduate supervision


As an interdisciplinary researcher, my expertise draws broadly from the fields of planning, economics, demography and geography. Through these complimentary lenses I explore the intersection of population change, economic restructuring and community wellbeing. Primarily using quantitative methods and spatial analysis, my work explores the diversity of causes, effects, and policy implications of shrinking and ageing cities.

These research interests inform and guide my undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, where I work with students to develop their understanding of research methods and help them link empirical evidence with conceptual theory.


Prosperous Shrinking Cities - Media Coverage

City Lab and Bloomberg produced pieces focused on my recent article The Prevalence of Prosperous Shrinking Cities in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers.

RTPI Awards for Research Excellence

Samantha Biglieri and I received a commendation for the Early Career Academic Award at the Royal Town Planning Institute Awards for Research Excellence held in Sheffield in early September. We were nomniated for our work on ageing and age-friendly policy in Canada.

Prepared for the Silver Tsunami – Radio Interviews

Following the publication of our recent article on ageing and age-friendly policy, my co-author Samantha Biglieri discussed our findings on several radio interviews (The Morning Edition KW, CBC London, CBC KW, CBC Windsor, Ontario Morning and Ottawa Morning).

The Future of Ageing – The Walrus Talks

In Spring 2017, I was identified by the Order of Canada and the Walrus Foundation as one of fifty Canadians under 35 years old guiding the future of Canada and invited to speak in The Walrus Talks National Tour celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary. The talk was broadcast on television by CPAC, on radio by CBC Radio 1, and on The Walrus website. Link for video of talk:

The Future of Aging, The Walrus Talks – We Desire a Better Country, 24 April, 2017.



  • Lecturer in Spatial Planning, Cardiff University, UK (2018-present)
  • SSHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Toronto, Canada (2016-2017)
  • Fulbright Scholar, Tufts University, USA (2015-2016)


  • PhD in Planning, University of Waterloo, Canada (2016)
  • MSc in Systems Science, University of Ottawa, Canada (2011)
  • Hon. BSc in Mathematics, Saint Francis Xavier University, Canada (2007)

Additional Training

  • Early Career Writing Workshop, Journal of Planning Education and Research, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, USA, 2017
  • Development Program, Journal of Urban Affairs
  • Graduate Student Clinic, Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, Portland, USA 2016
  • Certificate of University Teaching, Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo, Canada, 2015
  • Doctoral Workshop, Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, Harvard University, 2015
  • Fulbright Enrichment Seminar, Austin, USA, 2015
  • Professional Development Workshop, Urban Affairs Association, San Antonio, USA, 2014
  • Fundamentals of University Teaching, Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo, Canada 2014

External Activity

  • Managing Board Member, Shrinking Cities International Research Network (SCiRN), 2017-present
  • Chair, PhD Academy, SCiRN, 2017-present
  • Member, Mid-Sized Cities Research Collaborative, Evergreen, 2016-present

Speaking engagements

  • 'Planning for Ageing', KU Leuven, Belgium, June 6, 2019.
  • 'Is There Such a Thing as a Prosperous Shrinking City? Exploring Depopulation, Prosperity and Quality of Life in US Cities', Aging of High-Rise Houses and the Decline of Cities, Hiroshima, Japan, May 15, 2019.
  • 'The Relationship Between Prosperity, Quality of Life and Population Change in US Cities', Centre for Ageing and Dementia Research, Swansea University, Wales, November 22, 2018.
  • 'Shrinking Cities as a Smart City Laboratory', National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia, February 28, 2018.
  • ‘Can Shrinking Cities Offer a High Quality of Life?’, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France, November 13, 2017.
  • ‘Living Smaller and Better: Prosperity and Quality of Life in Shrinking Cities’, City and Society Colloquium, State University of New York at Buffalo, USA, October 20, 2017.
  • ‘Growing Old(er) – Population and Policy Analysis in Small and Midsized Cities’, Small and Adaptive Cities, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Canada, September 30, 2017.
  • ‘Aging and Age-Friendly Policy in Ontario’s Midsized Cities’, Midsized Cities Forum, Hamilton, Canada, May 25, 2017.
  • ‘We Desire a Better Country’, The Walrus Talks National Tour: Conversations about Canada, The Fredericton Playhouse, Fredericton, Canada, April 24, 2017.
  • ‘Planning Responses to Shrinking Cities’, Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning Colloquium, Tufts University, Medford, USA, December 4, 2015.
  • ‘From Knot Theory to Shrinking Cities”, Saint Francis Xavier University Mathematics Society Speaker Series, Antigonish, Canada, October 14, 2014.













Generally speaking, my research follows two distinct, but related, themes that explore the relationship between significant demographic shifts, quality of life and planning policy.

1. Shrinking Cities and Quality of Life

This research project takes a wider view of population loss and explores the diversity of shrinking cities. By challenging the assumption that shrinkage and decline are intrinsically linked, this research advances our understanding, conceptually and empirically, of the relationship between population loss and quality of life.

Shrinking cities are increasingly viewed as a permanent symptom of globalization rather than a temporary stage of cyclical growth. Yet politicians and policymakers in shrinking cities continue to stigmatize population loss while remaining almost exclusively focused on regrowth. In response, a growing number of academics have called for policymakers to shift focus and concentrate on increasing the quality of life of residents in shrinking cities. However, no research has empirically explored the relationships between population loss, economic decline and quality of life. Therefore a fundamental question remains unanswered - can a place lose population and still offer a high quality of life to its residents? If so, what factors contribute to quality of life in shrinking cities and regions?

This research project is comprised of several smaller projects with a range of collaborators from the University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, Tufts University and the Technical University of Madrid. Using spatial and temporal analysis techniques, large datasets are explored to gain a better understanding of a range of topics, including but not limited to: prosperous US shrinking cities, the role of innovation in resilient US Rust Belt cities, housing development in shrinking Spanish cities, and the demographic trajectories of Canadian cities.

2. Ageing and Age-Friendly Cities

I am working with Samantha Biglieri (University of Waterloo) to (1) better understand the demographic ageing of cities and regions, (2) identify the potential local economic, social, cultural and physical challenges associated with ageing, and (3) help build age-friendly cities.

Our recent work highlighted the magnitude of projected older adults and the lack of local government preparation in Canadian cities. Increasing life expectancies, decreasing birth rates, and the concentration of jobs, capital and immigration in global cities has left many cities and towns with a disproportionate number of older adults. And just as shrinkage can beget shrinkage, an ageing society can lead to even lower birth rates and an even older population. Such a shift can challenge the viability of economic systems, as older citizens are dependent on a smaller working population. Those in retirement tend to pay lower income taxes, as they are not working, thereby decreasing overall tax revenue. At the same time, government spending on services and pensions will have to rise to meet the needs of the ageing population. The combination of increased spending obligations and decreased tax revenue is a major source for concern. The transition of the baby boom generation from producers to consumers, and ultimately, to dependents will also lead to a shortage of workers, slower labour force growth and, inevitably, much slower economic growth. Beyond the economic uncertainties, an ageing population faces social challenges such as increased inequality as well as increased physical challenges in the built environment.

Our current project explores the vulnerability of older adults and the built environment barriers present in Canadian cities. Additionally, we are working with the Evergreen Mid-Sized Cities Research Collaborative to examine the challenges associated with ageing in mid-sized cities and potential policy options to help create age-friendly environments.


2019-2020 Ageing Suburban Nations: Examining Barriers to Ageing Well in the World's Most Liveable Cities, British Academy/Leverhulme Small Grant (PI).

2019-2020 Challenges and Solutions for Ageing High-Rise Neighbourhoods in Japan and the UK, ESRC-AHRC UK-Japan Social Sciences Arts and Humanities Connections Grant (Co-I).

2019-2020 Using Twitter Bots to Assess Risks to Land Development and Planning, Land Economics Foundation (Co-I).

2015-2016 Enhancing Learning Through Games-Based Techniques, Learning Innovation and Teaching Enhancement Seed Grant (Co-PI).

2014 Canadian Population Society Graduate Student Development, Population Change and Life Course Strategic Knowledge Cluster Mobilization Grant (Co-PI)

Conference and Workshop Organization

  • Co-organizer and co-chair of session ‘Shrinking Cities: Policy Responses and New Identities for Contested Spaces’ at the Association of European Schools of Planning Annual Congress, Lisbon, Portugal, 2017 (with Karina Pallagst [University of Kaiserslautern])
  • Co-organizer and co-chair of session ‘Shrinking Cities: A Critical Examination of Renegeration Initiatives’ at the Canadian Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, Toronto, Canada, 2017 (with Julie Mah [University of Toronto] and Yollande Pottie-Sherman [Memorial University of Newfoundland])
  • Co-organizer of conference ‘Canadian Population Society’s Graduate Research Development Conference’, Ottawa, Canada, 2015 (with Scott Mandich [Western University])
  • Co-organizer of conference ‘Canadian Population Society’s Graduate Research Development Conference’, St. Catharine’s, Canada, 2014 (with Laura Wright [Western University] and Stacey Hallman [Western University])


I am interested in supervising PhD students keen to explore the intersection of demography, urban studies and planning. Specific potential areas of research include:

  • shrinking cities
  • degrowth
  • planning for decline
  • urban ageing
  • age-friendly policy
  • quality of life