Analyst Phil Hayward of Wellington, New Zealand provides a provocative perspective on why urban intensification (densification in the urban cores) is incapable of compensating for the huge house price increases attributable to urban containment boundaries. Writing on Making New Zealand for Urban Planning that Works, he notes that “planners and advocates and politicians and even economists, are making an assumption that urban intensification is a potential route to housing affordability.”
The assumption involves changing zoning so that “X number of housing units” can be constructed in existing urban locations “instead of X number of housing units” on pristine ex-urban land. The latter is assumed to be an evil to be avoided, and that the former is a perfect substitute in terms of “sufficient housing supply to enable affordability.
Common sense tells us that there are quite a few potential problems with this assumption. For example, NIMBYs will obstruct the intensification and reduce the rate of housing supply so the policy will fail. Therefore, what we need is the removal of NIMBY rights of protest and appeal, and the policy will then work.
Hayward’s analysis suggests that:
And generally, the data runs in that direction - not only does intensification within a regulatory boundary "not restore affordability", it seems that the more density you “allow”, the higher your average housing unit price gets. The correlation runs the opposite way to the assumption.
Indeed, “Paul Cheshire and his colleagues at the London School of Economics believe this is due to the ‘bidding war’ at the margins of each income-level cohort of society, for ‘slightly more space,’" according to Hayward. “But when a market is allowing people to consume "as much space as they want", which has only really occurred in the automobile era, the “bidding war” effect is absent.”
Boston and Atlanta provide powerful examples.
…(The) difference is that Boston has de facto growth boundaries / green belts while Atlanta does not. The ironic implication is that fringe growth containment pushes median multiples up less, when there are severe restrictions against density – otherwise Boston should be the most expensive city in the data, not Hong Kong. The evidence suggests that this is because there is a total absence of “bidding war for slightly more space” - everyone has "more than they want" already. The median multiple of 6 rather than 3, represents the effect of demand for "living in Boston", period, and they simply don't provide enough houses to keep the median multiple down like Atlanta does (in the face of staggering population growth in Atlanta, by the way).
Perhaps the most important conclusion is that “there is no evidence that any city anywhere in the world has ‘freed up intensification processes’ enough to result in floor space being built faster than site values inflate.
The bottom line is a mistaken impression that high density housing “will remain available as a substitutable option to suburban family housing even if the latter is forced up in price deliberately by central planner's policies. The lesson that needs to be learned urgently, is that this is impossible; the two things are inter-related.”
But when a market is allowing people to consume "as much space as they want", which has only really occurred in the automobile era, the “bidding war” effect is absent. The evidence supports this, with most median-multiple-3 cities being from 600 to 2500 people per square km. Another interesting case study would be Liverpool; it lost approximately 50% of its population from the 1950's to the 2000's (similar to Detroit) - yet its median multiple is over 7. And its density is still 4,400 per square km (presumably it would have been double this, or more, in 1950). This is prima facie evidence that 4,400 people per square km within a growth boundary, are still going to be dissatisfied with their living space, to the extent that they will be engaging in an unwitting bidding war against each other for a little more of it. Of course under these conditions, the lowest socio-economic cohort is denied all options other than crowding tighter and tighter in rented accommodation or even illegal “living space”. In UK cities, rental advertisements include options like a ¼ share in 2 rooms, with communal access to kitchen and bathroom shared by even more tenants in further rooms. In median-multiple-3 housing cities, the same real rent would apply to a whole house of reasonable size and standard.
There might be other policy mixes by which housing supply within a growth boundary could be made the means of keeping housing affordable, but publicly and politically, the debate is nowhere near tackling the complexities involved.
This video from Center for Opportunity Urbanism (COU) explores America’s housing crisis --- focusing on the new generation. COU is a non-profit dedicated to preserving the American dream and promoting upward mobility for all Americans. Check out the video and let us know what you think.
Gelinas notes that the murder of a Utah youth that year "would help propel Rudy Giuliani into the mayor’s office three years later, as Democratic voters turned to a Republican prosecutor to get a seemingly ungovernable city under control." Gelinas tells the story of how new transit police chief William Bratton brought the subway under control and helped to make possible the highest ridership levels since World War II. Gelninas notes that " Policing played a huge role in making Gotham’s subways safe, as it did in reducing crime throughout the city. In fact, the New York crime turnaround began in the subways, and what the police discovered about violence underground would prove essential to the broader battle for the city’s streets."
Bratton played an important role in this city-wide progress, after he was appointed as New York City's police commissioner by Mayor Rudy Giuliani. His success and is widely considered to have been influencial in the more effective policing strategies that have been, at least in part, credited with much lower urban crime rates in the last century. Indeed, the urban core (downtown) residential renaissance evident in many cities would not have been possible otherwise.
Portland Tribune columnist (see "My View: WES is a Mess: Time to Pull the Plug") Bill MacKenzie took the occasion of a Tri-Met (transit agency for the Oregon side of the Portland, OR-WA metropolitan area) approval to purchase two used Budd Rail Diesel Cars (RDC) for the Wilsonville to Beaverton commuter rail line to call for its abandonment.Fconcl In addition to the $1.5 million purchase cost, $550,000 will be required for refurbishment. When then are ready for service, they will surely older than most Tri-Met employees, since the last Budd RDC's were built in the early 1960s.
He mocks the agency's general manager, Neil MacFarlane, who justified the purchase as necessary to accomodate future passenger growth: "Oh sure, plan for massive ridership growth,"MacKenzie scoffs. He continues, In early 2009, TriMet predicted WES would have 2,400 daily riders its first year of operations and 3,000 by 2020." In 2015, the line carried fewer than 1,900 riders each weekday, and its cost per boarding was more than four times that of buses (not counting capital costs).
He concluded that: "Even if WES reaches 3,000 average daily boardings, operating costs per boarding ride will remain much higher than for buses and MAX. The fact is, WES is a train wreck. It’s time to shut it down."
The long awaited and highly touted Santa Monica extension brought an approximately 50 percent increase in ridership of the Los Angeles Expo light rail line between June 2016 and June 2015. The extension opened in mid May 2016. In its first full month of operation, June 2016, the line carried approximately 45,900 weekday boardings (Note), up from 30,600 in June 2015, according to Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) ridership statistics.
However MTA ridership continued to decline, with a 51,900 loss overall. Bus and rail services other than the Expo line experienced a reduction of 67,300 boardings (Figure).
Note: A passenger is counted as a boarding each time a transit vehicle is entered. Thus, if more than one transit vehicle is required to make a trip, there can be multiple boardings between the trip origin and destination. Because the addition of rail services, as in Los Angeles, can result in forcing bus riders to transfer because their services can be truncated at rail stations, the use of boardings as an indicator of ridership can result in exaggeration, as the number of boardings per passenger trip is increased. This may have produced a decline of as much as 30 percent in actual passenger trips since 1985, as a number of rail lines have been opened in Los Angeles.
Demographics may not be destiny, but they do play a huge role in driving the fortunes of society and the economy. Sami Karam of Populyst joined me for a podcast on demographic trends around the world. The conversation ranged from the rise of China to the fall of Japan – and even why Occupy Wall Street failed to achieve lift-off.
0:00 Introduction and overview of Sami Karam’s work
2:20 Why Occupy Wall Street didn’t take off
3:15 Demographics on the problems of the Japanese economy
3:50 What does demographics tell us about the rise of China?
7:49 What is the demographic future of Africa?
12:45 How will declining European and booming African population interact?
The May, 2016 New Geography feature, Are Compact Cities More Affordable? questioned whether the Vancouver region supplies evidence that Housing-Plus-Transportation (H+T) creates affordable living climates. Todd Litman responded with a critique; here's a partial response to Todd Litman’s comments, which are rich in assertions and advice but poor on science. Our full response can be viewed in the attached pdf. The central issue of whether there is evidence that the Vancouver Region as a whole offers the advantage of H+T affordability to its residents is bypassed. Hence, there is no research news.
Litman’s criticism centers on issues that undermine his thesis or on speculative data that would prove a point, if available, for example, bias in our data. Almost certainly, the data is “managed,” incomplete, erroneous and biased — but at the source: the Metro Vancouver report that advocates H+T affordability. A missed observation? The absence of figures on compactness makes it impossible to draw the sought-after correlation between affordability and density, the indispensable evidence for H+T. Yet the critique ventures to do exactly that.
Attempts to “prove” an association rest entirely on incidental observations of certain sub-regional districts based on personal “knowledge” of them without including density numbers, and by dismissing some as outliers or “special cases,” an unproductive attempt at science.
A track to demonstrate how alternative data could show that homeowners are not as well off as they seem leads to the unusual idea of limiting the sample to an improbable and undefinable set. Curiously, the source data is arbitrarily curtailed in a similar manner. Another missed observation?
Litman has previously cited as evidence the subject correlation for US metro-regions produced by scholars, a clear, scientific result. The sub-regional level correlation remains an open research task; incidental observations cannot fill that gap. New research windows open in our full response, which can be viewed in the attached pdf.
Everyone knows that Texas is big. In the self-storage world, Texas would be a 10x30 storage unit, the biggest of the bunch. But many people (namely, Yankees and Europeans) may not realize just how massive the Lone Star State really is. How that at 261,231 square miles of land, Texas would be the 39th-largest country by land area in the world, coming in just behind Zambia and ahead of Myanmar. Since there are, give-or-take, roughly 200 countries in the world, that means that most of them are in fact smaller than Texas. In order to truly convey Texas's size, we came up with a zany hypothetical scenario: if Texas were a storage unit, what countries could fit inside?
Of course, using maps to illustrate size is a tricky matter, since most 2D map projections distort size in favor of shape. This includes the Mercator Projection used by Google Maps. Fortunately, we found thetruesize.com, a tool which runs on top of Google Maps and accounts for these distortions, allowing for accurate size comparisons. Now you can see exactly how these countries would fit inside of your Texas storage unit.
I woke up Friday morning to the news that my country decided that it no longer wants to be part of the European Union. With a large turnout of 72% of the eligible electorate, the vote went 51.9% in favour of leaving against 48.1% for remaining – 17.4 million against 16.1 million, in case you wondered. As a result, the clock has begun to tick down on 43 years of British EU membership, creating huge levels of uncertainty. This morning the pound sterling lost 10% of its value against the dollar – the biggest one day decline since 1985 – and a massive £200 billion was wiped off the stock market.
But what was behind this result, which seemed until the eve of poll to be heading towards remaining in the EU? Class was one of the biggest factors. Let me explain. Early analysis of the results shows that if you had a college degree or were young, you were more likely to vote to remain. Geographically, England and Wales voted for Brexit, except for London. Scotland, however, voted overwhelmingly to remain, opening up a very real prospect of another independence referendum and the disintegration of the UK. Many places in England and Wales outside London, often but not exclusively Labour Party traditional heartlands, were amongst the strongest supporters of leaving. This seems to have resulted from a cocktail of resentments against ‘them’, the ‘elite’, the ‘establishment’ or simply the ‘experts’. This resentment has been simmering in these Labour heartlands for decades and predates the banking crash of 2008. Resignation, despair, and political apathy have been present in many former industrial regions since the wholesale deindustrialisation of the British economy in the 1980s and 1990. The election of the Blair -led Labour administration of 1997 masked the anger felt in these areas as traditional labour supporters and their needs were often ignored, while traditional Labour supporters were used as voting fodder. Over the thirteen years of Labour power, that support ebbed away, first as a simple decline in votes, but gradually turning into active hostility to the Labour party. Many embraced the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
This opposition, so skillfully drawn on by the leave campaign, is in part a working class reaction not only to six years of austerity but also to a long and deep seated sense of injustice and marginalisation. Most of the remain side, which was a cross party grouping, didn’t seem to understand this before the referendum and, even more depressingly, doesn’t seem to understand it fully now. A stock characterisation of working-class people who intended to vote leave was to label them as unable understanding the issues, easily manipulated, or worse, racist ‘little Englanders’.
A number of commentators have understood the class resentment underlying the referendum. In his thoughtful video blogs preceding the vote, Guardian journalist John Harris travelled away from the ‘Westminster village’ to the more marginal, often over looked parts of the UK. What he observed was precisely this class demographic of voting intentions, people who were in effect members of what sociologist Guy Standing has called the precariat. Fellow Guardian columnist Ian Jack wrote a similarly powerfully reflective piece linking the working-class vote with deindustrialisation. Both Harris and Jack emphasize the point that for unskilled workers with only a secondary school education, three decades or more of neo-liberalism has left deep scars socially, politically, and culturally, with little hope or expectation that anything would change for the better. In avox pop radio interview the day before the referendum, a person stopped for their views simply said, ‘The working class is going to get screwed whether we stay or leave, so we might as well leave’.
This sense of ‘them’ versus ‘us’ was heightened by the long line of establishment figures from the world of politics, business, and finance who were trotted out to warn the voters that Brexit would mean Armageddon. Far from helping the remain side, these interventions from the likes of Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, and even President Obama merely exaggerated the distance between working-class voters and those who wanted them to vote to remain. Speaking after the official result was announced, UKIP leader Nigel Farage explicitly used the language of class in his celebratory speech, saying that this was a vote of ‘Real people, ordinary people, decent people against the big merchant banks, big business and big politics’.
Many on the progressive left have seen this Brexit result coming and have linked it to a far wider set of issues than those of the immediate problems of the EU. In a video blog two days before polling, Owen Jones linked the marginalisation and alienation felt by many working-class voters and support for populists like Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and other non-mainstream political movements in Europe. What this all points to is a real rejection of the hegemony of what veteran left-winger Tariq Ali has called the ‘extreme centre’ that has promoted globalisation and neo-liberalism. In the narrative of the extreme centre, there is no place for those left behind, damaged by the collapse of industries and forced to face the brunt of never ending austerity. Faced with what are viewed as out of touch elites telling an angry electorate that they must vote to remain, there is little wonder that many working-class people opted to vote out. It’s hard to predict what will happen next, over the short, medium, and long term. But one thing is clear: class will play a big role.
Thanks to modern technology, I have had the pleasure of spending nearly all of the last 18 hours with the United Kingdom's cable news network, Sky News, watching the election returns and aftermath [of the successful British European Union referendum (Brexit). Four weeks, the "Remain" campaign has been explaining that leaving the EU would result in huge economic and market disruption.
When, contrary to expectation, it became clear fairly early in the evening that Brexit would pass, there were frequent reminders of these predictions. The value of the pound sterling dropped from $1.50 to $1.32 as the votes continue to be counted and there was never the slightest indication of a turnaround.
When the markets opened, there were indeed losses. And, a number of the financial experts, political consultants and members of Parliament interviewed were quick to point out that the predictions were correct. For most of the day following the election, watching Sky News gave the impression that there had been a disastrous financial meltdown. However, now, more than 12 hours after the final declaration at Manchester City Hall, Sky News is beginning to suggest that the financial losses may have been modest.
The leading stock market index in London, the FTSE 100 experienced an 8.7 percent drop in early trading. However by the close of trading, the decline had fallen to only 3.15 percent, the largest drop in five months. Five months? Perhaps most amazingly, today's close was higher by two percent than Monday's opening. The day's loss would have needed to be 75 percent higher to have been among the 10 worst in history. Yes, this was a big loss, but must have surely been disappointing to the analysts who were basking in their own exaggerations earlier in the day. By the end of the day, the pound had recovered to $1.37.
Nor did the London stocks do worse than those on the continent. French and German stock prices were down more than twice as much as the FTSE 100, as well as in Tokyo. Stocks in Spain and Italy were down four times as much.
Of course it is far too early to predict the economic impact of Brexit. But it was humorous watching the "spin doctors" whose narrative seemed to be "we told you so." I think there is much more to this than that SW1 is out of touch with the people, "SW1" is the postal code prefix for Parliament in Westminster and has the same connotation of separation from the people as "inside the beltway," as applied to Washington.
It may be that the insiders have lost credibility with too many voters. One former Labor consultant, who was as effective in missing the point as any other, poignantly suggested that perhaps too many of the voters had not participated in the post-recession recovery. Hear! Hear!