Unsustainable solutions in the name of sustainability


The other day when I was riding my bike in Minneapolis crossing I-94 near Riverside I encountered a small townhome project built during the first (failed) green era under the Carter administration. It was built to showcase the future. One thing I've learned over the years building my own green homes is to not listen blindly to the experts who parrot others' ideas without thinking of the ramifications.

The world's first solar and earth-berm grass-roof townhome projects look like this today:  read more »

The House Prices are Too Damned High


In recent years, the plight of renters in a stagnant economy has been covered extensively. A book title incorporated the phrase “the rent is too damn high” (by Matthew Iglesias). The “Rent is Too Damn High Party” ran candidates in both city and state of New York elections. However, as bad as rent increases have been, more serious has been the escalation of house prices in the major metropolitan areas of the United States.  read more »

Two Cheers for NIMBYism


Politicians, housing advocates, planners and developers often blame the NIMBY — “not in my backyard” — lobby for the state’s housing crisis. And it’s true that some locals overreact with unrealistic growth limits that cut off any new housing supply and have blocked reasonable ways to boost supply.

But the biggest impediment to solving our housing crisis lies not principally with neighbors protecting their local neighborhoods, but rather with central governments determined to limit, and make ever more expensive, single-family housing. Economist Issi Romem notes that, based on the past, “failing to expand cities [to allow sprawl] will come at a cost” to the housing market.  read more »

How to Make Post-Suburbanism Work


Are you ready to become a “real” city yet, Southern California? Being “truly livable,” our betters suggest, means being “infatuated” with spending more billions of dollars on outdated streetcars (trolleys) and other rail lines, packing people into ever small spaces and looking toward downtown Los Angeles as our regional center.  read more »

A Better Way


My recent post at Granola Shotgun described how a town in Georgia spent an enormous amount of public money on a new civic center and road expansions, but somehow managed to devalue nearby private property in the process. Here’s an example of a neighborhood in Nashville, Tennessee that took a different approach that cost a lot less and achieved a radically better set of outcomes.  read more »

Urban Containment, Endangered Working Families and Beleaguered Minorities


Working families and the middle class are becoming an increasingly endangered species in   many parts of United States. Median household income remains below its 1999 peak (inflation adjusted). But the problem is not just stagnant incomes. Expenses are also rising, especially the costs of housing in some cities. As a result, it is becoming more and more difficult to make ends meet.  read more »

Solidarity, not Division: Understanding London’s East End


The East End of London has a long history of working-class community. It has been a place of industry, where the river Thames and the river Lea have provided work for many people. The area attracted many immigrants, including workers from Africa since Tudor times, sailors from China, former slaves from America, French Protestants facing religious persecution in the 1600s and Irish weavers working in the textile industries. There have been Jewish communities in the East End for centuries, too. The twentieth century saw an increase in immigrants from the former British colonies, including South Asia, particularly Bangladesh. Not only has it been a place to seek a livelihood, but it has also been a place of refuge.  read more »

Palo Alto and the Tech Shop of Horrors


This piece by Zelda Bronstein (original to 48hills.org) goes behind the story of the Peninsula planning commissioner who made national news by saying she had to leave town to buy a house for her family.

On August 10, Kate Vershov Downing, a 31-year-old intellectual-property lawyer, set the media aflutter when she posted on Medium a letter to the Palo Alto City Council stating that she was resigning from the city’s Planning Commission because she was moving to Santa Cruz. The reason for her move: She and her 33-year-old husband Steven, a software engineer, couldn’t find a house they could afford to buy in Palo Alto. Downing said that they currently rented a place with another couple for $6,200 a month, and that if they “wanted to buy the same house and share it with children and not roommates, it would cost $2M.”  read more »

The Incompatibility of Forced Density and Housing Affordability


New research supports the conclusion that anti-sprawl policy (urban containment policy) is incompatible with housing affordability. Build-zoom.com economist Issi Romem finds that: “Cities that have curbed their expansion have – with limited exception – failed to compensate with densification.  read more »

Jerry Brown’s Housing Hypocrisy


Jerry Brown worrying about the California housing crisis is akin to the French policeman played by Claude Rains in “Casablanca” being “shocked, shocked” about gambling at the bar where he himself collects his winnings.

Brown has long been at the forefront on drafting and enforcing regulations that make building housing both difficult and very expensive. And now he has pushed new legislation, which seems certain to be passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, that makes it worse by imposing even more stringent regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, mandating a 40 percent cut from 1990 levels by 2030.  read more »