Homebuyers Confront China Syndrome


China has hacked our government, devastated or severely challenged our industries and enjoyed one of the greatest wealth transfers in history – from our households to its. China also benefits from by far the largest trade surplus with the United States and also owns 11 percent of our national debt.

Sometimes it seems to be increasingly China’s world, and we just happen to live in it. Some, such as columnist Thomas Friedman and Daniel A. Bell, author of the newly published “The China Model,” even suggest we adjust our political system to more closely resemble that of the Chinese.  read more »

Some Kindly Advice From an Old White Guy


Last month I bought an old fixer-upper for $15,000 in Cincinnati. It was originally offered at $17,000, but I got the sellers down a bit. The place is a complete disaster. All the copper pipes and wires have been stripped out of the building. It hasn’t seen paint for decades. Every window and door needs to be replaced. The roof is shot. There’s no insulation of any kind. The yard is a mess. And there are plenty of similar houses in the neighborhood. So why exactly did I buy it? I’ll get to that in a minute.  read more »

Australia’s Recipe for Urban Decay


Across federal, state, and local levels, Australian urban planning authorities have emphasized the need for policies that seek to limit urban fringe development and create densely-populated urban centers. This process is called ‘urban consolidation’ and has been a goal of Australian authorities for more than three decades. More specifically, urban consolidation is defined by efforts to concentrate housing, jobs, and amenities around “activity centers” such as a traditional downtown, satellite urban centers, and elongated strategic corridors.  read more »

Stack and Pack vs. Smear All Over


I drove out to a distant suburb recently to attend to some business and I passed by a cluster of billboards on the side of the freeway that got me thinking. The general gist of the slogans asserted a conservative anti-government anti-urban rebellion. These are clearly people who don’t want density and public transit imposed on them by pointy headed liberal idiots. I have to admit I have some sympathy for this perspective, although probably not for the same reasons as the billboard people.  read more »

The California Dream has Moved Away

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Southern California faces a serious middle income housing affordability crisis. I refer to middle income housing, because this nation has become so successful in democratizing property ownership that the overwhelming majority of middle income households own their own homes in most of the country.  read more »

Land Use Regulations and “Social Engineering”


All forms of land use regulation are explicitly “social engineering”. Full stop. Let’s acknowledge that reality as we move forward. The question is never whether we’ll be engaging in manipulating society through land use regulations, but how and why.  read more »

Driving Farther to Qualify in Portland


Portland has been among the world leaders in urban containment policy. And, as would be predicted by basic economics, Portland has also suffered from serious housing cost escalation, as its median multiple (median house price divided by median household income) has risen from a normal 3.0 in 1995 to 4.8 in 2014.  read more »

Silicon Valley: Jelly in the Jam


My last post was about how Silicon Valley is evolving into an urban form that’s not quite leafy and open enough to be a suburb anymore, but not really vibrant and compact enough to be a proper city either. “Too thin to be jelly. Too thick to be jam.” The story got an unusually large number of visits. I received some well informed comments that touched on the reality that Silicon Valley is a big place and I shouldn’t generalize. Palo Alto is very different from Fremont and so on.  read more »

Growth and the Suburban Chassis


I tend to explore what happens to suburbs as they age and begin to decline. But this time I’m going to explore what happens to suburbs that thrive and continue to grow and work their way up the value chain. It isn’t exactly what many people expect. “Be careful what you wish for.”

A friend moved from San Francisco to San Jose this winter. Now that I’ve been visiting her on a regular basis I have an excuse to poke around. It’s actually pretty fascinating.  read more »

The French housing Bubble also has Roots in Excessive Land Use Regulations


Despite the claim to uniqueness that is quintessentially French, the housing bubble shares the same root as we see in the Anglo-Saxon world. To be sure, some analysts blame it only on low interest rates: they made the households more solvent, and thus drove home prices up. This rise in purchasing power might have been enhanced by some specific subsidies to new rental units. Some also y point to normative constraints on new buildings have added to production costs.  read more »