Housing

Forcing Density in Australia's Suburbs

iStock_000008907641XSmall.jpg

Australia is a continent sized country with total urbanized area of only 0.3%.  As is the case with the USA, the population is increasing as a result of natural growth and immigration. The country is blessed with a sunny climate and enough space to enable its inhabitants to enjoy a relaxed, free lifestyle.

Given this, one would expect there would be little support for the higher density housing ideology of the Smart Growth advocates. Yet since the early 1990s the Australian Federal Department of Housing has been pushing exactly this approach.  read more »

Solar Gains On The Green Competition

solar panels iStock_000004428087XSmall.jpg

The living room of my electrician friend Harry Gres was filled with solar panels which were destined for his roof to demonstrate the advantages of his new eco-business venture. In the spirit of Herbert Hoover's campaign pledge of a car in every garage, Harry envisions solar panels on every roof (including garages).  read more »

Enviro-wimps: L.A.'s Big Green Groups Get Comfy, Leaving the Street Fighting to the Little Guys

iStock_000008621337XSmall.jpg

So far, 2009 has not been a banner year for greens in Los Angeles. As the area's mainstream enviros buddy up with self-described green politicians and deep-pocketed land speculators and unions who have seemingly joined the “sustainability” cause, an odd thing is happening: Environmentalists are turning into servants for more powerful, politically-connected masters.  read more »

Lessons from the Left: When Radicals Rule – For Thirty Years

iStock_000006555301XSmall.jpg

Contrary to popular notions held even here in southern California, Santa Monica was never really a beach town or bedroom community. It was a blue-collar industrial town, home to the famed Douglas Aircraft from before World War II until the 1970s.

When I first lived there in the early ’70s, the city was pretty dilapidated, decaying and declining (except for the attractive neighborhoods of large expensive homes in the city’s northern sections). I remember a lot of retirees, students, and like me and my wife, renters of small apartments in old buildings. The tiredness of the place was incongruous with its great location and weather. But then the first of several spectacular rises in real estate values took off.  read more »

Shrinking the Rust Belt

iStock_000005439239XSmall.jpg

An article in the London Daily Telegraph suggesting that President Obama might back a major program of bulldozing parts of cities in the Rust Belt has put so-called “shrinking cities” back in the spotlight. Many cities around the country, especially in the Rust Belt have experienced major population loss in their urban cores which has sometimes spilled into their entire metro area. They have thousands of abandoned homes, decayed infrastructure, environmental challenges, and no growth to justify a belief that many districts will ever be repopulated.  read more »

Did Homeowners Cause The Great Recession?

iStock_000001999339XSmall.jpg

The person who caused the current world recession can be found not on Wall Street or the city of London, but instead could be you, and your next-door neighbor--the people who put so much of their savings and credit to buy a house.

Increasingly, conventional wisdom places the fundamental blame for the worldwide downturn on people's desire--particularly in places like the U.K., the U.S. and Spain--to own their own home. Acceptance of the long-term serfdom of renting, the logic increasingly goes, could help restore order and the rightful balance of nature.  read more »

How Phoenix Will Come Back

iStock_000002110465XSmall.jpg

I have heard Paul Krugman say that ‘the end is nigh’ so many times that it seemed like the only sensible way to think about the housing market. It was identified as a bubble, and that could only mean that it would eventually burst. A steady diet of NYT editorials and Economist charts leave you with one conclusion — this is not going to end well.

This certainly seems to be true in Phoenix. Even though I’ve lectured for years about ‘the growth machine’, how the economy in a city like Phoenix depends on building more homes, I did not expect the whole thing to collapse quite so precipitately, and with so many repercussions.  read more »

On Our Knees: Prince Charles vs. Lord Rogers

chelseabarracks.jpg

It is no wonder that architect Richard Rogers is feeling a bit peeved at Prince Charles. This month, the heir to the British throne scuppered plans for a £1 billion development putting 552 apartments on the 12.8-acre site of the old Chelsea Barracks. Rogers was most offended that the Prince used his Royalty to by-pass the usual planning law consultation, by speaking direct to the Qatari royalty who owned the site.  read more »

How Can Cities with Unaffordable Housing be Ranked Among the Most Livable Cities in the World?

Vienna_July_2008.jpg

The Economist magazine's "Economic Intelligence Unit" (EIU) has published its most recent survey of the most livable cities in the world.

Vancouver, Canada, ranks number one, Vienna, Austria number two, Perth, Australia number five, Geneva number 8, Zurich, number 9, (both in Switzerland) and Auckland, New Zealand, number twelve.  read more »

The Geography of Class in Greater Seattle

morrillclassmap-crop.png

Most readers may not be initially very interested in the detailed geography of “class” in Seattle, but it actually matters not only for our area but for the whole debate over the shape of the urban future. Academics, perhaps Americans in general, are loath to admit to class differences, yet they remain very crucial to the understanding of how cities and regions evolve.

Seattle is a great example of the transformation of a 20th century model of the American metropolis to a 21st century-cum-19th century “old World” model of metropolis. It is often held up as one of the role models for other cities, so its experiences should be considered seriously not only for American cities but for regions throughout the advanced world.  read more »