Housing

San Francisco Observations

san-francisco-from-coit-tower-1024x768.jpg

I made quite a few trips to San Francisco during the late 90s into the early 2000s, but hadn’t been back in a very long time – probably close to 15 years.

Recently I was there for a conference and a long weekend and got to spend some time exploring the city. I won’t claim a comprehensive review, but I did have a few takeaways to share.  read more »

Overcrowded California

cox-downtown-LA_0.jpg

In its decades of unprecedented population growth, California was a land of superlatives. Regrettably, the superlatives have changed from mostly positive to largely negative. For example, the latest Census Bureau Supplemental Poverty Estimates, indicated that California continues to have the highest poverty rate of any state, after adjustment for housing costs (Figure 1). Not even Mississippi can compete with that, sitting 3.6 percentage points lower.  read more »

Cat and Mouse in Frogtown

frogtown article.jpg

A friend recently expressed an interest in how some cities are reforming their land use regulations. “I mean, there are places like LA that say they’ve thrown out the code books and are rewriting their zoning.” My short response was… No. The reality is that the city plays an expensive and byzantine game of cat and mouse with each individual neighborhood.  read more »

Canada’s Middle-Income Housing Affordability Crisis

calgary.jpg

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has issued a “red warning” for the entire housing market in Canada.” According to CMHC the red warnings are due to “strong evidence of problematic conditions for Canada overall. Home prices have risen ahead of economic fundamentals such as personal disposable income and population growth. This has resulted in overvaluation in many Canadian housing markets.”  read more »

Real Estate Doesn’t Make an Economy

Full-Floor-For-Rent.jpg

From Southern California to Shanghai and London, inflated real estate prices have evolved into a simulacrum for broader prosperity. In an era of limited income gains, growing inequality, political dysfunction and fading productivity, the conjunction of low interest rates and essentially free money for the rich and well-placed has sparked the construction of often expensive, high-density residential housing.  read more »

Unsustainable solutions in the name of sustainability

Renewable_Energy_on_the_Grid.jpg

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

Sacramento.jpg

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

suburbscape-iStock_000006013811XSmall.jpg

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

DowntownLosAngeles.jpg

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

betterway.jpg

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 »