Suburbs

Of Houses, Castles and the Universal Dream

DSCF8578.JPG

As I sit here in Beijing Capital International Airport waiting for a flight to Taiyuan, I realize something universal about people. Whether in the suburbs of Shanghai, Beijing, Wuhan, Xi’an, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Nanjing or even in the historical accident of Hong Kong, some of the most beautiful single-family detached housing in the world is here. It is not extensive, because it is not affordable to the great majority of Chinese.  read more »

Obama: Making History but Not Ending It

iStock_000001493941XSmall.jpg

Barack Obama won a mandate among younger voters so large that it literally defies comparison, and with it, we're told, a mandate to retire tired old fights of little concern to this new generation. Yet in the long run, it may well be that his victory has only put on hold some enduring political conflicts and may even ignite new ones.

Obama’s 34-point, 66-32 percent win among the group that made up about 20 percent of voters and 60 percent of new voters was nearly four times the margin of John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Clinton in 1992.  read more »

Two-Timing Telecommute Taxes

iStock_000005474998XSmall- rural telecommuter.jpg

Telecommuting — or telework — is a critical tool that can help employees, businesses and communities weather the current financial crisis, and thrive afterward. However, right now, the nation is burdened with a powerful threat to the growth of telework: the telecommuter tax. This tax is a state penalty imposed on Americans who work for employers outside their home states and sometimes telecommute.  read more »

St. Louis Blues

iStock_000000126706XSmall.jpg

The night of the election, my husband and I greeted with elation the news that the presidency would go to Barack Obama. Then, seconds later, we hunkered down on the sofa with anxious expressions and asked the talking heads: “What about Missouri?”  read more »

No More Urban Hype

iStock_000005845250XSmall.jpg

Just months ago, urban revivalists could see the rosy dawn of a new era for America's cities. With rising gas prices and soaring foreclosures hitting the long-despised hinterland, urban boosters and their media claque were proclaiming suburbia home to, as the Atlantic put it, "the next slums." Time magazine, the Financial Times, CNN and, of course, The New York Times all embraced the notion of a new urban epoch.

Yet in one of those ironies that markets play on hypesters, the mortgage crisis is now puncturing the urbanists' bubble. The mortgage meltdown that first singed the suburbs and exurbs, after all, was largely financed by Wall Street, the hedge funds, the investment banks, insurers and the rest of the highly city-centric top of the paper food chain.  read more »

Regulating People or Regulating Greenhouse Gases?

iStock_000005412602XSmall.jpg

It seems very likely that a national greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction standard will be established by legislation in the next year. Interest groups are lining up with various proposals, some fairly benign and others potentially devastating.

One of the most frequently mentioned strategies – mandatory vehicle miles reductions – is also among the most destructive. It is predictably supported by the same interests that have pushed the anti-automobile (and anti-suburban) agenda for years, often under the moniker of “smart growth.”  read more »

Turns Out There's Good News on Main St.

iStock_000000820143XSmall.jpg

As the financial crisis takes down Wall Street, the regular folks on Main Street are biting their nails, watching the toxic tsunami head their way. But for all our nightmares of drowning in a sea of bad mortgages, foreclosed homes and shrunken retirement plans, the truth is that the effects of this meltdown won't be all bad in the long run. In one regard, it could offer our society a net positive: Forced into belt-tightening, Americans are likely to strengthen our family and community ties and to center our lives more closely on the places where we live.  read more »

“The Not So Big House” Ten Years Later

nsbsh05_ext.jpg

It has been ten years since The Not So Big House became a surprise best seller, elevating a successful but unknown Minneapolis-based architect, Sarah Susanka, to the couch of Oprah Winfrey. Shortly after its release, the book became number one on Amazon.com, the force of which wasn’t fully understood or appreciated back in 1998. Since then she’s published five more books in the Not So Big series, but none have benefited as much from pitch-perfect timing.  read more »

Beyond The Bailout: What’s Next in the Housing Market?

iStock_000006691668XSmall.jpg

The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (we’ll call it the “Bail Out”) was signed into law on October 3rd. This, combined with the new reality in capital markets and current economic conditions, will result in some major shifts in the outlook for housing over the next few years. It is always possible that the federal government will try to do even more to fix what will be an agonizing housing problem over the next few years, but seems unlikely even Bernake, Paulson or their appointed successors will be able to change the basic story line.  read more »

The Geography of Inequality

iStock_000006404432XSmall.jpg

The global financial crisis has drawn greater attention to the world of the super rich and to the astounding increases in inequality since 1980, returning the country to a degree of inequality last seen in 1929 or perhaps even 1913. In the year 2006 alone, Wall Street executives received bonuses of $62 billion. Financial services increased from 10 percent of all business profits in 1980 to 40 percent in 2007, an obscene and indefensible development that now threatens the rest of the ‘real economy’.

Here’s what happened to income and wealth between 1970 and 2005  read more »