Urban Issues

How Commuters Get Railroaded by Cities


With more than $10 billion already invested, and much more on the way, some now believe that Los Angeles and Southern California are on the way to becoming, in progressive blogger Matt Yglesias’ term, “the next great transit city.” But there’s also reality, something that rarely impinges on debates about public policy in these ideologically driven times.

Let’s start with the numbers. If L.A. is supposedly becoming a more transit-oriented city, as boosters already suggest, a higher portion of people should be taking buses and trains. Yet, Los Angeles County – with its dense urbanization and ideal weather for walking and taking transit – has seen its share of transit commuting decline, as has the region overall.  read more »

Auckland Tackles Housing Affordability Crisis


City of Auckland Chief Economist Chris Parker has called for establishment of a house price to income ratio objective of 5.0, to be achieved by 2030. The recommendation was included in a report commissioned by Auckland Mayor Len Brown and Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse.

Housing Affordability and Urban Containment Policy

The recommendation has been brought about in response to Auckland's severely unaffordable housing. Recent reports indicate a price to income ratio over 9.0, at least triple that of New Zealand to the early 1990s.  read more »

The Houses Americans Choose to Buy


The US preference for detached housing remains strong, according to the newest data just released in the 2014 American Community Survey, by the United States Census Bureau. In 2014, detached house and represented 82.4 percent of owned housing in the United States. This is   up 1.8 percentage points from the 80.6 percent registered in the 2000 census. The increase may be surprising, given the efforts of planners to steer people into higher density housing, especially apartments.  read more »

How Big Government and Big Business Stick It to Small U.S. Businesses


From the inception of the Soviet Union, transformation was built, quite consciously, on eliminating those forces that could impede radical change. In many ways, the true enemy was not the large foreign capitalists (some of whom were welcomed from abroad to aid modernization) but the small firm, the independent property owner.  read more »

How Urban Planning Made Motown Records Possible


I’m reading Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story by David Maraniss, a book I plan to review for City Journal. But I want to highlight something briefly that really caught my eye about Motown Records. It’s no secret Detroit punches above its weight in musical influence, and the Motown sound was clearly a big part of that. Maraniss asks “Why Detroit? What gave this city its unmatched creative melody?” He lays out his theory of the case with regards to Motown Records.  read more »

Planning has Become the Externality: New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister


One of the frequently cited justifications for urban planning is to mitigate negative externalities --- detrimental impacts that people or organizations impose on others in society. While acknowledging this, New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Bill English charged that urban planning itself has become the externality, by virtue of its impact on house prices, equality and the economy in New Zealand.  read more »

Environmental Activists Turn up the Rhetorical Heat


What is the endgame of the contemporary green movement? It’s a critical question since environmentalism arguably has become the leading ideological influence in both California government and within the Obama administration. In their public pronouncements, environmental activists have been adept at portraying the green movement as reasonable, science-based and even welcoming of economic growth, often citing the much-exaggerated promise of green jobs.  read more »

Rural Industrialization: Asia’s 21st Century Growth Frontier


A World Bank report released earlier this year featured a jarring statistic: 200 million people moved to East Asia’s cities between 2000 and 2010. That figure is greater than the populations of all but five of the world’s countries.  read more »

Jessie: Over-The-Rhine, Cincinnati


This is Jessie. She’s a well educated thirty year old professional with a good income. She could live anywhere she wants. She was offered excellent positions with good companies in San Francisco. While she was excited by the opportunity to live in a top tier coastal city she was smart enough to actually run the numbers before taking a job.  read more »

No Wiggle Room in Housing Market


The salary gap – where top-end incomes are rising faster than middle- and lower-end salaries – plays a large role in the affordability of middle-class housing along with interest rates and prices. Which factor has more influence depends on where you live and how you make your living.  read more »