Urban Issues

The Suburbanization of Religious Diversity

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You can see the changes. A drive through suburban Lake County, IN, an hour from downtown Chicago makes you feel like you are somewhere between the set of Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story and the movie Hoosiers. Cultural and religious diversity would probably be the last two things on your mind in a region known more for its steel industry than its sacred space.  read more »

A Pill For Los Angeles? Medicating the Megacities

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Los Angeles — and other modern megacities — conjure increasingly unique genetic profiles that point the way to a new medical industry: Call it urbo-pharmaceuticals. Investors are needed.

Is there a pill that might inoculate us from smog?
Is there a gene we can target that would make us resistant to resurgent infectious diseases?
And is there a way to use genetic data to insulate new immigrants from some of the metabolic challenges of living in a new land of plenty?

Welcome to the slowly emerging world of environmental medicine and its inevitable outgrowth, environmental pharmaceuticals: compounds specifically suited for mitigating the physiological challenges of mega-city life in the 21st century.  read more »

What’s Behind China’s Big Traffic Jam

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The world press has been fixated on the "Beijing" traffic jam that lasted for nearly two weeks. There is a potential lesson here for the United States, which is that if traffic is allowed to far exceed roadway capacity, unprecedented traffic jams can occur.

The Inner Mongolia Traffic Jam: First we need to understand that this was not a "Beijing" traffic jam at all,or even on the outskirts of Beijing. The traffic jam came no closer to Beijing than 150 miles (250 kilometers) away, beyond the border of the city/province of Beijing, through the province of Hebei and nearly to the border of Inner Mongolia.  read more »

Australia 2010: Unstable Politics in a Prosperous Country

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2010 has been something of an annus mirabilis in Australian politics. On 24 June a prime minister was dumped before facing the voters a second time. This was the first time ever for such an early exit. Then the election on 22 August produced a “hung parliament”, an outcome not seen since the 1940s. Having fallen short of enough seats to form government, the major parties are scrambling for the support of four independents and one Green in the House of Representatives.  read more »

The Housing Bubble: The Economists Should Have Known

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Paul Krugman got it right. But it should not have taken a Nobel Laureate to note that the emperor's nakedness with respect to the connection between the housing bubble and more restrictive land use regulation.  read more »

The Disappearance of the Next Middle Class

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Every week we read that yet another major housing project has been turned down by the Courts here in New Zealand because of the need to protect "rural character" or "natural landscapes". This may well have profound short and long-term consequences for the future of our middle class, as it does for the same class in countries around the advanced world.

Every week a multitude of smaller developers abandon their projects because Councils’ compliance costs and development contributions make the projects unviable – even if the land were free. And it’s not.  read more »

China's Sliver of a Housing Bubble

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Few finance issues have received such a wide range of opinions among financial experts than the "housing bubble" in China. This is an issue of international importance because what happens in what is now the world’s 2nd largest economy affects the rest of the world.  read more »

Vancouver: Planner’s Dream, Middle Class Nightmare

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Vancouver is consistently rated among the most desirable places to live in the Economist’s annual ranking of cities. In fact, this year it topped the list. Of course, it also topped another list. Vancouver was ranked as the city with the most unaffordable housing in the English speaking world by Demographia’s annual survey. According to the survey criteria, housing prices in an affordable market should have an “median multiple” of no higher than 3.0 (meaning that median housing price should cost no more than 3 times the median annual gross household income). Vancouver came in at a staggering 9.3. The second most expensive major Canadian city, Toronto, has an index of only 5.2. Even legendarily unaffordable London and New York were significantly lower, coming in at 7.1 and 7.0 respectively. While there are many factors that make Vancouver a naturally expensive market, there are a number of land use regulations that contribute to the high housing costs.  read more »

City Thinking is Stuck in the 90s

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The 1990s proved to be quite a nice decade indeed for most of America's largest cities. It was an era of general prosperity in all of America to be sure, but in contrast to previous decades, the turnaround also extended from the suburbs to many of the nation's biggest cities, notably New York, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco and San Jose. The notion – popular in the 70s and 80s – associating cities with a sour and fatalistic sense of decline and dysfunction, or even anarchy, in the 90s finally began to evaporate.  read more »

Urban Legends: Why Suburbs, Not Dense Cities, are the Future

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The human world is fast becoming an urban world -- and according to many, the faster that happens and the bigger the cities get, the better off we all will be. The old suburban model, with families enjoying their own space in detached houses, is increasingly behind us; we're heading toward heavier reliance on public transit, greater density, and far less personal space.  read more »