Urban Issues

The Leveraged Buyout of the GDR

GDR from Stevenson.jpg

Until the European Central Bank purchased a call option on the future assets of the Greek government (which remains out-of-the-money), the largest leveraged buyout of a sovereign state had taken place in 1990, when the West German government acquired the German Democratic Republic (GDR), thought at the time to consist largely of liabilities. By most accounts the Bonn government paid over the odds for East Germany, estimated to have cost the West more than $1 trillion.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)


Vietnam may be the next China. With a nominally communist government, Vietnam has liberalized its markets and is prospering from an increased reliance on exports. Vietnam's gross domestic product per capita is still only about $3000, but has been among the faster growing economies over the past 10 years. Vietnam is well positioned to capture any growth that might be diverted from China’s east coast urban areas as labor costs there rise and concerns increase about the influence of that country’s powerful state-owned corporations.  read more »

The Expanding Wealth Of Washington


Throughout the brutal and agonizingly long recession, only one large metropolitan area escaped largely unscathed: Washington, D.C. The city that wreaked economic disasters under two administration last year grew faster in population than any major region in the country, up a remarkable 2.7 percent. The continued steady growth of the Texas cities, which dominated the growth charts over the past decade, pales by comparison.  read more »

The Use and Misuse of Glaeser's Triumph of the City


Appeals to authority are now the stock-in-trade of progressive pundits across a range of public controversies. In the face of popular discontent bubbling up from forums on the net and elsewhere, their fall-back posture is heavy-handed ‘expertism’. Policymaking is the prerogative of those with the right qualifications and credentials. Ordinary citizens should butt-out, no matter how self-interested the experts may seem. So too in the field of urban policy, encumbered as it is with a green-compact-city orthodoxy, do appeals to authority hold sway.  read more »

The Sorry State of American Transport


We constantly read about the infrastructure crisis in America. I’ll have more to say on this at a future date, but it is pretty clear that we need to spend more money in a whole lot of areas: airports, roads and bridges, public transportation, and more.

Yet it’s very easy to see that so much of what ails transport has nothing to do with a lack of funds and everything to do with a lack of will. I took a train ride on the Northeast corridor last week that really drove it home to me.  read more »

The Republican Party's Fatal Attraction To Rural America


Rick Santorum’s big wins in Alabama and Mississippi place the Republican Party in ever greater danger of becoming hostage to what has become its predominate geographic base: rural and small town America. This base, not so much conservatives per se, has kept Santorum’s unlikely campaign alive, from his early win in Iowa to triumphs in predominately rural and small-town dominated Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota and Oklahoma.  read more »

Honolulu’s Money Train


Honolulu is set to construct an ambitious urban rail project. It’s a $5.125 billion behemoth that this metropolitan area with less than a million residents may not be able to afford.

Honolulu's Beleaguered Residents

Critically, there is plenty of competition for the scarce dollars that Honolulu residents have to spare. The city’s basic infrastructure is in bad shape.  read more »

The Ultimate Houston Strategy


Last week was the 7th anniversary of my blog, Houston Strategies. After 947 posts (cream of the crop here), almost half a million visitors, and thousands of comments in an epic dialogue about Houston, I thought this would be a good time stand back, look at the big picture, and ask "What should be next for Houston?" while linking back to some of the gems from that archive.  read more »

Time for Real Solutions to Vancouver's Housing Affordability Crisis


Vancouver is in desperate need of new solutions to ease its worsening housing affordability crisis. The 8th annual Demographia housing affordability survey released by the Frontier Centre found that Vancouver has the second least affordable housing market next to Hong Kong. On average, and assuming zero interest, a house in Vancouver would cost the median family more than ten years income.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Hong Kong


Hong Kong has experienced its slowest decadal growth in at least 70 years, according to the results of the recently released 2011 census. Between 2001 and 2011, Hong Kong added only 5.4 percent to its population, a decline of more than two-thirds from its 1991-2001 rate. Hong Kong's slowest growth rate since 1921-1931 was between 1981 and 1991, when 13.8 percent was added to its population. In previous decades growth had been much greater (Figure 1).  read more »