WSJ Editorial: How Politics Created the Oregon Housing Shortage

A January 5, 2020 Wall Street Journal editorial examines Oregon’s housing affordability crisis. The editorial, “The Housing Shortage in Profile: Construction in Oregon dropped to the lowest level since World War II” not only describes the immediate consequences of Oregon’s recently enacted land use regulations but also provides the four decade context that has done so much damage to its middle-class. Oregon’s median house prices have generally at least doubled relative to household incomes since 1990.

A couple of excerpts follow:

“Politicians bemoan the lack of affordable housing, but their policies often create the problem. Look no further than Oregon, where restrictive zoning and mandates have yielded the lowest rate of residential construction in decades.

“Oregon’s land-use rules have been dysfunctional for decades. In the 1970s lawmakers worried about sprawl imposed strict limits on urban expansion. These urban growth boundaries have failed to adjust sufficiently to growing populations, choking residential development despite high demand. Rising housing prices are the inevitable result of this government-imposed scarcity."

Read the entire piece here: Wall Street Journal.

Google Chooses Mississippi

The Memphis Commercial Appeal has reported that Google will open its first US operations center in the northeast Mississippi. This area includes the suburbs and exurbs of the Memphis, TN-MS-AR metropolitan area.

Troy Dickerson, vice president of the Google Operations Center told WREG Channel 3 News: “We are excited to continue growing our workforce across the southeast and are confident that Mississippi will be a great home for Google,” “This operations center will give us the opportunity to hire amazing local talent as we expand in the region.”

Mississippi US Senator Roger Wicker told WREG Channel 3 News that “Google’s decision to locate more than 350 jobs and their first U.S. Operations Center in Mississippi is a testament to our state’s great workers and pro-growth policies, I am glad to welcome one of the most innovative companies in the world to northwestern Mississippi.”

Choose Energy Publishes Energy Rates by State

Choose Energy tracks energy rates by state. Find your state on the interactive map below to see the latest average rate, its rank among other states and the percentage change from the previous month. Learn more at


What Works for Seattle Doesn't Work for the Rest of Puget Sound

A new study released by WPC, authored by national transportation expert and urban policy analyst Wendell Cox, puts Seattle transit hype into perspective.

Cox evaluated population, employment, and commute trip data for the Puget Sound and found that automobiles are used by more than two-thirds of commuters to get to work throughout the Puget Sound.

Transit boosters often point to Commute Seattle survey data to bolster their view that transit is regionally popular and should be expanded to generate more work trips and reduce driving. They rely on the survey’s statistic that 48% of commuters get to downtown Seattle by transit. That’s true, but it’s a niche market, Cox says, as only about 12% of Puget Sound employment is located in downtown Seattle.

Outside of downtown Seattle, 76% of work trips are made by car. This will continue to be the case into the future.

Read the rest of the piece at Washington Policy Center.

Mariya Frost is the Director of the Coles Center for Transportation at Washington Policy Center. She is a graduate of the University of Washington with a degree in Political Science. She is on the Board of Directors for the Eastside Transportation Association, a member of the Jim MacIsaac Research Committee, and a member of the Women of Washington civic group. She and her husband live in Tacoma.

Former London Mayor Blames Jewish Vote for Labour Loss

The Daily Mirror (London) headline reads: “Ken Livingstone says it's 'the end' for Jeremy Corbyn and blames 'Jewish vote'” Livingstone, the former two-term mayor of London commented on the landslide Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party loss, saying “The Jewish vote wasn’t very helpful.”

Numbers may not be the former mayor’s strength. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and his Tories racked up a 2.7 million electoral majority in the election. Of course, British parliamentary elections, like American presidential elections are not determined by the popular vote. It is not known how many voters among the 650 constituencies would need to have changed their votes for Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn to become prime minister.

However, the vote margin dwarfs any possible number of Jewish votes. The Jewish population of the United Kingdom is estimated at under 300,000. If Jews voted in the same proportion as other UK citizens, there would have been fewer than 150,000 votes. Even if it is assumed that cutting the Johnson total in half, it would have required the unanimous votes of nine times as many Jews as live in the United Kingdom to have permitted Corbyn to move into #10 Downing Street.

Livingstone was indefinitely suspended by the Labour Party and reportedly faced “a full probe into his alleged anti-Semitism” (see: “Ken Livingstone suspended from Labour indefinitely and will face full anti-Semitism probe”). Livingston subsequently resigned from the Party.

Johnson succeeded Livingstone in the mayor’s office and also served two terms, before entering parliament and now winning the election to earn a full term.

Bertaud Book Suggested for Australian PM Scott Morrison's Reading List

Australia’s Grattan Institute has included former World Bank principal planner’s Order Without Design: How Markets Shape Cities on its annual “Prime Minister’s Summer Reading List” (Summer starts in just a couple of weeks there). It is a good recommendation. We reviewed the book earlier this year.

Some excerpts from that review follow:

“Alain Bertaud’s new book, Order without Design: How Markets Shape Cities (MIT Press), is particularly timely, because of the rising concern about the challenges facing middle-income households. The broad based affluence that followed World War II brought unprecedented affluence to many millions of people, principally in the high income nations. This also raised the standard of living for people living in or near poverty. The progress has been well documented by economists, such as Diedre McClosky and Robert Gordon.”

Bertaud says that “current planning practices place “constraints put on the supply of urban land and floor space by restrictive regulations” that “are causing severe urban dysfunctions.” According to Bertaud, urban planners pay insufficient heed to urban economics:

‘I think that, worldwide, the unfamiliarity with basic urban economic concepts by those in charge of managing cities is one of the major problems of our time.’”

And that:

“Poorly conceived urban strategies are not just innocent utopias. They misdirect scarce urban investments toward locations where they are the least needed and, in doing so, greatly reduce the welfare of urban households. These failed strategies make housing less affordable and increase the time spent commuting.”

Finally, Bertaud offers advice that is “spot on” for leaders interested in preserving the middle class:

“The main objective of the planner should be to maintain mobility and housing affordability as a city’s population increases and it diversifies its activities (emphasis added).”

Many more state and provincial leaders need to read this volume than Prime Minister Morrison.

Australia's High-Rise Apartment Crash Turns Apocalyptic

Yesterday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released its dwelling approvals data for November, which revealed that dwelling approvals nationally have crashed by 35% in trend terms from the March 2015 peak, driven by a mammoth 52% decline in unit and apartment approvals.

Today, I want to focus on the high-rise apartment segment, which is driving the bust and is also the subject of deep concerns around quality.

The next chart shows the picture at the national level in annual terms, which shows that high-rise apartment approvals have crashed by 53% since peaking in October 2015:

As shown above, there were 36,691 high-rise apartments approved across the nation in the year to October 2019, well down from the peak of 78,089 in the year to October 2015.

Detached house and townhouse approvals are also falling swiftly; albeit at a slower rate.

Below are the same charts at the state and territory level:

The high - rise apartment approvals crash has been driven by NSW (-57%), VIC (-57%) and QLD (-70%), which have all fallen massively from peak. ACT’s high-rise approvals have also crashed (-40%).

The below chart shows the high-rise bust across the major markets:

The crash is broad-based, nasty and ongoing. It is the smoking gun of RBA panic.

10 Questions on Public Corruption for LA’s “Progressive” Mayor

Anyone who needed a poll by the LA Times and LA Business Council Institute to tell them that overwhelming numbers of Angelenos consider homelessness the city’s biggest problem hasn’t been paying attention for quite a while.

And anyone who thinks homelessness in LA can be addressed without confronting public corruption overlooks a problem that tears the fabric of the city.

The odor of corruption hangs over a deal at a warehouse at 1426 S.Paloma Street on the industrial edge of Downtown LA. The City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti approved a lease that requires $35,000 a month in rent for space to be converted into a 115-bed homeless shelter there. They’ve also agreed to pay a nonprofit $4 million a year to run the shelter.

The numbers involved are relatively small compared to the $1.2 billion voters approved under Prop HHH three years ago to address the crisis.

You can look here to see why they nevertheless indicate the potential for much bigger problems.

And you can consider these 10 questions, which Garcetti has been unable or unwilling to answer for weeks and months while the shelter has yet to open even as the city pays $35,000 a month to the landlord:

  1. Why isn't there a homeless shelter in operation at 1426 S. Paloma Street?
  2. What sort of market analysis was done on the lease
  3. Do plans still call for the development of a shelter at the property
  4. If so, when is it expected to open?
  5. Are there any concerns that the landlord of the property has been involved in cases of money laundering and counterfeiting in the past?
  6. How was Home at Last CDC chosen as the operator of the homeless shelter?
  7. How was the $4 million annual value of Home at Last CDC’s services determined?
  8. Are there any concerns that Home at Last CDC has recently demonstrated a lack of organizational capacity and transparency about its operations?
  9. Are there concerns that city documents indicate plans for 60 fulltime employees to staff a 115-bed facility?
  10. Has the city surveyed industry standards on staffing levels for emergency shelters?

These shouldn’t be tough questions for a mayor with hundreds of public employees on his staff, including dozens dedicated to communications and homelessness programs.

They are offered without apology because the people of anyrepresentative democracy has a right to know – and because LA will never meet the challenge of homelessness unless we start to talk about public corruption.

Jerry Sullivan is founder and chief columnist for @SullivanSaysSC

Talent Attraction Scorecard

The folks at EMSI, a labor market analytics firm, have issued their latest Talent Attraction Scorecard. They look at, among other things, the places that are gaining the most skilled workers. Obviously their ranking heavily correlate with population growth. What I found most interesting is their specific look at smaller counties and even “micro-counties” with a population of less than 5,000. Plenty of names you might not know but are worth checking out.

Also, I couldn’t resist posting the “This City Is Making a Comeback” bingo game that was circulating on the internet recently. Pretty hilarious. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having most of these things. In fact, they are great to have. But still a fun meme.

This post first appeared on

Announcing Heartland Forward — An Institute for Economic Renewal

Heartland Forward is a first-of-its-kind "think and do" tank committed to advancing economic performance in the center of the United States.

President and CEO of Heartland Forward Ross DeVol, states: "Throughout my decades of research experience, I've observed that national research and policy discussions too often overlook the center of the country, especially its small cities and rural areas. The Heartland region faces more economic challenges than the coasts, but it also holds immense potential, and that's why I felt so strongly about launching an organization like Heartland Forward."

You can learn more about the organization at