America’s fast-growing cities are experiencing housing shortages. It’s a topic I’ve covered in my last two columns, focusing mainly on the emerging YIMBY (“yes in my backyard”) movement and how NIMBYs, or the “not in my backyard” contingent, have impeded efforts to build new construction that promotes density. And while both sides agree that more construction is needed, NIMBYs tend to ask an essential follow-up question: What about traffic?
This question, while alluding to roads, often taps into a broader sentiment that the local services — schools, hospitals and sewer pipelines, among other things — are already overburdened in many cities.… Read more
Portland, OR—If U.S. Senators weigh in on America’s housing crisis, they need to understand the complexity of the issues. Of course we need more affordable housing almost everywhere, but the problems go beyond that. There is rampant academic literature showing how high housing costs in key metro areas are discouraging business formation, suppressing GDP, perpetuating class divisions and forcing environmentally-harmful sprawl. It’s essential that some of our most influential political leaders take notice.
Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, is one of those Senators, and he embodies both the upsides of having a Senator engage in pro-housing advocacy; along with the ongoing failure of Washington’s political class to truly understand this issue.… Read more
Walk by any construction site in a major U.S. city, and you’ll hear one of the great instruments in the symphony that is modern urban American life. It seems that no matter the day or the hour—it could be 6am on a Sunday—these unfinished structures will emanate with the cacophony of boots stomping, saws cutting and nail guns popping. And bouncing off the plywood walls above all this sound are workers barking out instructions to each other—often in Spanish.
This observation, which is common nationwide and almost uniformly the case in cities, like Houston and Los Angeles, speaks to a fundamental fact about America’s housing industry: it is greatly influenced by immigrants.… Read more
There’s a very precise formula for how major U.S. metro areas can make their housing markets “hot”; simply commit to jobs and population growth, then artificially restrain the housing supply. This has been the price inflation calculus in New York and San Francisco. But even within these and other desirable metros, the price variation across the geographic landscape is so disperse as to seem random–and counters the stereotypes about where consumers actually want to locate.
This March, I wrote here about the three major U.S. metros that have stood above the rest for housing permits: Houston, Dallas and New York City. Between 2010 and 2016, each of these three metros have approved 273,000 units or greater, while Los Angeles was a distant 4th at 160,000. Perhaps more notably is that many of their units have been multi-family apartments. While that isn’t surprising for New York City, it may defy stereotypes about the underlying built pattern of the two great Texas metros.… Read more
Several years after the Great Recession, it’s safe to say that America’s housing market is back. Since 2009, when the number of new authorized housing units dipped to 583,000, they have ticked up every year since, and are now around 1.2 million annually. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index has also increased every year since then, almost returning to the levels found in the late-1990s boom years. And national median home prices, while bottoming out in 2012, have risen back up to their 2007 levels, creating a nearly perfect symmetrical, upside-down bell curve on Zillow’s 10-year graph.… Read more
Los Angeles–For those who love navigating cities by foot, New York will always be America’s main option. Los Angeles, despite being the densest urban area, never achieved this walkability, thanks to government efforts to socially engineer sprawl. But one Los Angeles neighborhood, at least, offers something more colorful–and arguably better–than anything else in the U.S. It is the city’s downtown area, better known here to locals as “DTLA.”….[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more
For all the mockery it’s drawn, the central idea on which celebrity urbanist Richard Florida built his career was not a bad one. In 2002, the current University of Toronto business professor wrote The Rise of the Creative Class, about America’s growing subset of workers who were generally educated, wealthy, and in creative professions. His book also advanced the creative class theory, which posits that cities do best not by luring companies, but by drawing these workers, and that economic development strategies should be tailored towards the latter.… Read more
Among those who appreciate cities and urban density, there are often very different associations about Houston and Portland. To many, Houston is a pro-growth metro where “the market” has led to a sprawling, incohesive hellscape. Portland, meanwhile, is considered a metro where enlightened government planning has produced walkable, European-style urbanism. Because both started from roughly the same place—as post-WWII, automobile-oriented metros—and because one has presumably become cool and cultured, while the other is disperse and smoggy, urbanists seem to believe that this validates the pro-planning model….[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more
In 2015, San Francisco approved the largest conversion of government housing into private ownership in American history. The deal is a mass overhaul of the city’s decrepit public housing stock, as units across multiple neighborhoods are being restored and transferred to new management. The deal also represents the largest single application thus far of the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, a recent voluntary reform initiative from HUD. This initiative in San Francisco, known as SF-RAD, is supposed to improve public housing services while preserving some of the city’s ever-dwindling affordable housing stock.… Read more