Tuesday, December 6, 2011
David Reiss (Brooklyn) has posted a review of Harvard economist and urban theorist Edward Glaeser's new book. Book Review: Edward L. Glaeser, Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier (The Penguin Press 2011), forthcoming in Environment and Planning (2012). The abstract:
It is always a bit unnerving to read someone else’s love letters, but even more so, when you have the same object of desire. Edward Glaeser’s TRIUMPH OF THE CITY is a love letter to cities and to New York City in particular. Glaeser provides a theoertical framework of the city, arguing that “Cities are the absence of physical space between people and companies. They are proximity, density, closeness.”
Glaeser prescribes three simple rules to protect the vitality of the urban environment: First, cities should replace the current lengthy and uncertain permitting process with a simple system of fees. Second, historic preservation should be limited and well defined. Finally, individual neighborhoods should have some clearly delineated power to protect their special character.
While Glaeser does not fully justify his set of rules, he does provide a thought-provoking discussion of the consequences of not following them. If you were to take nothing else from TRIUMPH OF THE CITY, you should attend to its cri de coeur: “the real city is made of flesh, not concrete.” But, notwithstanding its limitations, the book offers much, much more than that. It challenges broadly held beliefs and presents a theory of the city that helps to evaluate urban policy proposals with a clear eye.
Monday, December 5, 2011
I came across a link to this Bloomberg report in reading for my previous post on the Leinberger-Kotkin debate. The article is a few months old, but I still think it's highly relevant: U.S. Moves Toward Home 'Rentership Society,' Morgan Stanley Says, discussing a report on housing.
The U.S. homeownership rate has fallen below 60 percent when delinquent borrowers are excluded, a sign of the country’s move toward a “rentership society,”Morgan Stanley said in a report today. . . .
The homeownership rate reached an all-time high of 69.2 percent in 2004 as relaxed lending standards fueled home sales and President George W. Bush promoted an “ownership society.” Mortgage delinquencies, foreclosures and tighter credit for housing loans are reducing property buying, [Morgan Stanley analysi Oliver] Chang said.
“Taken together they are forcibly moving the country away from being an ownership society,” Chang, based in San Francisco, said in an e-mail. “This change is only beginning, and is moving the country towards becoming a rentership society.”
A real estate professional demurs, but look at the reason why:
Most Americans still aspire to own their houses and don’t want to be renters forever, said Rick Davidson, president and chief executive officer of Century 21 Real Estate LLC in Parsippany, New Jersey.
“It isn’t about the financial aspects, but about building a family and having a part of the American dream,” Davidson, whose company is a unit of Realogy Corp., said today during an interview at Bloomberg’s offices in New York. “What really drives purchases at the end of the day is emotional and has to do with lifestyle.”
We're still conditioned to think of homeownership as the sine qua non of the American Dream--but it's not necessarily in our financial or economic interest; it's emotional and about lifestyle. But is there an adequate range of opportunities presented for Americans to choose (emotionally?) between different forms of lifestyle? I believe that at their base, issues of housing, community, and urban form are primarily cultural.
Perhaps no theology more grips the nation’s mainstream media — and the planning community — more than the notion of inevitable suburban decline. The Obama administration’s housing secretary, Shaun Donavan, recently claimed, “We’ve reached the limits of suburban development: People are beginning to vote with their feet and come back to the central cities.”
Yet repeating a mantra incessantly does not make it true. Indeed, any analysis of the 2010 U.S. Census would make perfectly clear that rather than heading for density, Americans are voting with their feet in the opposite direction: toward the outer sections of the metropolis and to smaller, less dense cities. During the 2000s, the Census shows, just 8.6% of the population growth in metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people took place in the core cities; the rest took place in the suburbs. That 8.6% represents a decline from the 1990s, when the figure was 15.4%.
Nor are Americans abandoning their basic attraction for single-family dwellings or automobile commuting. Over the past decade, single-family houses grew far more than either multifamily or attached homes, accounting for nearly 80% of all the new households in the 51 largest cities. And — contrary to the image of suburban desolation — detached housing retains a significantly lower vacancy rate than the multi-unit sector, which has also suffered a higher growth in vacancies even the crash. . . .
It turns out that while urban land owners, planners and pundits love density, people for the most part continue to prefer space, if they can afford it. No amount of spinmeistering can change that basic fact, at least according to trends of past decade.
But what about the future? Some more reasoned new urbanists, like Leinberger, hope that the market will change the dynamic and spur the long-awaited shift into dense, more urban cores.
Kotkin provides further statistics derived from his Census analysis. This debate is central to the future of housing policy and urban planning in America.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
They NYU Furman Center has released its Third Quarter New York City Housing Report:
We are pleased to share with you our latest New York City Quarterly Housing Update (Q3 2011). We find that home sales volume remained low in the third quarter of 2011, with the number of properties sold citywide four percent lower than the number sold in the third quarter of 2010.
The report finds that property values are also lagging in most of the city. Manhattan is the only borough where properties have appreciated in price over the last year. Foreclosures have continued to slow citywide, with 32 percent fewer foreclosure notices issued in the third quarter of 2011 compared to the same quarter last year. You can read the full report here, or the press release here.
Monday, November 28, 2011
DRIVE through any number of outer-ring suburbs in America, and you’ll see boarded-up and vacant strip malls, surrounded by vast seas of empty parking spaces. These forlorn monuments to the real estate crash are not going to come back to life, even when the economy recovers. And that’s because the demand for the housing that once supported commercial activity in many exurbs isn’t coming back, either.
The better news:
Simply put, there has been a profound structural shift — a reversal of what took place in the 1950s, when drivable suburbs boomed and flourished as center cities emptied and withered.
The shift is durable and lasting because of a major demographic event: the convergence of the two largest generations in American history, the baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and the millennials (born between 1979 and 1996), which today represent half of the total population.
Many boomers are now empty nesters and approaching retirement. Generally this means that they will downsize their housing in the near future. Boomers want to live in a walkable urban downtown, a suburban town center or a small town, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors.
The millennials are just now beginning to emerge from the nest — at least those who can afford to live on their own. This coming-of-age cohort also favors urban downtowns and suburban town centers — for lifestyle reasons and the convenience of not having to own cars.
Friday, November 25, 2011
I hope all of our U.S. readers had a Happy Thanksgiving yesterday. As we've suggested before, Thanksgiving is in many senses the original American land use holiday, and itself derives from even more longstanding traditions of honoring the relationship between people, communities, and the land. Over the years since it became an official U.S. holiday, we still have the element of celebrating the harvest, but I would say it's evolved more into an event that revolves around that other significant land use element: the home.
If you're heading out shopping for the big sales today on "Black Friday" (the day many retailers go "in the black" financially), many of you might be confronted with some other aspects of modern American land use: sprawl, traffic, and the architecture of modern suburban development. Growing up, we spent Thanksgiving visiting relatives in the older, traditional New Jersey town in which my parents grew up, but which was adjacent to newer suburban development. Perhaps this weekend, you're experiencing what I often did: on Thursday, dinner at a relative's home in the older traditional neighborhood; then Friday, out to the suburban shopping malls and big-box parking lots. Looking back, I think I was subconsciously aware that there was a big difference. It just occurred to me that because of these two major activities--traditional family dinner, then shop-til-you-drop--the Thanksgiving holiday weekend might be about the sharpest contrast that many people experience with such different land use models.
I wonder how this sort of experience affects people--how it might impact the emotions that many people feel during the holidays when visiting relatives, and perhaps old homes since moved away from, or a walk around the old downtown; thinking about the old days, and talking about how their communities have changed. I wonder if a holiday spent experiencing the stark visual and spatial contrasts between the traditional neighborhood and suburban sprawl heightens these emotions. While much of the holiday experience centers around spending time with people, surely the visual and geographical elements of time and place certainly play a big role for many, even if not explicitly acknowledged. Ideas, memories, and feelings about the places in which we live and have lived must have an effect on the way people think about, and during, the holidays.
I hope that yours were and are mostly pleasant ones. We're thankful for the opportunity to blog here, and for everyone who reads and contributes in this land use blog community.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Frank Alexander (Emory) and Leslie Powell have posted Neighborhood Stabilization Strategies for Vacant and Abandoned Properties, 34-8 Zoning and Planning Law Report 1 (2011). Here's the abstract:
Vacant and abandoned properties are a growing inventory in many American neighborhoods as a result of unusually high foreclosure numbers, population loss, and property value declines. The impact of vacant and abandoned properties is tangible and requires a willingness by local governments to acknowledge and address the problem. This article outlines the problems caused by vacant and abandoned properties and suggests a variety of potential strategies, from property tax foreclosure reform to land banking.
Frank has co-founded along with Dan Kildee the Center for Community Progress (f/k/a The National Vacant Properties Campaign). His scholarly and consulting work with affordable housing, title-clearing and land bank present a model of engaged scholarship that should inspire all law teachers as Frank himself does for those who have the pleasure to meet him.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
The NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy has just sent out news of its latest fascinating and important study: American Murder Mystery Revisited: Do Housing Voucher Households Cause Crime? The study is authored by co-director Ingrid Gould Ellen, Michael C. Lens, and Katherine O'Regan. From the announcement:
We are pleased to share with you the latest paper from the Furman Center, American Murder Mystery Revisited: Do Housing Voucher Households Cause Crime? The study explores the link between housing vouchers and neighborhood crime rates. More than two million renters now receive Housing Choice Vouchers, which subsidize rent in private apartments. Although voucher holders live in a large variety of neighborhoods, community opposition to vouchers can be fierce due to perceptions that voucher holders will both reduce property values and heighten crime. The widely-circulated 2008 Atlantic Monthly article “American Murder Mystery” highlighted this controversy.
Our study, which examines changes in crime and voucher use over 12 years in ten major U.S. cities, finds no evidence that an increase of voucher holders in a community leads to increases in crime. Instead, we find a different association: that voucher holders are more likely to move into areas when crime rates are already rising. The paper was featured in an article in The Atlantic Cities, and presented September 19 at an internal briefing held at the HUD headquarters in Washington, DC. You can read the full paper here and accompanying fact sheet here.
When it comes to housing and land use, everyone has an opinion, because everyone lives somewhere and has anecdotal information. It's great to have a study like this to clarify popular conceptions based on facts. The Furman Center leads the way in producing these kinds of helpful studies.
Monday, October 31, 2011
Just got back from trick-or-treating with Peter Pan and a human pineapple. As they sort through the loot, I'm reminded of the increasing trend towards regulating Halloween activity. Where I grew up there weren't any rules, just social norms that controlled things like how late kids could reasonably stay out ringing on doorbells (with law enforcement as a backstop for teenagers out too late or too unruly). But then a few years ago I moved to a town in Ohio, and was surprised to learn that the town promulgated "official trick-or-treat hours" . . . and I'm not 100% sure on this, but I think the official hours to trick-or-treat were the day before Halloween, because it fell on a Sunday, or something. To get even more land use-y, it was restricted to residential neighborhoods only (not sure why you'd want to do otherwise).
Just trolling around the web tonight, I came across this Yahoo article compiling Bay Area Halloween Laws and Regulations. A few examples:
- Sex offenders: stay home; no candy; no decorations, and expect a police visit.
- Curfew laws enforced-- 10 p.m. seems like the most common time for Halloween curfew.
- Parades: several communities have kids' parades, requiring street closures, permits, police.
- Street festivals: for the second year in a row, the Castro District celebration has been cancelled; therefore traffic, parking, etc. will not be disrupted.
- Public safety: last year there was gunfire at an Oakland festival; expect tighter restrictions on large gatherings.
One other thing I have observed the past couple of years: people driving their kids to the more pedestrian-friendly, slightly denser, but still single-family residential neighborhoods to trick-or-treat-- the "sweet spot" (if you will) of efficient foot travel and probability of treats at each house. It turns out that kids are intuitively rational candy-maximizers. Happy Halloween!
Thursday, October 27, 2011
There's a new skirmish in the on-going battle between D.C.'s private universities and the D.C. planning office over off-campus housing of undergraduates. (Full disclosure - my former firm represented most of the major D.C. universities, including Georgetown, in land use matters.) Periodically each university's Campus Plan comes up for review by the city government. Georgetown's plan is currently under consideration, and according to this editorial in The The Washington Post:
A recommendation by the city’s office of planning would require the university to provide housing for 100 percent of its undergraduate students by 2016; failure to do so would force cuts in enrollment starting in 2015.
Town and gown relations in D.C. have always been fraught, as they are in many places. (For more, see this 2005 Note about litigation against both Georgetown and George Washington.) D.C. has always had a particularly high concentration of universities, and many students live cheek-by-jowl in apartment buildings inhabited by working adults, families, and retirees, creating potential lifestyle conflicts. Having both worked for the universities and lived in the George Washington University neighborhood, as well as being both a student and a neighbor to students here in Athens, I don't think the universities in D.C. do any worse job with neighborhood relations than schools anywhere else. In D.C. it's simply a matter of scale and density. What's interesting here is that the city seems so comfortable attempting to control enrollment, something normally at the university's discretion.
Jamie Baker Roskie
CORRECTION - a previous version of this post had the headline "DC Planning Office Threatens to Limit Georgetown's Employment." This is what comes of blogging while multi-tasking!
Monday, October 24, 2011
Lawrence Summers (former Treasury Secretary, Harvard President, and Obama advisor) has posted a Washington Post op-ed called How to Stabilize the Housing Market. From the article:
The central irony of a financial crisis is that while it is caused by too much confidence, borrowing and lending, and spending, it can be resolved only with more confidence, borrowing and lending, and spending. This is true, above all, of housing policies. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) whose purpose is to mitigate cyclicality in housing and that today dominate the mortgage market, have become a textbook case of disastrous and pro-cyclical policy.
Summers notes that the housing market is key to the economy, and makes several substantive recommendations, including:
First, and perhaps most fundamentally, credit standards for those seeking to buy homes are too high and too rigorous. The characteristics of the average successful applicant in 2004 would make that applicant among the most risky today. The pattern should be the opposite, given that the odds of a further 35 percent decline in house prices are much lower than they were at past bubble valuations.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Stacy Seicshnaydre (Tulane) has posted How Government Housing Perpetuates Racial Segregation: Lessons from Post-Katrina New Orleans, 60 Cath. L. Rev. 661 (2011). In it, she explores how quantity-minded public housing advocacy and NIMBY-style public housing resistance has combined to perpetuate the racial segregation that federal law prohibits. Here's the abstract:
This Article contends that post-Katrina New Orleans exemplifies the exclusionary dynamic in which government-assisted housing operates throughout America and the fundamental failure of American housing policy at the federal, state, and local levels to prevent the racial segregation that inevitably results. Federal law has prohibited racial segregation in government-housing programs for decades, yet it has proven difficult to reverse entrenched patterns of segregation in these programs. Patterns of racial segregation have been particularly intractable in New Orleans, which, prior to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, boasted the second-highest level of poverty concentration in the nation and relatively high levels of poverty concentration in all of the major government-housing programs. Furthermore, low-income white residents in pre-Katrina New Orleans had greater access to middle-income neighborhoods throughout the metropolitan area of New Orleans than low-income black residents, who were overwhelmingly concentrated into high-poverty neighborhoods.
Hurricane Katrina, with its massive levee failures and neighborhood flooding, offered an opportunity for New Orleans to emerge as a more inclusive region; new government-assisted housing could have helped facilitate inclusion, while also responding to the regional-housing needs of the area. However, rental housing bans proliferated throughout the region, primarily in communities that had previously served as affordable suburban alternatives for lower- and middle-income whites in prior decades. These communities sought not only to prevent the development of new rental housing, but also to limit the repair of rental housing that preexisted the storm. At the same time, other communities in metropolitan New Orleans that were the least affordable, most homogeneous, and nationally recognized as desirable places to live were not targeted for government-assisted housing, and thus did not pass similar sweeping rental bans. Therefore, rather than using recovery efforts to reverse racially segregated housing patterns, the region took steps to exacerbate them.
This Article describes a perennial dynamic of two impulses pulling in opposite directions—the anywhere-ist and nowhere-ist impulses, which conspire to perpetuate segregation. The anywhere-ists are primarily focused on securing as much federally assisted housing as possible; the nowhere-ists are primarily focused on keeping it out of their communities. This dynamic has created a “path of least resistance,” whereby government-assisted housing continues to be provided in places where it already exists or in places that are already open and affordable.
Ultimately, federal intervention in the housing market must encompass more than providing a subsidy. It must open neighborhoods not already open, make affordable what is not already affordable, enable housing subsidies to act as gateways to educational and employment opportunity, and inform families historically excluded from housing markets about their choices. Any federal housing interventions that are not so designed will almost certainly exacerbate existing racial segregation and poverty concentration, as they have done for decades, and—as post-Katrina New Orleans illustrates—as they will continue to do, again and again and again.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Sewin Chan (NYU Wagner School), Claudia Sharygin (NYU Furman Center), Vicki Been (NYU Law), and Andrew Haughwout (Federal Reserve Bank--NY) have posted Pathways after Default: What Happens to Distressed Mortgage Borrowers and Their Homes? The abstract:
We use a detailed dataset of seriously delinquent mortgages to examine the dynamic process of mortgage default – from initial delinquency and default to final resolution of the loan and disposition of the property. We estimate a two-stage competing risk hazard model to assess the factors associated with whether a borrower behind on mortgage payments receives a legal notice of foreclosure, and with what ultimately happens to the borrower and property. In particular, we focus on a borrower’s ability to avoid a foreclosure auction by getting a modification, by refinancing the loan, or by selling the property. We find that the outcomes of the foreclosure process are significantly related to: the terms of the loan; the borrower’s credit history; current loan-to-value and the presence of a junior lien; the borrower’s post-default payment behavior; the borrower’s participation in foreclosure counseling; neighborhood characteristics such as foreclosure rates, recent house price depreciation and median income; and the borrower’s race and ethnicity.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Michelle Wilde Anderson (Cal-Berkeley) and Victoria Plaut (Cal-Berkeley) have posted Property Law: Implicit Bias and the Resilience of Spatial Colorlines, a chapter in Implicit Racial Bias Across the Law (forthcoming 2011, Cambridge U. Press, Levinson & Smith, eds). Here's the abstract:
Subjectivity and discretion exert tremendous influence over property and our built environment. From members of a city council to planning commissioners, from bank actuaries to developers, from tax assessors to neighbors, individuals constantly and silently make consequential judgments. How much is a home worth? How trustworthy is a credit-seeker? Is a proposed development, land use, or landowner suitable for this community? Is this neighborhood safe? Current research in psychology can tell us much about how we make such decisions and how the race of parties involved can shape those outcomes. This chapter investigates the application of unconscious bias research to property and land use decisions that affect where people live, work, shop, and travel - decisions that in turn affect household wealth, educational opportunity, health, and personal safety.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Peter Orszag, former OMB director for the Obama Administration, has a piece in Bloomberg where he argues that the U.S. Can Rent Its Way Toward a Housing Recovery:
No matter what the government might try to do to break the housing-economy cycle, the deleveraging process will still be painful and take some time. But that’s not an argument against action; just because a headache can still hurt some even if you take aspirin doesn’t mean you should skip the aspirin. One thing the Obama administration could do now -- probably with Republican support -- would be to attack the oversupply of housing stock by allowing a tax write-off for investors who buy empty properties and rent them out.
Very interesting. If renting is the new owning, there might be something to this idea. I'm generally in favor of reducing rather than increasing tax incentives to promote real estate purchases, but if Orszag's proposal were narrowly tailored towards purchases specifically for rental housing, it might make some sense.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Michelle Wilde Anderson (Berkeley) has posted Dissolving Cities, forthcoming in the Yale Law Journal, 2012. The abstract:
During the twentieth century, 3,000 new cities took shape across America. Stucco subdivisions sprawled and law followed, enabling suburbs to adopt independent governments. That story is familiar. But meanwhile, something else was also happening. A smaller but sizable number of cities were dying, closing down their municipal governments and returning to dependence on counties. Some were ghost towns, emptied of population. In those places, jobs were lost and families struggled; crops died off and industries moved on. A larger group of dead cities were humming with civic life: places with people but no longer with a separate government. In these cities, citizens from the political left and right, often in coalition, rose up to eliminate their local governments.
As an end in itself, understanding these changes would be worthwhile. But this past has not passed. An unprecedented groundswell of cities and citizens are currently considering disincorporation in response to economic crisis, tax pressure, and population loss. The dissolution law they are turning to, as it is written in state codes and as it is understood in theory, is immature and thin. Cities’ experiences with dissolution are unknown, constraining our ability to judge the values it serves or undermines. If dissolution is to grow in importance as part of the legal machinery of urban decline - as cities themselves are asking it to become - we must understand what it meant in the decades that passed before.
Dissolving Cities tells the story of municipal dissolution. It is an article of law, theory, and urban history - a reminder that urban growth and local government fragmentation, which have long dominated academic discourse on cities, may not be the upward ratchet we have assumed them to be. Cities can die (legally at least), and when they do, they raise critical questions about decline, governance, taxes, race, and community.
This is a critically important topic for the future of land use in American communities, and Prof. Anderson's article looks like a must-read piece.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Julian Conrad Juergensmeyer (Georgia State) and James C. Nicholas (Florida) have posted Loving Growth Management in the Time of Recession, published in The Urban Lawyer, vol. 42 (2011). The abstract:
The current deep and long lasting recession has challenged the value of local government growth management programs – especially those which rely heavily on developer funded infrastructure finance programs such as impact fees. An examination of the characteristics of the current recession reveal that its severity is due in large part to excessive exuberance in housing development in the years preceding the burst of the housing bubble. Many local governments intensified the consequences of over-building by adopting ambitious infrastructure programs funded by impact and other fees charged to developers upon the issuance of building permits or other development approval actions. With residential building permit issuance at near zero in many formerly double-digit growth areas, local governments can no longer pay for nor do they need much of the planned or already constructed infrastructure. The authors advocate greater restraint by local governments in accepting growth projections and issuing bonds to be repaid through impact fee collection. Most importantly, the authors suggest as a pre-condition of development approval requiring developers to submit market studies establishing probable market demand for the proposed development.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Some exciting news from NYU's Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy:
We are thrilled to announce the launch of our Subsidized Housing Information Project (SHIP), a new resource designed to provide housing agencies, community organizations, tenants and the affordable housing industry with the information they need to develop effective preservation strategies.
The SHIP database contains extensive information on nearly 235,000 units of privately-owned, subsidized affordable rental housing in New York City. Compiled from 50 different public and private data sources, the information is accessible through a user-friendly, interactive data search tool available on our website.
Our Institute for Affordable Housing Policy has simultaneously released the State of New York City’s Subsidized Housing report, which provides a comprehensive analysis of the properties in the SHIP database, and identifies opportunities to preserve affordable housing in the coming years. Another online tool, the Directory of New York City Affordable Housing Programs (Beta) summarizes nearly 200 programs that have been used in New York City to develop affordable housing since the 1930s.
The SHIP was made possible through a collaboration with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the New York City Housing Development Corporation, New York State Homes and Community Renewal, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the F.B. Heron Foundation and NYU Law alumnus Herbert Z. Gold (¢40). The New York City Council has also committed to support technical assistance and training for community-based organizations on how to use the database in their preservation efforts and advocacy. We have also received invaluable guidance and support from members of the SHIP Advisory Committee, the IAHP Advisory Board and dozens of affordable housing experts.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Harvard economist Edward Glaeser--author of much fascinating work on land use and urban development, including his latest book, Triumph of the City-- has posted his latest article, Rethinking the Federal Bias Toward Homeownership, forthcoming in HUD's Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research, Vol. 13, No. 2 (2011). The abstract:
The most fundamental fact about rental housing in the United States is that rental units are overwhelmingly in multifamily structures. This fact surely reflects the agency problems associated with renting single-family dwellings, and it should influence all discussions of rental housing policy. Policies that encourage homeowning are implicitly encouraging people to move away from higher density living; policies that discourage renting are implicitly discouraging multifamily buildings. Two major distortions shape the rental housing market, both of which are created by the public sector. Federal pro-homeownership policies, such as the home mortgage interest deduction, weaken the rental market and the cities where rental markets thrive. Local policies that discourage tall buildings likewise ensure that Americans have fewer rental options. The economic vitality of cities and the environmental consequences of large suburban homes with long commutes both support arguments for reducing these distortions.
A very important argument; I'm looking forward to reading the whole thing.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Before I got co-op approval on my rental in Forest Hills, Queens (where I now live), I spent a week or so sharing apartments and houses in Boro Park and Canarsie. These are two very different neighborhoods, but from a planning perspective both are of some interest.
I spent the weekend of August 4 sharing an apartment in Boro Park. Boro Park is a heavily Hasidic neighborhood teeming with large families in a zip code with over 75,000 people per square mile, almost three times the NYC average. Some commentators argue that density and large families are inconsistent- but Boro Park shows otherwise. In Boro Park, the average age is 29, well below the statewide average (35).
Then I spent a few days at a bed and breakfast in Canarsie, at the eastern edge of Brooklyn (that is, the part furthest from Manhattan). Canarsie has been hit with many of the major bad urban planning ideas of the 50s and 60s: it includes a couple of housing projects, is not too far from another, and is mostly cut off from the water by an expressway. And because it is so far from Manhattan, it is not appealing to people looking for short commutes.
Not surprisingly, Canarsie has never been a wealthy neighborhood; at some point in the late 20th century it transitioned from a Jewish/Italian working class area to a Caribbean-American working class area. But it is by no means one one of Brooklyn’s worst neighborhoods. Canarsie's poverty rate is lower than the Brooklyn average, and I was willing to walk through the public housing on the way to the subway; even though I wouldn’t do it at night it doesn’t seem threatening during the day.
To me the interesting questions in Canarsie aren't what went wrong: they are: what went right? And given the decline of many inner suburbs, does Canarsie have a future?