Friday, October 15, 2010

The Worst Things About Sprawl

 This-Light-Never-Turns-GreenJeff Speck, co-author of the seminal Suburban Nation (along with Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater- 
Zyberk), puts togehter a slide show about the worst consequences of sprawl.  From the author:

[S]prawl has quietly been identified as a central cause behind a growing list of mounting national crises including foreign oil dependency, climate change, and the obesity epidemic. With economists, environmentalists, and epidemiologists all bemoaning suburbia, it is a good time to step back and remind ourselves what we're still up against.

Steve Clowney

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October 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Our Bipolar Relationship with Central Banking

For 219 years, the United States has indulged a funny-if-it-wasn't-so-awful bipolar impulse with regard to central banking and -- more relevant for our purposes -- housing lending.  We have an ideological distaste for central banking authority that stretches back to Jefferson, who did has damnedest to kill the First Bank of the United States, and to Andrew Jackson, who killed the Second.  The reason there was a Second, after the First had been killed, was that some sort of central banking authority is absolutely necessary in times of economic crisis to restore order, and in times of economic stability to preserve order.  The problem is: it's ideologically distasteful for a federalist nation to have a a central bank, so as soon as a crisis passes, we kill it, or at least neuter it.  Until, that is, the next crisis arrives.  Following stability and, therefore, the death of the Second Bank, the United States entered into a long period of Panics that make this recession look very tame, that lead eventually to the establishment of the Federal Reserve, a central bank in almost all but name.  It was a weak institution at first, but its power expanded in response to the Great Depression.  


Also in response to the Great Depression, we created a whole bunch of central housing lending authorities such as Fannie Mae that worked in system with each other very well.  But in a way they killed themselves by working too well -- all that successful lending looked good to the private sector, and what was a capitalist country doing with so much public control of lending anyway?  So, one by one the successful authorities were killed or privatized.  Until, that is, the latest crisis arrived and we re-nationalized them.  As soon as things stabilize, of course, we'll re-privatize them.  It's an expensive hobby.

I wrote about this historically bipolar relationship a little while ago, and predicted that eventually, when the economy began stabilize again thanks in part to the Federal Reserve's emergency lending, we'd turn out gaze with disgust on the Federal Reserve and wonder why we had this powerful central banking authority anyway.  I was a little disheartened but not surprised to read in the New York Times, therefore, that the Federal Reserve is now a target of the same party that desperately relied on it at the end of the previous administration.

Mark A. Edwards

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October 13, 2010 in Home and Housing, Mortgage Crisis | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Propety and the American Life

I know it's comically bourgie, but I just love NPR's This American Life.  It simply goes without saying that the two best episodes are "The Breakup" and "Music Lessons."  Nonetheless, the show has also put together a variety of programs that touch on Property issues. The shows can be easily downloaded from the internet.  Here's a sampling of the property-related stuff:

Moving - A Minnesota family moves their house just so they don't have to live in a home that's different than the place that contains all their memories.

The Giant Pool of Money - An accessible explanation of the housing crises.

Neighbors - Stories of people trying to love their neighbors....and failing.

Held Hostage - In the second act, an angry man in New Orleans seeks revenge against people who bought property that he once owned and that was seized by the city.

This is Not My Beautiful Home - It's the largest mass resettlement that America has seen since the Civil War, as over 400,000 people — victims of Hurricane Katrina — try to find a new place to live.

Houses of Ill Repute - Stories about strange houses.

Give People What They Want - Act three touches on a freelance muralist who worked in the Robert Taylor Homes, one of the largest housing projects in America.

Dream House - Host Ira Glass talks to Amanda, who's 16 and lives with her mom in a Christian commune in Chicago.

The Bridge - Act three gives the story of sex offenders who live under a bridge in Miami.

Steve Clowney

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October 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Home, Home on the Range (For Now)

The New York Times has an article today about the rising tensions caused by Arizona's so-called "Open Range" laws, which absolve livestock owners of liability if their animals cause damage after wandering onto land not enclosed by a "lawful fence."  Cattle are big creatures, and subdivision residents have reported that loose cattle have destroyed their gardens, caused automobile accidents, and generally freaked them out.  There is a provision under Arizona law to establish a "no-fence district" under certain circumstances, but that doesn't seem to be solving the problem.

More after the jump.

Continue reading

October 12, 2010 in Land Use | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Geography of Military Service

Richard Florida examines the military's deepening geographic divide:

The social divisions of class and inequality have always run through the military. Fighting forces have long been drawn disproportionately from lower-income, lower-skilled, and more economically disadvantaged populations. But what is new . . . is the degree to which those class divisions are underpinned by geography.

See the Map, here.

UPDATE:  The comments indicate, I think correctly, that Florida's map isn't so helpful.  For a more better map, try this one from the NY Times Heritage Foundation, here.

Steve Clowney

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October 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)