Monday, January 23, 2012

Does Preservation Equal Affordability?

Cavan Wilk argues that preserving old buildings is key to having affordable urban neighborhoods.  He writes, "All other things being equal, old buildings are usually more affordable than new buildings. Without the latest amenities, old buildings have to charge less in order to attract tenants. A healthy supply of old buildings is therefore crucial to long term neighborhood affordability."

Matt Yglesias explains why this is a strange stance:

If you have expensive land, one way to make dwelling on the land cheap is to ensure that some of the structures built on the land are low quality. A low quality structure may be an old structure since old structures may, in Wilk's words, lack "the latest amenities." But for policy purposes it's important to be clear that it's the low quality rather than any of the more meritorious aesthetic features of old buildings that's driving the affordability here. If you go to Park Avenue in Manhattan, you'll find plenty of old buildings that aren't even slightly affordable. That's because they're not low-quality buildings!

Steve Clowney

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