Very good sentences

Nearly all of the biggest challenges in America are, at some level, a housing problem. Rising home costs are a major driver of segregation, inequality, and racial and generational wealth gaps. You can’t talk about education or the shrinking middle class without talking about how much it costs to live near good schools and high-paying jobs. Transportation accounts for about a third of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, so there’s no serious plan for climate change that doesn’t begin with a conversation about how to alter the urban landscape so that people can live closer to work.

Those are from Conor Daugherty in the NYT, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.


That always reminds me of Wayne and Garth. Excellent! Awesome! Party on Garth!


“It’s time to give the elites a bigger say in choosing the president”

For what it's worth, I believe that Washington Post story was about party elites choosing their candidate, rather than picking "the president."

We had evolved to an idea that the primaries should just be "first round voting," but that required certain changes to be true. Open primaries being a big one. If you don't do that, it isn't really "first round" from a national perspective. It becomes a reliance on the 1/3 who are Republicans and the 1/3 who are Democrats showing up to make good choices for the 1/3 independents who get no say.

I'd say either do multiple-round open voting, or let the parties do whatever they want. The Libertarians could straight up hold an auction, for instance.

The federal state and local governments are the ones who are responsible for the increased cost of housing. Their taxes and regulation represent about 50% of the cost of a house today.

Adam Schiff:

“As we will discuss, impeachment exists for cases in which the conduct of the president rises beyond mere policies, disputes to be decided otherwise, and without urgency at the ballot box. Instead, we are here today to consider a much more grave matter and that is an attempt to use the powers of the presidency to cheat in an election. For precisely this reason, the president’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box, for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won.”

Ah, yeah, sure.

Ironically enough, that quote applies directly to the Obama admin.

How do we reintegrate the Democratic Party into society after the Obama and Trump eras?

I was going to say let the Dems go first, but they already did last time. Bernie would not like it. The Bros neither.

Wait, is he implying that 1/3rd of C02 is from commuting? 'Cause that's what it sounds like, which is of course not true, and no "altering of the urban landscape" is actually going to on net reduce C02 by anything resembling that. Of course being a non-troll reader of this site I agree with the "build build build" thesis, but dude get serious. I'll grant that it is another useful data point about the raging hypocrisy of people who claim to care about "climate change."

He didn't say that. And it would help a bit. What's your gripe?

He falsely implied it by bringing it up along with a suggestion that we could address it by changing land-use, despite knowing full well that organization of cities isn't going to reduce the massive CO2 emissions associated with transportation of goods or flying.

My quick and dirty estimate puts commuting at about 4% of US CO2 emissions. Clearly there’s no serious plan for climate change that doesn’t begin with a conversation about how to math.

" about 4% of US CO2 emissions"

The electrification of commuter cars are probably going to make the impact of any structural changes too small to be economic.

This area isn't the low hanging fruit.

If we throw in robo-taxis that result in a large decrease in private car ownership it will reduce resources going into private car manufacture and presumably roads. All that may be visible of new suburban roads might be two foot wide strips of concrete with a flower bed between them once robo driving is the norm.

Very accurate representation of the NIMBY problem in CA. I personally see this drama playing out in literally every municipality in the state. We are reaching a breaking point.

Well, only if you buy into a very particular idea. That idea being that everyone in the country should be able to live in the very small preferable parts of California.

As I've said before California is big, and we certainly don't try to use it all. United States itself is of course much bigger, and the articles like these don't really talk about using it all.

The country needs more Provos, not more Santa Monicas. The Houston pattern is fine too, but probably much harder to repeat. Cities don't need megasprawl to succeed, they can work as midsize and prosperous college centered towns.

Of course highly desired locations will be expensive. Does this go back to ignoring supply and demand?

Okay, so you have obviously never been to Provo. I lived there for 25 years, and the sprawl has always been bad, but it's getting progressively worse. Provo is the perfect example of precisely what you are arguing against.

I'm not sure you are disagreeing with me, really.

The Provo-Orem, UT Metropolitan Statistical Area has a population of about half a million. That may be much bigger than it was, but it is not Houston big, with 6.77 million.

I am arguing for more sprawls of the Provo size.

Provo's sprawl is constrained by a lake on one side and jutting, vertical limestone cliffs on the other. Every inch of Provo that can be covered in sprawl soon will be. If you're arguing for constrained sprawl, then Provo was either a ridiculous example to use, or you need to amend it by saying, "Regulation should constrain sprawl across the country the same way lakes and mountain cliffs constrain sprawl in Provo."

Most of the people on this page are telling you that's no excuse, you have to build upward at that point.

After all, they are not impressed with Los Angeles being full from the beaches to the mountains.

Imagine if all of the 25 million plus illegals were forced to return to their home country. It would lower home prices, rents and reduces sprawl. It would be a win/win.

Back in Jolly Old England the gentry held us in contempt -- but only on an individual level. They never pretended that dung didn't need to be shoveled, leather tanned, or foreigners shot.

The only people who do not seem to have any preference for their own race are those who suffer from a condition called Williams Syndrome. They have no fear of strangers or the unknown, and are sometimes described as “hypersocial.” They are also usually retarded and suffer from other problems.

You're suffer from a lack of reading comprehension syndrome.

Certain class of boomers buys real estate in the 70s and 80s.

Said Boomers make building any additional housing literally illegal. Against the law, illegal.

Boomers real estate assets become inflated due to making supply adjustment literally illegal. This is textbook rent seeking behavior.

Widespread homelessness, poverty, failing schools. Highest poverty rate in the nation.

Boomers: surprised Pikachu face

Ok, Boomer.

Fortunately the boomers are going to start dying pretty soon, which should free up some housing.

Not really, the population per housing unit is still increasing YoY.

Anyways, my general point about rent seeking is this: if you support the moratorium on building, whether it’s through height or density restrictions, you lose the right to complain about:

-Trump steel tariffs
-Facebook/Apple monopolistic competition
-Canada dairy nonsense
-Telecom monopolies
-EU auto tariffs
-Amazon listing its own products

All of these combined have less than 10% of the deadweight loss and human impact compared to housing restrictions.

Particulate matter from emissions, hours less spent with family, working class making $15/hr spending $1500 on rent and two unpaid hours commuting to work each day, immigrant families corralled into terrible schools...

It’s not just the biggest rent seeking scheme in the US, it’s causing massive non-monetary human costs.

"Boomers real estate assets become inflated due to making supply adjustment literally illegal."

Who could not know that this claim is an absurdity? As I travel the span from LA's San Fernando Valley, down to South Orange County, I see construction in the whole corridor.

Really, lots and lots of tall multi-tenant buildings? Or mostly one to three story buildings spread out instead of up?

It's the first that has been made essentially illegal to build anymore in the populated parts of California. The other has already been built out, but there remains unmet demand.

1. “Cities don't need megasprawl to succeed, they can work as midsize and prosperous college centered towns.”

First, megasprawl isn’t the alternative. YIMBYs mostly want to build up, not out.
Second, how much is too much? Let the market be the judge of that through prices, not local homeowners through zoning restrictions. This is a policy (not market) failure; as the article states:
“I’m not sure individual cities, left to their own devices, are going to solve this,” [the city manager] told me once. “They don’t have the incentive to do so, because local voters are always going to protect their own interests instead of looking out for people who don’t live there yet.”

2. “Of course highly desired locations will be expensive. Does this go back to ignoring supply and demand?“
This is reasoning from a price change. Today, high prices in American real estate are more due to artificially low supply than naturally high demand. In a world without this policy (not market) failure, Beverly Hills will still price out many. But elsewhere, labor mobility and living close to work would improve. We won’t ever be like Shanghai, but the light density of five story walk-ups in Amsterdam would be lovely.
So this is really a call for more supply and demand, not less.

Good answers.
Beach fronts are very desirable locations but in Daytona Beach Florida, beach front Condos can be had a reasonable prices. A lot of people don't like Daytona Beach because of the density but it allows a lot of people to have an ocean view.

I think that people don't want this is evidenced by the fact that there is only one major city in the United States with unrestricted zoning, and that is Houston.

It is not just mean old Beverly Hills that won't let you build a hundred story tower in the middle of single-family homes.

That is the norm.

So what is this, a fantasy that Beverly Hills should go first, and as I say attempt to let everyone in America move in?

1. "People don't want [more housing]" is demonstrably true if people = local home-owners, whose wealth rises when we restrict the supply of housing. For any other unit of analysis – construction workers, developers, future (typically young) homeowners – there is a deep demand for more housing. Because when we make it harder to build housing, we make it harder to buy housing. This benefits incumbents at newcomers' expense, just like occupational licensing. The optimal level of these things isn't 0, just less.

2. Houston has freer zoning, but highly restrictive parking minimums. Like almost all American cities, it is built for cars, not people. And as the great Alan Cole once wrote: "Cars have five primary social costs:
1) Cost of road repairs
2) Amortized cost of road construction
3) Cost to other drivers of high congestion
4) Environmental cost of emissions
5) Rental value of the land they use

Often car drivers pay only for (1) with others subsidized/free." And with new research on the harmful effect of pollution on cognition, I'd say even this breakdown understates the true social cost of cars.

3. 100-story towers, like mega-sprawl, is not the alternative. Think on the margin. Barcelona, not Shanghai. Here's a 5 min video on exactly that.

4. Beware of privileging the way things are, where everything needs a justification except the status quo.

the root problem is land cost of $10M/acre in coastal cities such as Seattle. That translates to $220/square foot, which makes it impossible to build a house that sells for $100/square foot. You really need 20-40 families sharing that square foot of land to obliterate the land cost. And that means a 20-40 square foot tower.

See big cities in Asia to understand how the bottom half can easily live in a huge metropolitan area on a route driver's salary. And with big towers, cops and teachers can readily afford very nice homes in the city they work. .

What Barcelona is doing doesn't change any of this. Cars save you time. If getting someplace in Seattle takes X minutes by car, it will take 2X minutes by bus. And this is just about true in any city you might visit. There are some exceptions. But I've spent years in Asia on business, and nobody ever said "We're going to take the subway to the next meeting so let's pack up and start walking" it was always "We have a van coming in 20 minutes..."

And in the end, mass transit's CO2 intensity is far worse than that of even an SUV that is loaded with people.

As an aside, if Mexico were safer it would change this whole dynamic. A lot more boomers would move to beach condos, freeing up single family homes.

The lack of thought in that statement is remarkable.

Why? Are you familiar with the California exodus to Rosarito Beach? And why it stopped?

Here's the link,

The lack of thought in that statement is remarkable.

In 2014 in New York City, Hispanics were 12 times more likely than Whites to be arrested for murder and 23 times more likely to be arrested for shooting (i.e., firing a bullet that hits someone) than whites. If New York were all white, the murder rate would drop by 91% and the shooting rate by 97%.

Yet when I enter 'white couples' in Google Search the first thing that comes up is 'white couples fighting at popeyes' a news item from mid November of 2019. Entering 'hispanic couples' returns 'hispanic couple youtubers' a link to the 'Top 100 Interracial Couple Youtube Channels For Interracial Couples' with many nice pictures.

Is this kind of Google misrepresentation of white couples evil?
Try it yourself, Chuck.

Jet crashes are newsworthy, car crashes are not.

“ As an aside, if Mexico were safer it would change this whole dynamic. A lot more boomers would move to beach condos, freeing up single family homes.”

See this is an example where you might be on the right track. There have been numerous articles in the past year of boomers moving to developing countries due to the lower cost of living.

The excellent Ray Lopez?

Transportation yes, but not only from commuting, this is very misleading.

Ships, planes, trucks...

We had better hope that it is solely spurious correlation then, because people who live in cities tend to do things like fly more and go on more cruises.

And of course there is always the upfront costs where you can build rural infrastructure with limited heavy equipment whereas increasing urban infrastructures requires a lot more trucks and other heavily polluting machinery in the short term.

Aren't housing costs mainly a problem for coastal cities? Wonderful, new McMansions on large lots are quite affordable in Michigan and Texas. One big political challenge in America is that people living in coastal cities mistakenly act as though their concerns and sensibilities are mainstream America's concerns and sensibilities.

There are fixed costs beyond the mortgage service which may impact affordability.

Land may be cheaper in Texas, but the energy to light, warm or cool the house is about the same price anywhere. Maintenance too.

Heating tends to be more carbon intensive than cooling, so the Texas McMansion would be a bit better off than the New England equivalent, all else being equal.

Only because those chanting "drill baby drill" want drilling wells to be extremely costly instead of very cheap compared to current drilling costs. Coastal liberal elites funded by Google X are cutting drilling costs like all other tech costs have been cut to spurs a boom in drilling into the multiple millions of bore holes per year in every yard in every neighborhood.

Ground source heat pumps are low carbon capital investments that serve both hot and cold regions. But this is something that took a woman to drive innovation to bring it mainstream: Kathy Hannun.

"Land may be cheaper in Texas, but the energy to light, warm or cool the house is about the same price anywhere."

No, that's not really true. Cost of utilities is on average higher in CA than in TX.

CA electricity prices are off the charts. CA uses a bogus step function that hides the true cost. The little people get forked in the rump.

We can put solar panels on our roofs in Australia to reduce electricity bills. We can get good quality systems installed for 75 US cents per watt before subsidy and tax. Nearly 10% of our electricity is generated by roofs. Presumably the same can be done in the US, with a bit of organization or a large amount of disorganization.

Housing costs are outrageous in all big cities. Stats like average housing cost or mean home price don't really reflect the reality of prices in middle america cities because these "newer" cities have such large geographic footprints you get lots of properties far away from economic and recreational centers caughtup in the calculations.

For example, in Atlanta, a three bedroom, two bath detached house within 20 mins of downtown or midtown will start around $600k for something that needs tons of updates.

If you live in a state in the middle of the country, you have a decent degree, and want to do something besides healthcare, you move to a city. If you want to live anywhere near centers of economic or recreational activity, you pay out the @$$.

"One big political challenge in America is that people living in coastal cities mistakenly act as though their concerns and sensibilities are mainstream America's concerns and sensibilities."

Is that true? As a California and I feel like more of these stories are written from the outside looking in.

Maybe it is New York media looking at California-the-good-parts, which is itself a very unique and binary perspective.

The trifecta of cost disease in America these days is housing, health care, and education. When hospital workers can't even afford the very same services they perform, we become like a snake eating its own tail.

Lol the hospital janitor and the cafeteria workers feel underpaid and surprise-surprise can’t afford fancy health care?? You don’t say.

What next? The Audemars piguet salesman cant afford to buy one of those watches?

"Lol the hospital janitor and the cafeteria workers feel underpaid and surprise-surprise can’t afford fancy health care??"

I'm not convinced that it is "fancy health care" they can't afford. The cost of American health care has been increasing so rapidly that soon middle class American's won't be able to afford healthcare.

Every year that healthcare inflation exceeds wage increases pushed it more into the luxury category. There is no fix that doesn't involve health care inflation aligning with wage increases. Anything else is just a band aid.

Is monopoly profit a cost?

Why are, for example, drug factories in the US allowed to be closed? What "drugs" are no longer needed in US health care? Bags of sterile saline? How about medical "devices", like masks, gloves, etc?

According to the Trump administration, the mostly GOP run Congress has given China the power to close and block building factories and all other means of production in the US. Eg, China controls rare earth supply because China ordered the US to stop mining and refining rare earths. Likewise, China has ordered factories in the US, as well as in Israel, India, the EU, to stop producing medical supplies.

The evil Chinese plot is based on selling goods at labor cost of capital and production with zero profit. China has adopted Keynes economic theory.

In the US, the anti-Keynes Friedman theory of cutting labor costs to create high profits drives shutting down and not building factories to cut costs and make profits a bigger and bigger part of the price of everything from health care to housing.

Trump's policies have saddled Americans with unaffordable housing costs. Homelessness has risen every year under Trump.

Mike understands a (wo)man's house is his/her castle. He will:

Double annual federal spending on homelessness
Guarantee rental assistance to extremely low-income Americans
Create hundreds of thousands of new affordable housing units
Help renters become homeowners
Use regulation and incentives to curb housing discrimination

Mike will get it done!

this is hillarious!

But from what I've been reading, it really is a paid Bloomberg staffer

"Mike will get it done."

He has certainly mastered the deer in the headlights look. Pocahontas poked him in the eye and kicked him in the a$$.


The linked article is about both housing and transit, and their combination in what is called "transit density". Tabarrok and to a lesser extent Cowen have been zealous advocates for the development of more housing and critics of NIMBYism, but housing without transit just adds more congestion on the roads and ultimately gridlock. People of wealth don't use transit and don't support building it, and since wealth means political power, transit has little chance of being built while housing, which is developed and built by, that's right, people of wealth, does. Thus, the gridlock on the roads in my sunbelt city: lots of housing, no transit. I pointed out yesterday that Uber is developing a pilotless helicopter for people of wealth to ride high above the traffic congestion below, congestion that is in large part attributable to, that's right, ride-hailing services like Uber. It's been estimated that Uber et al. were responsible for a 50% increase in traffic congestion in the Bay area between 2010 and 2016. Transit density. Shout it from the rooftops.

All true! And based off what we know about the Byzantine regulatory environment at the state, local, and federal level its even more impossible to get infrastructure projects built to augment new density.

All in all, we’re pissing in the wind if we think any of these presidential candidates matter that much in terms of actually changing things to improve life in this country in the long run....

NIMBY and housing restrictions are certainly a big problem in some places, but a lot of Americans don't want to live in dense urban areas (generally), or specific urban areas that have problems like crime, high taxes, etc.

It's affordable--in fact, very affordable--to live in many American cities, but there is still a lot of commuting (often to more expensive housing in the suburbs) in those places.

Yes, hundreds of thousands more people would flock to San Francisco, New York City, etc. if there were more housing. But this is specific to a few places. It's not the rule throughout America. The idea that you could cause a massive population shift, reducing commutes, by freeing up more housing is greatly exaggerated.

It’s not a good idea to basically indirectly blockade your wealthiest and most productive citizens from the rest of the country. Love em or hate em, the best and brightest of Coastal No Cal and NYC basically represent the bulwark of the most productive parts of the US economy.

Also these nimby issues are cropping up in other smaller productive US cities like Chicago, Austin, Portland, Seattle, LA, and Boston.

True it’s cheaper to live in Orlando or Charlotte, but last I checked the brightest and wealthiest of Charlotte and Orlando are hardly pushing the frontiers of American capitalism.

Sounds like somebody hasn't been to Disney lately!

Privatize the schools, abolish teachers' unions, police the neighborhoods, and the problem will fix itself.

None of that addresses the actual issue of housing supply.

The voices in his head don't care.

Housing supply isn't the source of the extant social problems to which Conor Daugherty refers. (And who gives a rip about the fantasy problems).

Dougherty lives in the Bay Area. Much of your housing supply problem there is a function of a regulatory regime that is dysfunctional in substance and process. And the problem there is that it makes rents for people like Conor Daugherty (and anyone else) higher than they otherwise would be. It doesn't generate these other social poisons (or imagined poisons).

You forgot "hike taxes to pay for private prisons to warehouse all the poor kids who are not in school !and thus roaming the streets committing the crime of not being in school because they are poor".

Electric vehicles and low carbon electricity versus reconstructing the physical infrastructure of cities worldwide so that everyone lives in mile-high tubes and commutes by elevator?

Yep, the long term shift from rural to (sub)urban areas can be reduced to housing. Rust Belt, for example, clearly has something to do with housing and the shrinking middle class..

As a matter of fact, why call what happened around many cities starting in the Eisenhower era encompassing both Cold War highway building and start of the effective ending of legal segregation, white flight, when we can come up with something shinier concerning housing.

Snarky but correct. It's not remotely true that nearly all challenges in America are housing problems. That's an utterly absurd statement.

However, if you are a Bay area native (as the author is, according to his NYT profile) it might look that way.

It is an immensely pressing concern for Conor Daugherty who grew up in the Bay Area and now has to live with his family in Oakland. Move to Salt Lake City, Conor.

He identifies the "NIMBYsm" that militates against density, but in part that's just an externality problem. added density DOES produce some negative externalities for those that live close, but the aggregate benefits to the city are much greater. Why can't cities find some way to compensate/buy off the local opposition?
The other issue is that one of the externalities is additional congestion. That is part of the more general problem that cities do not charge congestion taxes for city streets and roads.

I've been watching my small city go through an ugly NIMBY squabble. The city council was going to allow mixed use development downtown. People protested that there already isn't enough parking for the shops downtown and that traffic will get worse. The neighbors shut the proposal down. I want to see more building, but I think it's true that congestion is an externality on the current residents. There would be a lot to gain from mixed use, of course. The true cause of the outrage, I believe, is nostalgia for how the downtown looks currently.

Close by to us, is a blighted city where there is not enough traffic. Redeveloping that area is a sensitive topic, however if you are just thinking about streets and traffic capacity, then injecting areas like that with good jobs would be an incredible win. A combination of failing schools and crime keeps entire neighborhoods (street parking and all) out of the running.

"there’s no serious plan for climate change that doesn’t begin with a conversation about how to alter the urban landscape so that people can live closer to work."

Funny, here I thought we could have a serious discussion about altering the tax incentives so business can locate closer to where their workers say they want to live.

After all, if you are a libertarian we could discuss banning municipalities from favoring corporate land use via preferential tax credits in dense urban areas. Absent such credits, marginal cases would see corporate headquarters decamp to be closer to the low density housing their workers prefer. If you are a liberal we could talk about making telecommuting a prima facie "reasonable accommodation" for all non-manual jobs so that we could both empower the disabled and create a stronger corporate norm that supports non-commuting (businesses could still present a case that some job is not suitable for telecommuting, but they would have to incur the cost to do so). If you are a strict technocrat, we could discuss tax breaks for telecommuters so that in the long run corporations would adopt a corporate norm of telecommuting so they can eventually capture workers' tax windfalls. If you are a conservative we could talk about some of SALT deduction cap for corporate taxation which would encourage corporations to shift from high tax and regulation locales to low tax and regulation ones.

Yet we so rarely hear anything about these. I mean in today's political climate (where Trump and Bernie hold plurality sway of both Democrats and Republicans) it is a vastly easier political lift to work on corporate demand-side issues than on housing supply-side ones. At a fundamental rights level, corporations, in theory, are supposed to serve the public good to some degree so abrogating the votes of their boards is less effrontive to democracy than abrogating those of local municipalities.

Yet somehow, we are always told by people who love and enjoy urban cores as part of their way of life that we cannot touch corporate decision making and must ignore democracy so that more places can be forced to become more like their favored locales. Funny that. Almost like this is a class issue and not an economics one.

The problem with moving corporate offices to low-density suburbs is *which* low-density suburbs. If the corporate offices go to low-density suburbs north of the city center, the people who live in the low-density suburbs south of the city center now have to travel twice as far, and vice versa. Locating in the city center minimizes overall travel time which is why corporations do it even though rents are far more expensive in the city center.

It's 2020. The overwhelming majority of interpersonal communication, in the business world and elsewhere, is electronic. There's no real need for corporations to concentrate their workforce in a city center. From a shareholder perspective it makes more sense to enjoy the flexibility and economy of renting space in distributed locations that make commuting easier while leaving the uppermost management in central locations where they can wine and dine clients in the most chic restaurants. Gaudy and expensive corporate headquarters are impractical relics of another age.

Teleworking doesn’t work that well in practice. Having other workers physically close by makes it easier to bounce ideas off one another. It also keeps people motivated as it is much easier to slack off at home.

Also, the present generation of business leaders got there by face-to-face interaction, and they're not going to give up their advantage over the average person so readily.

Do you have some data on this? I have found very little that suggests telecommuting leads to lower net productivity for appropriate tasks.

My boss can do my work in half the time it takes me, but he can't do it as well and values his time more highly than I do. I go into the office to show that I am doing what my contract requires -- 37.5 hours a week, 47 weeks a year. (Note: I'm not in the US.) I actually only have to come in 20 minutes a week for a "meeting". This used to be where the boss would tell me to do, but now my superannuation (forced savings for retirement) is high it's actually time I spend deciding what I will actually do.

"Teleworking" isn't what I'm talking about. Corporations with large workforces that aren't involved in actual manufacturing processes don't need that workforce concentrated in one location. While their headquarters could be located in a central location, most of the employees could meet in more accessible, remote locations with cheaper rents that could be opened or closed as needed. They would not be working from home but from satellite locations with other employees.

You're totally right can you imagine how horrible it would be some corporation built their headquarters in a small burb. Why it would be unworkable to have major headquarters south of SanFrancisco in a burb like Cupertino. Or could you imagine the trouble if a company opened a Seattle headquarters in an Eastern burb like Redmond? Parsippany, Morris Plains?

Truth is we already have a bunch of headquarters functioning fine in the burbs. Most of the places that have rent issues do not have a complete ring and worst case scenario is that you build two buildings to house everyone each on one side. If your company cannot manage to work well with each other separated by a commutable city between to locations, they are DOA in the global economy.

Senate Bill 826 will ensure foreign corporations with principal executive offices in California will either leave the state or be driven into bankruptcy.
This will ensure lower population densities through corporations fleeing out of state.

- Are you suggesting passive resistance?

- No, I'm suggesting active fleeing.

Love and Death

Yea, not everyone wants to live urban. I’m reading this looking out my back windows over the 10 acre lake behind my single family house. The houses across the lake are visible, but lots of trees. Nice neighborhood, safe, good schools, double wide sidewalks. Not “walkable” in the sense everything is within 500 meters, but very convenient in the sense all routine needs within 3 miles and 10 minutes by car.

Wouldn’t live in San Francisco on a bet.

Well, must be nice to be you, now imagine that everyone between you and the city center was still there but also had 10 acre lots and how much fun it would be to commute through all that

Its a 10 acre lake, not a 10 acre lot. My lot is pretty small by suburban standards. There are probably 30 houses that back onto the lake, but because of all the trees, you don't see them much.

I did that commute for a few years. Not pleasant, but I could only wish it had been though all 10 acre lots instead of the much higher density that it is.

There are a lot of people who live in my neighborhood who work pretty close and have an easy 10 or 12 minute commute - three hospitals, 4 or 5 pretty big corporate offices, a small university campus, etc. - within 3 miles.

Sorry, the only question of public interest in re where businesses plant their asses concern externalities which have an impact on local residents. Traffic, loads on sewerage and drainage capacity, health and safety issues, noise, miscellaneous nuisance problems, and urban aesthetics. A municipal land-use planning process which focuses on containment of externalities is the ticket. No need for special tax abatements or pestering corporations about their labor discipline regime (beyond certain baselines).

Right, we should totally be overturning the democratic decisions of local government but not those of undemocratic corporations to deal with a "density" issue. We should also institute no-compensation takings just to make life easier for corporations who were the recipients of sweetheart tax deals to house their workers.

The day YIMBYs offer to pay a sizeable fraction of the alleged economic benefits to the impacted communities up front is the day I take seriously their claims of sacrosanct business practices.

Otherwise we should be, at least, agnostic about pursuing policies that move people to jobs or move jobs to people. Whatever is acceptable to one should be prima facie acceptable for the other.

Funny how we always hear about only one use of fiat overturning people's decisions as being acceptable.

No clue why you placed this as a 'reply' to me. It makes reference to none of my points.

You say that the "only" question of public interest about where businesses locate is the effects on the local residents. Yet this is clearly fallacious. If I own property, for example for a hunting lodge, and my neighbor builds a large scale manufacturing plant next door I am impacted even as a non-resident.

Now if I bought the parcel knowing that there was a chance that my neighbor had unrestricted zoning on his property, caveat emptor. But saying that if I buy property precisely because it is in the middle of some area zoned in one way, letting my neighbor do whatever they want because I do not reside there seems pretty silly.

Zoning has been part of the value of land since the 1930s. People buy land, whether to reside there, as a location for a vacation/retirement home, or simply as an investment with the current legal structure in place. If you wish to change that legal structure, that is a taking. People should be compensated for explicitly buying property advertised as being in certain zoning blocks and people wanting to take it out.

Saying that meeting public nuisance laws is all that is needed is simply unjust. Now if you held title back in 1930 and your land was restricted, then sure you can make a claim for exemption from the democratically decided laws of the area and pay only the direct costs you impose on the neighbors. But like the Norman conquests, at some point you have to deal with property claims as they have been generally accepted for generations. If you want to change zoning, then get it voted through. Or offer to buy out the neighbors to do your new thing.

As far as specifics, again I am less impressed with arguments that one of four options is disfavored by someone. If we want to go all libertarian, then one of the best "YIMBY" proposals should be banning the practice of subsidizing corporate expansion into high rent areas with selective tax breaks. Corporate headquarters and Pete's Diner should face similar tax burdens for the value of their lots. This would result in a bunch of demand side problem in high rent areas going someplace else where costs are lower. Yet the Libertarians spend massively more ink decrying local democracy which opposes densification than they ever do when multinational gets a sweetheart deal to develop in a metropolitan core.

Likewise, I fault the liberals. They have no problem insisting that people cannot be independent contractors inside corporations. Or giving public beneficence to corporations that just happen to employ minorities in some coveted roles. Or requiring corporations to pay for gender reassignment surgery. Yet, encouraging telecommuting via changes in ADA enforcement is never something that liberal YIMBYs ever discuss.

My point is not that we need to do any particular one of my policies, I do not even agree with all of them. Rather it is regardless of your presuppositions, we could make a dent in the rent crisis by using options that are derived directly from the tenants of all the major ideologies of American governance.

Yet that never happens. All we ever hear is how property owners, who bought with full knowledge of zoning restrictions, should be free to do whatever they want after meeting minimal requirements.

You want to make development a game of externalities? Fine, how do you propose to deal with issues like where I buy land specifically admist one set of zoning to have neighbors? Or to avoid them? Given all the reasons I have ever had to buy one plot of land over another and all the ones I have heard other people say, it makes sense to have a local body that might listen to my claims, and those of other affected local property owners and residents, and see how many externalities the proposed change in land use will cause. We might even give this body the power to grant variances to local zoning or change the zoning entirely. To make sure that this body is not dominated solely by monied interest we might make it elected or appointed by our elected representatives. And to help people find and understand it we might call it the Local Zoning Board.

If you want to develop land outside of the zoning limits extant when you bought it, then you should work within the system present when you bought the land. Maybe this means paying half of the benefits of development to extant land owners, fine. But ultimately zoning has been a democratic process that provided people with what they wanted. You want to change the system? Pay those whose property interest you seek to take.

This is a coastal problem affecting a fraction of the nation's residents. Most of the people in the U.S. do not live in metro areas where housing construction is significantly restricted. California is an outlier not an exemplar or harbinger. That should go on a t-shirt or be shouted from the rooftops or something.

And yes, the demand for living in SF, LA, and NYC is greater than the supply, but it is far from unlimited. And the result of housing restrictions in those places is that other metro areas will increase their development, and that has already happened to a very large degree. In my lifetime, many cities have grown dramatically -- Phoenix, Denver, Portland, Seattle, Austin, Charlotte, Columbus, Orlando, and Indianapolis off the top of my head. Since 1960, the population of Florida has more than quadrupled. The same is true of Arizona. Texas has more than tripled in size while Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Washington have each more than doubled. I really don't expect California to solve its housing problems and I also don't think it's critical that it do so. Other places will take it from here (and have been doing so for some time actually).

California is not an outlier.

New Hampshire, selected by libertarians as the Free State, has a housing affordability problem as great as California for exactly the same reason.

The libertarians loved NH opposition to taxes which is almost as iron clad for sales and income taxes as California's Prop 13 for property taxes. Towns in NH oppose housing projects like the Terraces of Lafayette just as strongly. My town of Merrimack bought perhaps a half dozen farms over the past three decades to block new housing. This was in reaction to first a dozen apartment complexes for workforce housing which flooded schools with kids requiring property tax hikes to build new schools. Then summer cottages being turned into year round home causing lake pollution requiring taxes hikes for expanding the water treatment plant plus assessing properties in the area for sewer line construction, aka tax hikes. (The sewer plant was originally paid for by the Bud beer factory.) Then there were the poorly designed and built roads for housing developments with two acre lots to ensure no need for water and sewer and limited numbers of school kids.

Keynes advocated for government building capital to create jobs paying good wages: tax and spend is how conservatives describe all development that enables lots of housing and businesses bringing in lots of workers who form families. Keynes called it wise capitalist policy for the common good.

But conservative want extreme shortages of capital to create high profits and thus "wealth" by asset price inflation. This is the policy Milton Friedman argued for. California housing costs are the ultimate success of Reagan/Cato/Friedman advocacy over the past half century.

As other commenters have pointed out, this mainly seems to be a coastal problem, but it is starting to spread a bit in non-coastal places too. According to Zillow, median home prices grew by 8.6% in Columbus Ohio this year (though they are still under $200,000). Other areas you think of as depressed have also seen fast price growth—over 7% in Cleveland, and over 5% in Detroit and Pittsburgh. And home price appreciation seems especially strong in the most desirable urban areas where I feel like typical house prices have gone from five figures to $300,000 in ten years. Of course, it’s questionable whether these gains can keep on going since they are starting from a low base, but if they do, then those non-coastal areas could start experiencing affordability issues too. Sunbelt areas’ prices are not growing quite as fast, but many Sunbelt metros have median prices already in the $200,000s or higher. The personal finance rule of thumb I always learned was that you can afford a house equal to 4x your income. Because the median household income in the US is around $60,000, I would argue that regions with median housing prices at $240,000 or higher are arguably on the cusp of an affordability issue (unless incomes in those regions are exceptionally high, which is not the case for most of the Sunbelt). In fact, according to Zillow, the US as a whole has a median home price of $245,000, so the country as a whole is on the cusp of an affordability issue. Which makes sense as one of the main determinants of prices is low interest rates and that’s something that affects the whole country.

That sounds reasonable, and for what it's worth here is a map showing how much of California is in the same price range:

Oh, that's 2015. But still, it shows the gradient.

The problem with using national medians is that it ignores local conditions. In many inland cities -- both in older industrialized Midwestern cities and growing sunbelt cities such as Atlanta and Charlotte, inflation-adjusted housing prices have hardly budged since the late 1980s. I've tried and failed to post a link to the graph, so I'll post this without and try again in another message.

Phoenix, Arizona has some of the fastest growing rent in the nation. PHOENIX. It's on a flat desert with plenty of room to expend in every direction, and relatively light regulation. Someone explain that.

I'd assume it's because construction can't keep pace with population growth. Even in lightly regulated places, construction isn't instantaneous. And land isn't the only input -- it looks like a shortage of construction workers may be the most likely explanation.

I was there 2 months ago in Scottsdale. On the drive out there were huge neighborhoods all built out except for the houses. Streets, bus stops and all.

Phoenix is mostly out of legal room to expand horizontally (as opposed to vertically). It has about the same space as the bay area does. Take another look at the map, but this time note the surrounding Reservations, which don't allow non-tribe members to build and own.

There's a reason the new construction is mostly in the south-east corner, and also south on the other side of the reservation land, but along the freeway. It's because those are the only areas still really wide-open for new housing development on open land.

Tyler calls these "very good sentences." That's odd to me, though, because I generally take it to be a bad sign when smart people start to trace all social problems to a single, over-arching idea.

One theory cannot possibly explain everything. The more a person believes that it can, the less seriously I take that person's thoughts. The real world is far more complex than any lone theory can account for.

It's like when vegans start talking about how going plant-based will solve literally all the world's problems: climate change, food security, economic inequality, morality... Truly, a magical diet!

Or when market monetarists have a funny way of tracing literally every economic problem to insufficient NGDP level targeting. Golly, if we could just get that right, then there would never be any economic problems.

Now if we can just fix the NIMBY problem, we'll solve every social ill in America! Very! Good! Sentences!

Tyler calls these "very good sentences."

They are idiot sentences, of course. It's another indication, in case we needed one, that the moderator is hopelessly other-directed.


This sentence overstates the case. Housing is of course related to the problems they list and could be a piece of how one might address all these issues. But calling it a driver or speaking as though these are primarily housing problems is (what do they mean by “at some level?) too much of a stretch.

The reference to houses near "good schools" being expensive seems strange to me, since that's a positional good; given a basically fixed number of slots for the school district, I'd expect the prices to be bid up.

Anyways, I guess this is to say that I second "Move to Provo."

Because there is no affordable housing crisis. Every single city, even NYC and the rest, has plenty of cheap housing. However, that cheap housing is in minority neighborhoods. And nobody can send their kids to minority public schools because they are "bad" (due to minorities being in them). And even a cheap private school in a city will cost say $10k/year K-8 and $20k/year for grades 9-12, or a total cost of $170k/kid or $340k for a typical family of four.

The day we admit that "public schools" are essential a private good whose value is based on the peers zoned for the school, the sooner we can even begin to discuss housing (whose primary cost driver is the school zoning).

Not fixed slots at all. Good schools are made by good students, who are (mostly) born to good parents.

"Not fixed slots at all."

At any given time, when your kids need to go to school, the slots are pretty fixed.

There's no effective mechanism to make a public school good on short notice. So, you move to where the school's are already good. Which obviously creates a Feedback loop, because you pulled your "good students" out of their current school and moved them to a good school. The effect is a draining of "good students" from the mediocre to poor schools towards the good schools. Which increases the gradient, which further encourages parents who were on the margin to decide to move their kids to a better school. And the gradient gets worse, until the cost of the good school climbs high enough to choke off the inflow.

Of course, this is nonsense. None of these are 'housing problems'. You have lousy schools because the people who run them (with the connivance of the bench and some elected officials) refuse to sequester the incorrigibles, refuse to design teacher-training programs which actually train teachers rather then screen out people who cannot take the rancid social ideology, refuse to design curricula which makes optimal use of students' time (rather than to please teachers and other employee constituencies). You have 'segregation' because of a great many small decisions made by people which reflect who (on the margin) they'd prefer to have as a neighbor. One generator of 'segregation' and lousy schools is street crime. You have that because (1) troublesome people tend to be clustered (because others seek to get away from them and (2) governments refuse to arrange for ample staffing of police forces or to prescribe best practices in law enforcement. You have 'inequality' and 'wealth gaps' because people aren't identical. They don't have the same quanta of human capital endowment, the same training in the home, the same ambition or drive, the same time horizons; and there's next to nothing you can do about that. There is no 'shrinking middle class'. That's an inane meme reporters have peddled for 40-odd years because they need an excuse for whatever bureaucratic intervention (any one of which might provide employment for their friends and relations) they are promoting that day.

It's pretty easy to see a near-term future where electric cars become more popular than gas cars. That will resolve the issue of CO2 emissions from cars. Electric cars have their own environmental issues, but overall technology+engineering seems a better approach than radical housing/political changes.

Yeah, I've driven an electric car. Pretty much everyone with money who tries one will want one for their next car.

"how much it costs to live near good schools"

I exhaust myself repeating, "good schools do not make good students; good students make good schools." To the extent that rich people have kids who are smarter, more conscientious, more focused on "playing the game" of doing well in school and creating a good resume for college, "good schools" will be in expensive areas where rich people live.

Fortunately, as long as your kid is not going to a school where her peers are too disruptive, what school she goes to won't make much difference to how much she learns.

Indeed -- that's what "good schools" means, but you don't point that out in polite society, even though it is obvious. It would be OK if this was just a matter of being polite, but we go even further and craft policy and spending priorities as if the "bad schools" can be fixed.

Oddly, people also do the same for "good colleges", even though pointing out the selection bias for colleges would not be so politically incorrect in most cases.

Preference falsification is endemic in discussions of the relationship between public schools and housing prices. It's difficult, if not impossible, to evaluate the quality of a public school in any terms other than the make-up of the student body. Few prospective home buyers make personal evaluations of the public school teachers in the area they are considering. Their information comes from anecdotes and reputational sources.

The unspoken truth is that Daddy and Mommy don't want Mary Beth going to the prom with Tyrone or Jesus or Ahmed.

I think it's more accurate to say that coastal urban housing problems are actually school problems. Here in DC, the central city has been very successful at building new high-rises with tiny units, to attract young single people and just-married couples with law-firm or consultant jobs to live downtown near their work. The DC public schools, however, remain a desolate and sometimes frightening wasteland, so even the most lefty of these people move to the suburbs as soon as kids come along. This won't change no matter how much housing gets built.

What I learned from my dad, a Danish-American teacher and administrator in LA City Schools, is that "kids are kids" wherever you go.

Do people arguing the opposite really have more hands-on experience?

His implication about climate is nonsense. IMO, you have to end three very strong political interventions: 1) Tyrannical zoning powers 2) The political link between where your house is located and what school you're assigned. 3) The various government inducements to home ownership.

In other words, get the politicians out of the way and I'd guess almost all of your housing problems will the solved. In the USA (and probably everywhere else), this is entirely a political problem.

High real estate prices are a feature, not a bug.

They enable people with a lot of money to insulate themselves from our underclasses.

And the more we import the sorts of people we want to avoid, the higher the market price for avoiding them will be.

Nearly all of the biggest challenges in America are, at some level, an immigration problem.

Why is there no research on hyperdense structures for living ?
A 10 Mile Borg Cube could allow all of the US to live and work in comfort while sparing the rest of the country.
I was thinking of something even bigger than

Dibs on the top surface!

all we need is a bunch more prescription pads

You are all cucks!

“Rising home costs are a major driver of segregation, inequality, and racial and generational wealth gaps. You can’t talk about education or the shrinking middle class without talking about how much it costs to live near good schools and high-paying jobs. Transportation accounts for about a third of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, so there’s no serious plan for climate change that doesn’t begin with a conversation about how to alter the urban landscape so that people can live closer to work.”

All true, though for perspective, the cost of within-country immigration restrictions is a fraction of the cost of between-country restrictions. Both stunt “moving labor to where it is most valued” the way we do for capital. It’s just another policy (not market) failure.

The National Association of Home Builders has an insightful and nuanced analysis ( )of the USA housing market that has much less dramatic and much more pragmatic solutions than the “outlaw private single family homes and herd the hoi polloi into high rises” libertarian orthodoxy. The larger problem is simply that the USA is overcrowded and we are experiencing the same sort of maladies demonstrated in the famous rat crowding experiments. More crowding, more squalor. Even Texas, with over 100 people per square mile is running out of breathing. When Trump leaves we will see a total societal breakdown. The important lesson for the countries of the future, such as Brazil, is to limit immigration now, before it is too late.

To outlaw single family zoning ≠ “outlaw private single family homes” as you write. It merely makes single family housing *optional*, not *mandatory*.

Single family zoning = ALL homes here must be single-family. Duplexes are illegal.

Abolishing it = some homes here can be multi-family. Duplexes are allowed.

“outlaw private single family homes and herd the hoi polloi into high rises” libertarian orthodoxy

Libertarian orthodoxy? What!? Many libertarians may want to get rid of zoning, but they *defintely* don't want to herd anybody into high-rises or into anything. They want people to be freer to build what they want and choose where they want to live (and in whatever type of housing they prefer given their budget).

And presumably they all have to be ready to move when a leather tannery goes in next door?

>there’s no serious plan for climate change

Very true.

There's also no serious plan for Invading Space Unicorns. Where's the outrage?

Bad as it is, I wonder if a lack of the ability to segregate is contributing to some of the problems.
People are far from perfect.

If we still had restrictive covenants, people wouldn’t have to spend megabucks to avoid people they want to avoid.

But Obama’s Furthering Fair Housing program made it harder to avoid living near undesirables even with megabucks.

Yes, because if all the lower class moved to the upper class areas and went to the same schools, the schools would remain the same and provide an excellent education to all. The rich are hoarding instead of guarding.

Again, the culprit is government. Most housing shortages are on the coasts where elites reside. Also, skill sets are changing. new jobs require new skill sets. People live in suburbs because they were chased out of cities by the government housing programs created by the welfare state government. I suggest you look at the HUD housing programs of the 1960s and '70s. The government created the ghettos and concentrations of poor people that now exist in cities like Chicago with their bad housing programs. We now have more poor, ignorant, homeless, fatherless and violent people than ever before thanks to the welfare state. We have institutionalized generational poverty. The NYT is trying to revise history. Maybe your PhD candidates can set things straight. There are plenty of bad social policies from the '60s and '70s to analyze. Of course, the progressives will never admit their social welfare policies are complete failures.

It is shocking that any intelligent person would believe anything the NYT says.

Of course, New York has always been a socialist housing market. Who is surprised by their housing shortages? You can't live in the city unless you are rich or subsidized by regulations.

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