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California should emulate Tokyo, where housing stayed ahead of population growth (bloomberg.com)
333 points by krausejj on Mar 21, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 293 comments



I really like the idea of Japan's zoning laws. They have 12 zones nationwide, and they restrict by maximum allowable nuisance. Industry is considered the highest nussicance and low rise residential the lowest. You cannot build a business in a residential area, but you can build apartments in a commercial zone. I feel this opens up many more options for growth while maintaining the spirit of American zoning laws. Here is a good explanation:

http://urbankchoze.blogspot.ca/2014/04/japanese-zoning.html


Japan also has an entirely different relationship with residential buildings and real estate than we do.

It’s so foreign to me that I have a hard time even believing it and I can only vaguely describe it. But, effectively, houses don’t appreciate in Japan and they don’t like moving into houses other people have lived in before. It seems wasteful at first, but they also build very different types of homes. And, their homes are more optimized for the particular people living in them. And, the economy seems to greatly benefit from the adaptability this provides.

But, please do your own research. I have visited and seen it for myself but still have a hard time comprehending all the differences.


Residential houses are often built using wooden frames, or a metal frame with everything else made of wood. Japan is humid, so if there's poor drainage the wood rots. Japan has Earthquakes, I guess that causes subsidence and other structural issues. Construction is of varying quality. I've seen houses in the countryside (Showa era, maybe 70s 80s?) which literally look like they found a nice rock and decided to use it as a foundation for a house.

Mostly the foundations are not as I'd expect to see them in the UK (where I'm from). If you remove the Tatami flooring, there's a thinish piece of wood, under that there's Earth.

So what it comes down to is that because many houses are made of wood, and because of Earthquakes, houses kind of get structurally unsound over time. At some point it's just more economical to pull the house down and build a new one than it is to renovate it. This is my understanding anyway.

I don't understand planning permission in Japan well, but it seems easier to get than I'm used to seeing (in the UK). Perhaps that helps depress land value.

People seem to find moving not wanting a house someone has died in weird. I think it's more understandable with houses that last a relatively short time... deaths, and suicides that have occurred in a house need to be declared when the house is sold. It decreases the value of the house somewhat.

Somehow all of this has contributed resulted in much more (to my mind) reasonable housing prices, at least outside central Tokyo.

I've just bought a house in Japan (with my wife) so a lot of this stuff is on my mind. If anybody would like to talk further, my email is in my profile.


This sounds really fascinating--do you have any links or search terms to use to learn more about the differences in homes there? I'm particularly curious about the optimization for the people who live in the homes. What would drive that difference in attitude and behavior?

I've also heard that Japanese homes aren't built to last and that they get rebuilt rather frequently by Western standards, although I'm not sure how true that is.


They don’t particularly like old things, and so a building built in the 1980s would be considered an old house.

As a result new buildings get built all the time and everything is nice and newly renovated everywhere you go, including the subways.

One great example is stepping into the Ginza subway line, which is the first subway line in Tokyo (circa maybe 1920s or 1930s), and comparing it to the dungeons of some older NYC metro stations or London’s tubes.


Japan is fond of its old temples though.


Old temples yes, old temple buildings - not necessarily.

The country's most holy Shinto shrine at Ise is ceremonially torn down and rebuilt every 20 years.

Most other temples need parts of the building (like the roof) replaced every now and then, and have burned down a few times over the centuries.

There's really only a handful of temple buildings that have parts that are more than 500 years old.


This is about the macro-effects of Japanese housing customs, not the optimization aspect you asked about, but it's an interesting and relevant article.

https://www.nri.com/global/opinion/papers/2008/pdf/np2008137... [PDF]


Sorry I don’t have links. When I visited many areas in Japan about 8 years ago, I just spoke to as many people as I could about it, which wasn’t many. Hardly anyone else found it so interesting as I did but I have failed to do much research since. The Japanese people I spoke with found the American system to be the strange one. Not surprising.

As for the architecture, it’s very creative! Neighborhoods don’t really have the conventions of conformity like we have. Each house is free to be whatever it wants, but they are all very small compared to American houses. Most norms in Japanese culture seem to favor the group, cooperation and environments of mutual respect.

I do remember pointing out that a few (very few) of the houses looked pretty old and they told me those people have probably lived in them since they were built and just haven’t wanted a new one.



Here is Freakonomics coverage on the practice: http://freakonomics.com/podcast/why-are-japanese-homes-dispo...


What do you mean by "not sure how true is that"? From the article: "Traditionally, Japanese homes were demolished and rebuilt every 20 to 30 years, to implement improved earthquake-safety technology, to provide jobs for government-favored construction companies or simply because Japanese people demanded nice new houses. As a result, there are relatively few Japanese homeowners trying to prop up the value of their houses by lobbying the government to restrict supply."

Did you read the article?


Japan also has a cultural interest in space that the west does not. Case in point for me was seeing a major japanese house builders website - their top marketing point was a ~1.3m/4.5ft high space in their home. With examples of someone using it as a (sit on floor) workdesk, a childrens play area, a library, storage space etc. This would not fly anywhere in the west.

As noted its also typical to modify a family home over time - maybe one child moves out and another starts a hair salon in their old ground floor room (yes the planning rules allow this)

Demolishing a home is also related to historic cultural use if timber where in the west the wealthy built out of brick and stone for the ages


Also importantly, even the lowest-density Japanese residential zones seem to allow some low apartment buildings and some home businesses, while other residential zones are mixed-use and allow corner stores etc.

In e.g. San Francisco, more than half of the city is zoned to only allow detached height-limited single-family houses or sometimes duplexes, with businesses restricted to designated commercial streets. When you add wide streets with several wide lanes, generous street parking, parking requirements for buildings, long skinny land parcels with (often unused) space for a small yard in the back, etc., land use overall is incredibly inefficient even if you want to preserve the “local character” of low buildings.

Look at the sea of light yellow zones in the zoning map, http://default.sfplanning.org/zoning/zoning_map.pdf

And among cities in the region SF has higher density and more flexible zoning than most.

If we upzoned the Richmond, Sunset, and Marina neighborhoods from pale yellow to orange and purple, and added better transit, we could easily double the population of the city without anything taller than low-rise apartments.


paris is one of the highest density cities on earth with virutally no highrises whatsoever.


Yes, because unlike a lot of 'new world' cities, there are huge areas of Paris that are a consistent 2-4 stories high.

See e.g. the Google Maps images in this article [0] discussing Australian vs. European cities.

[0]: https://blogs.crikey.com.au/theurbanist/2015/11/30/how-dense...


And there are places in Paris where you cannot drive a modern American style car down the medieval streets. Those boulevards are relatively new.


I'm no sure that's a bad thing at all. I would imagine it encourages people to walk, bicycle, and use public transit to get around?


Oh! Didn't want to reflect the size of the street as a good, or bad, thing.

Just as another explanation why Paris can be SO dense, with buildings that aren't incredibly high - Buildings are packed in close to each other. The height of the buildings are a signature architectural element of Paris, broken only by the Tour Eiffel.

Businesses many times occupy the ground floor, with apartments up top - relatively normal in European cities, but against many zoning laws in the States.

The layout of the city certainly doesn't make owning a personal car all that, say, automatic of a choice. Paris is not a large city. When living there, I may have used the metroonce a month, but mostly just rode my bike to where I wanted to go (cheaper! and usually faster...). You could easily walk half the city in a relatively short amount of time (as I was oft to do after a party!). High speed trains could whisk you to many bordering countries in just a few hours. Ah! Paris: un joli désordre!


man i wanna move to paris now that sounds like paradise.


Americans hate small streets. It's a dumb opinion, but it's widely held.


Yes, another great thing about Paris.


Having upstairs neighbors would drive me batty. I did it — once.

Do they have better soundproofing or am I just too noise sensitive?


Move into a new high-rise built with a concrete structure and strict building code on noise. I have lived in two in different continents and never hear anything.


Which coubtry/state are those for people trying to find out food places to live?


Well one was in NYC and the other in Sydney. NSW has a strict building code that requires acoustic testing (literally hitting the structure with a hammer and ensuring no sound passes through).

I lived previously in a 100yr old brick walkup building in NYC. It was like my neighbors were all roommates in one house. That apartment almost drove me insane with the amount of neighbour noise I would hear at all times.

Concrete really is such a fantastic building material and yet people want to build their houses out of timber for some reason.


Townhouses (side-by-side) rather than flats tend to solve this. You are your own upstairs neighbour.


We know how to build pretty much soundproofed units; it is a matter of cost / priority.


Do they do that in Paris? Or do they suffer there as well?


Not living in Paris, but in Poland we have similar living style. I don't understand a problem. Noise isolation is usually very good in modern apartments. I can organize a party, have 15 drunk people in my apartment talking loudly and after I go out and close the door I can't hear anything. We consider "noisy" a major quality flaw for the building.


Maybe you have a hearing problem?


Or maybe his home isn't a shack without noise isolation. We live in the 21 century. It's not magic to isolate apartments from each other.


Now that I think about it, I work in a four story office building and of course I never ever hear anything from the other floors. The apartments where I was were old and cheap. Must not have been built with sound dampening in mind.


Quite the opposite. I have terrible sight, buy my hearing is very good. The building I live in is just very well isolated, but in most of the buildings you cannot hear your neighbours unless there is something pretty loud going on.


And when they are that noisy it happens only 1 or 2 times per year at most. Give people a bit of room to have fun. If it is [much] more often they might get kicked out.

Informing the neighbors or inviting them to the party also works. If you are really pushing it you buy them some flowers and ask if it wasn't to much trouble the day after. If you have a normal relationship asking if the neighbors can tune it down a bit shouldn't be a big deal either.


If your building is tall enough to be steel and concrete instead of wood, this problem goes away.


In part because Paris apartments are minuscule. A 2-br in Paris can be smaller than an already-small (by American standards) NYC studio.

Think bedrooms large enough to fit only a bed in a corner and a foot of space between the bed and one wall to allow access to it. Or a kitchen measuring 4x5 feet including appliances.

Most Americans aren't willing to accept those living conditions.


A typical Parisian apartment building has 8 floors. Not a sky scrapper by any mean but still a lot denser than most other European cities. In London a typical residential building has 2 or 3 floors.


This is also covered in this video:

How an Average Family in Tokyo Can Buy a New Home https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGbC5j4pG9w


True spirit of opportunity right here


Here in Los Angeles we have some of the most overvalued real estate in America. a bungalow in the city can go for millions, and is often torn down and replaced by a gleaming white McMansion because renovation is slower and costlier than filing new papers with the city. We cant just build more housing because traditional neighborhoods will fight to the death in courts to prevent multi family housing from devaluing their property or worse, competing for their rental income. The large apartment complexes that do get built are divided between anyone who can affort 10k a month in rent and fees, and "lower income" applicants who pay a fraction of this but are also held to strict terms and conditions. You wind up with millionaires and single moms living in beachfront Santa Monica communities, while anyone with a regular office job often commutes 40-70 miles in from the valley. Its often said you dont quit your job in LA, you quit your commute.

new apartments built are not priced affordably because banks and investors want their interest back quickly and have promised surrounding neighborhoods they will price accordingly to keep out the riff raff. in turn, dilapidated apartment complexes from the 60's go for about the same rates because these property owners know there is no "better offer" in town.

this doesnt even cover the 73,000 homeless people in Los Angeles county we cant seem to find a place for because no beach city wants to house their own unsustainable numbers of homeless, and no desert community is within a radius of health and welfare services required by many transients.

Then there are the haters. people like the Aids Healthcare Foundation who ran a 6 month campaign to defeat city legislation for new affordable housing. Why? Mike Weinstein doesnt want any development to obstruct the view from his penthouse.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-aids-foundation-...

My husband and I live in LA and love it. but honestly, its bittersweet. We will never truly own anything more than a latte here.


>this doesnt even cover the 73,000 homeless people in Los Angeles county we cant seem to find a place for because no beach city wants to house their own unsustainable numbers of homeless, and no desert community is within a radius of health and welfare services required by many transients.

Wasn't there a pledge to spend over $100 million on this issue last year? Not to mention a new tax w/ HHH.

But yeah, LA is bittersweet. Great weather and lots to do but the lack of a true center, unaffordable housing, and the slow, expensive build out of public transit leaves a lot to be desired.

At my age, I don't care so much about housing in my current situation (to be honest, given the schools here, I would go elsewhere), I would just like half my income not to go to rent (this is in a rent stabilized building - my recent bout of unemployment would've seen me joining the other flood of folks leaving since it wouldn't have covered market rate rent).


San Francisco spend over $300Million/yr on 7500 homeless people per year, and there's still human feces all over Market Street.


Wow, didn't know that. A lot of politics, unfortunately, is showing visible progress. Whether it's $300mm or $100mm, some sort of impact should've been visible on the streets or at least touted by our mayors due to the political points they get.

Goes for transit as well. Because the homeowning / wealthy won't pay their fair share of taxes, those of us in the lower brackets who will really benefit from public transit also have to take on that burden at the sales tax level.


One problem with homelessness is that it's in many ways a classic externality. It's often cheaper for localities to provide no services (which cost money and attract more homeless individuals) and instead to encourage homeless people to migrate elsewhere. Hence the controversial practice wherein some cities buy homeless people one way bus tickets to other cities, or plane tickets to other states in the extraordinary case of Hawaii. So even if that $300m got 7500 individuals off the street, another 7500 would move in to replace them right away. Which is why you don't see any visible effects of the spending.

Even when cities do undertake to provide services rather than shifting costs, their capacity to provide those services is only a tiny fraction of the national demand. And it's functionally a national or at least regional market because the homeless tend to be a very mobile population due to lack of fixed housing or employment. So you get cities like Portland, OR, where they provide extensive services, but the downtown areas where the services are located have been inundated with homeless people, which has been extremely detrimental to businesses in the area, has strained public safety resources, and damaged the quality of life of many local residents (eg a couple years ago a homeless man made a tent home on the sidewalk outside my apartment and then would scream at the top of his lungs for hours every night for months, making it impossible to sleep, presumably because of some mental illness).

In some ways, it makes zero sense for San Francisco to spend any money at all on the homeless, because it's one the most expensive places in the nation that we could be housing and providing assistance to the homeless population. But homeless people have rights, including the freedom to travel where they want. So they will continue to be attracted to cities that treat them well, at a disproportionate expense to locals (who ironically tend to be the ones most sympathetic to their need), while NIMBYists contribute nothing and experience no detriment. While also generating homeless people at the same rate as the more welcoming areas.

All of which is to say that we need some national policy here, otherwise a few cities will continue to shoulder the burden while most will skate along as free riders. A functioning mental health system would be incredibly helpful, for example, because then mental health services wouldn't be limited to a few locations.


Wow, that's like a 40k salary per homeless person. Where did you get those numbers (I'm interested in quoting the source too)?


Its not really relevant how much is spent per homeless person, what you want to know is how many people that money keeps off the streets. If you spent 100M and kept all but one last homeless man off the street by your metric you've spent 100M/homeless, while in reality you've spent 100M to keep all but one off the street.


Should be trivial to find out how many formerly homeless people SF current supports.


https://www.sfchronicle.com/aboutsfgate/article/Despite-mone...

$275M last year, $305M this year. Absolutely no accountability for the spend and no metrics to figure out if it's actually doing anything. It's a complete waste of money.


Here's an interesting in-depth article that cites a slightly lower number:

https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/S-F-spends-recor...

But it's from 2016 so it probably grew since then. A lot of the money goes to social housing towards 'ex' homeless people.


I'm no where near an expert here, but at that expense, why not just give them the money?


Politicians fear that being generous to homeless people will attract more homeless people from other cities, causing a net increase in homeless people in their city.

I mean, if in City A the cops hassle homeless people and the only support offered is bus tickets to other cities, while City B offers good support and humane policing, I'd take the bus ticket from A to B - who wouldn't?


> I'm no where near an expert here, but at that expense, why not just give them the money?

If you give them the money then all the money goes to the people it's supposed to help and there is no cut for the middle men. But the middle men are the ones with the ability to successfully lobby for programs to exist.

It's the same sort of thing as low income housing subsidies. Landlords lobby for them because they pretend to address high rents when their actual result is to keep rents high. Or even increase rents by stimulating demand without increasing supply.


That is in fact not the primary issue.

The primary issue is: if you directly give the homeless people $40,000, the people in the lower and lower middle 1/3 economic tier are going to ask why they're not getting that kind of help - cash thrown at them - despite the fact that they're working two jobs and at least paying some taxes.


> The primary issue is: if you directly give the homeless people $40,000, the people in the lower and lower middle 1/3 economic tier are going to ask why they're not getting that kind of help - cash thrown at them - despite the fact that they're working two jobs and at least paying some taxes.

To which the obvious solution is a UBI. Which would then solve the equivalent problem with all the programs aimed at the working poor.


Also, a significant fraction of homeless will probably not be able to effectively use the money without a support structure in place. It's very likely a good sum of that money would wind up in the wrong hands and help no-one.


In prime locations it doesn't matter if it's a bungalow or 2 floors, the main component of the cost is the land.

Which is why we should tax land, not the improved value of land (property tax). And not labour.


The last paragraph is interesting. If we get more multi-family homes in LA, that's still not something to own. I guess single family homes could all turn into condominiums, as long as that counts as true ownership.


Curious, why does a condo not count as true ownership in your opinion?


I'm guessing you're not American? ;)

The American idea of a perfect life is to have a nice house with a huge yard that the kids can frolic/play in. A big house with a big garage. And of course in a nice school district.

Basically its supposed to be an ideal environment for raising kids. Which is weird because me and all my friends grew up in heavily urbanized areas living in apartments (outside the US) and all turned out OK (well almost all).

It probably also has to do with the independence of not having others live across the wall.


"Kids don't need huge yards to play, kids need other kids to play with". I don't recall who said that, but it really rings true to me. In the place we rent now, there's a huge yard, but the kids mostly ignore it. They're always happy to see friends though, and with friends, a yard 1/4 the size would more than suffice.

In Italy, we essentially had no yard at all, and they were mostly ok - often we'd take them to the park where all the other local kids went, and they loved it, because almost always they saw someone they knew.


Agreed, I grew up in Toronto with a small yard but my brother and I rarely used it. We would simply go to the park or the school yard. We did use the pool at my grandmothers but that was pretty extravagant for the 2 months a year you can use it in Toronto.


I am American and own a condo in the dense downtown core of Chicago among a sea of high-rises. I do, though, understand the desire for many other people to want a single family home. That is not my desire, but I get it.

My question was why the above poster doesn’t consider condo ownership “true” ownership? The condos on my block run between $500,000 and $3m, and the single family homes on the same block start at $3m and go to $7m. If I don’t buy one of those single-family homes, why does the poster not consider me a true homeowner? That was my specific concern with their remark.


The idea that single family homes are the ideal environment to raise kids is seriously overrated. Yeah, kids can frolic, but in isolation - as opposed to community playgrounds that are often much better equipped and where they can develop early social skills, and just have more fun. We live in an "apartment village" with lots of community playgrounds and children thrive there.


In a typical American setting (suburban, no useful public transportation) it's a great way to keep kids from going anywhere until they get a driver's license / car.


It’s a natural consequence of living in an absolutely huge country where we can spread out as much as we please. Cities grow but eventually people look around and say “wait a minute, for the same money and a slightly longer drive I could get a bigger house, a yard, less noise, more privacy...”


Americans are really noisy and unruly. I grew up in a city and I hate the suburbs, but I kind of understand not wanting to live next to others in America.


I don't know what other countries are like (and barely know the rules in my own country) but in one Australian state (NSW) and potentially another one soon (Vic) they are putting in some "majority rules" laws where if 8/10 of the people in the block want to sell the place then you have too.

In mine 6/10 are owned by property developers so a combination of law changes and greedy developers could lead to me losing what I thought was a lifelong asset. If I'd bought a house and land instead (not that I can afford it) then nothing short of imminent domain laws could force me out.


Hmmm... If I may ask you: I'm considering moving to LA for a job in Venice/Culver city. Wondering if I can live somewhat closeby for a reasonable rent. I definitely don't want to commute more than 30 min each way :/.

Edit: The offer is "developer salary" so I assumed it would be OK for a rundown but safe rental somewhere closeby.


Even though Venice and Culver City are technically right next to each other the office jobs in Culver City, for the most part, are a few miles from where the Venice office jobs are (see here: https://goo.gl/maps/963isPRWKmL2; short distance, but traffic from/to the 405 can be pretty brutal at rush hour even over short distances).

Getting a 30-minute commute to Venice is going to be materially more expensive, but on a dev salary (assuming $100k-$150k) you should have no trouble affording a place. If you're working in downtown Culver City you'll have way more choices at all price points because you can live almost anywhere between downtown LA and the beach and still get there in under 30.


Thank you! That is very useful information:)


The housing crunch is real, but on "developer salary" you shouldn't have any problems finding a rental. Mar Vista and Palms are the closest relatively affordable neighborhoods to Culver. You can probably find something in Venice too, but (this is purely personal prejudice) I can't understand why anyone would do that to themselves.


Ha my view of Venice is colored by Californication, but yeah I’ve heard it’s not the best place to live in


Just a different point of view on Venice (respect to SC and their opinion)... It can be a fantastic place to live and a lot of people love it (and though the streets are not gilded like other West LA neighborhoods it is every bit as expensive and desirable). If you do decide to live there, though, stick to the area between the Santa Monica border and Abbot Kinney and, oddly, steer clear of the blocks right next to the beach (you might find some killer deal on a place close to the beach, but if it seems too good to be true it usually is because of summer crowds, homeless issues, quality of apartments/houses, etc).


30 minutes is definitely doable as long as you don't cross the 405. Most young people I know on developer salary in LA live practically walking distance to work.


In terms of decreasing costs: West LA/Mar Vista, Inglewood, maybe by the airport. Or find something off the 90.


“Overvalued” compared to your own opinion.


"Overvalued" compared to what its price would be if it were not subject to government interference.


Please call your state legislators - Senator and Assemblymember - about SB 827, which will do more to accomplish this outcome than any land use bill in the last twenty years. A lot of homeowners are opposing the bill and we could use your voice.

http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/


I very much hope this bill goes through. The city I live in is a terrible mix of NIMBYism and corruption making it impossible to move an electrical outlet or put up a private awning, let along build anything on your property (have experience with all these attempted permits and more). The only thing that can stop this is the state completely overriding local zoning laws like this bill does. The state tried the carrot and many cities like mine ignored it. It's time for the stick.


Don’t just hope. Join California YIMBY and contribute time and money to defeating NIMBYism. https://cayimby.org


No one gets the message in London. There should be high rise condo/apartment buildings like Manhattan, Hong Kong, Singapore, even Toronto, all over the place given the population but height restrictions persist so people live in cramped, miserable conditions. There are vested interest that make allowing this politically challenging, existing owners would see property prices plummet if this was allowed, and then there's some powerful people just block it for aesthetic reasons. Either way it can't continue without having an economic and innovation hit long term.


I'm not convinced London has a housing shortage. Or the UK for that matter. The problem is that anyone can buy a house in the UK and they've become investment vehicles. Also consider London has just reached its pre-WW2 population, and all the properties bombed most likely replaced by more efficient housing.

I found a study about supply and demand for housing, but am struggling to find it. There's a post here which seems credible enough, related to the topic:

https://medium.com/@ian.mulheirn/londons-housing-non-shortag...


> The problem is that anyone can buy a house in the UK and they've become investment vehicles.

Doesn't that imply that there is a shortage?


If you're competing with the the whole world - sure. But I have a personal belief property is one of the things that shouldn't be so freely purchasable. Want to buy and own a property in the UK? Fine, be a UK citizen then.

Look at how Denmark do it:

"Unless you have lived in Denmark for a period of at least 5 years, you must obtain permission from the Danish Ministry of Justice (Justitsministeriet) to buy property. However, this restriction does not apply if you are an EU-citizen, and if the property is to be used as a permanent residence."

https://international.kk.dk/artikel/buying-home http://um.dk/en/travel-and-residence/family-and-legal-issues...

Seems reasonable to me. Maybe stop shell corporations based in tax havens from owning property as well? Seems they benefit from the income while paying that the government doesn't even get.


>Doesn't that imply that there is a shortage?

A shortage of housing? A shortage of ways to launder money? A shortage of safe assets that beat inflation? A shortage of network connected land?

Emulate Tokyo is good advice, but not easy. There's a reason Tokyo is Tokyo and everywhere else looks nothing like Tokyo.


The claim I've often heard repeated [1] is that there are investors who leave their properties unoccupied rather than renting them out, satisfied to bank the returns from price appreciation without the hassle of tenants. So-called "buy-to-leave" properties. For example, one report found just 19 out of 80 apartments in an expensive development were occupied [2].

This has the pernicious effect that it undermines people's belief that increasing supply/housing density will lower prices. After all, why fight for something you don't think will benefit you?

Instead, people who believe such things prefer policies of government intervention, like social housing, taxes on empty properties and suchlike.

[1] https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DXSUbv3X4AAO-dK.jpg [2] http://uk.businessinsider.com/property-partner-20000-ghost-h...


Yeah there's kind of a "goes with the territory" thing with large cities with high demand -- they are investment vehicles because demand for housing is so high and growing relative to available supply.


> Doesn't that imply that there is a shortage?

Initially it probably did, but once the ball get's rolling it just implies that there are people willing to buy. That can be other investors in a bubble.


comparing aggregate rates of household formation vs housebuilding doesn't tell you very much as household formation is dependent on housing supply.

in the absence of supply constraints, if the price goes up this creates an incentive to build more houses, which will balance out any increased demand. there is also good research that shows supply constraints do matter in the UK - http://personal.lse.ac.uk/hilber/hilber_wp/Hilber_Vermeulen_...


London is a money laundering market, not a housing market.


New skyscrapers are going up all the time in London.


Only business though no? OPs point is that there are no / not enough residential high-rises being built.


No, some are residential. I know someone who just moved in to the new skyscraper by Battersea power station


The Battersea / Nine Elms area has seen development over several years from when the American embassy announced they would be moving there, new tube stops are coming too but it’s just one targetted area only and the prices are totally crazy for anyone who is an ‘employee’ of any sort. Got your own multi million dollar business going? Then it’s no problem.


I'm not sure what you mean. There are quite a few skyscrapers in London. They are all new luxury properties and doesn't drop the price of anything.


I think culture helps to keep the house price low as well.

1. They don't like secondhand homes, they rather rebuild it[1]. So houses are not a good investment vehicles.

2. They values good business practices in housing. (I don't have any data to support). Few months ago I was finding a room in Tokyo, the agent told me people usually live in the same place for years without rent increased. It's not usual to raise the price because it's considered rude and it's something the yakuzas do. It's an entirely different story in Hong Kong where I came from. HK people almost always increase the price so much that people are forced to move every 2 years. AFAIK there is no rent control in both HK and Tokyo.

[1]: "the ratio of used homes circulating in the entire housing market remains below 15 percent, substantially smaller than in the United States and European countries." https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/12/26/national/japans...


/me has "owned" (mortgage) two single dwelling houses in Southern California and on his third house in the Tokyo area.

Another reason for general dislike of second hand houses is that these houses are poorly designed. Older houses in the Tokyo area (Kawasaki included), from even ten to fifteen years ago have have a raft of design problems from lack of insulation to using too low cost of materials. The first and third house was a bespoke build and I was met with bewildered architects when I specified designs that they considered appropriate only for Hokkaido (northern island that get cold air from Siberia). Other crazy things I had to make them modify was moving the fresh air intake vent away from the fuel cell generator, that doubles as hot water boiler which has a backup burner. They didn't seem to realize that a backup burner exists. There were a number of other mistakes that I pointed out that seemed to have left the builder in a puzzled state. I made my sales guy work for his pay. Walking around the new development area I'm in, I could point out any number of usability flaws that most of the house have. If these were missed, most likely a large number of technical flaws crept in as well.

The second house was second-hand. (ha!) Very bad decision under somewhat forced circumstances. Very cheap specc'd floors that scratched easily. Practically no insulation. Poor air control, with vents pulling in air directly from the outside with no filtration or pre-conditioning. One of the reasons for moving on.

And while I'm here, the first place we bought (place 0 in Japan) was a room in a mansion (aka an apartment). We bought this new, upgraded to durable floors. I was lucky to have been able to sell the place five years later for nearly the same price as I purchased it. Unlike California, the all buildings depreciate to nothing in 30 years. The HOA (home owners association) is only run professionally for the first 10 years. The next 10 years is a hand off to the residents. From what I now understand, while under professional management, the fees while high are spent well and banked for renovations to be done every decade. But the pattern is that after the second decade, under home owner control, the association votes to cut the fees. The association quickly runs out of money and the building falls into disrepair, accelerating the depreciation. The apartment becomes nearly worthless and difficult to sell, leaving people with 35 year mortgages under water. Nuts.

I've also been in rental apartments and they have been cheaply made.

Regarding rentals, I think the attitude is that the owner would rather deal with someone who is known to pay rather then having to deal with an unknown entity. It's a risk averse culture.


How did you develop the skills to spot these issues yourself? Just time living and investing in various places?


> HK people almost always increase the price so much that people are forced to move every 2 years.

HK rents seem to have followed the general cooling of the market recently, at least among my circle of friends. My own rent has actually gone down since I moved in a few years ago.


Regarding raising prices: isn't a stagnant economy also the reason why prices stay the same?


It's too late for California. Either housing prices do come down considerably, and a lot of people have their futures ruined, or they don't come down considerably, and a lot of people have their futures ruined.

Theoretically massive inflation would be able to fix this, except that would screw over everyone who's using the US dollar outside of California.


Economists call this a transitional gains trap. Here's an economist discussing it (and a theoretical solution):

https://offsettingbehaviour.blogspot.com/2009/09/transitiona...


Yep. I'm not an economist, but I've been watching this weird "urban inflation" trend too.

People in big cities, even though they don't produce more or better work than others, get paid a lot more to account for the housing bubble, essentially increasing their buying power tremendously compared to people living in smaller cities.

Imho we should give up on the idea of maintaining large cities as aesthetic monuments or something. It's bad enough for cities like London that have a decent population density, but places like LA where people just won't give up on the American suburbia model of housing is just insane.

Cities aren't just a place to hang out and look at pretty buildings, people need to live there, work and transport within reasonable cost and time constrains. It's a very practical issue that needs to be solved. Living in a big city isn't just a luxury, it's a need too for many people.


You’re wrong. People in cities do produce more and better work than others. They’re also easier to serve so more businesses are viable there.

Firms do not pay people more when rent is higher out of the kindness of their hearts, they do it because it’s worth the greater expense to them, because the workers are more skilled and more productive. Some of those higher wages accrue to landlords.

Relevant link https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economies_of_agglomeration


Exactly - if Google didn't get good business value from having so many employees working at a central HQ (and busing employees from SF to Mountain View), they wouldn't do it -- they could save a lot of money on salaries and office space by hiring a distributed workforce across the rural USA (and world).

They find the tangible and intangible benefits of a central HQ to be worth the price. They have so many small offices across the country that they could easily spread out their workforce nationwide and get out of the expensive Bay Area... if they felt it would provide value.


Does a developer in SF really produce 500k of work while one in Nevada produces 80k? Would Google and Facebook pay up so much money if they were stationed in a European city? No they wouldn't. Cities provide more people because of their higher population densities. Some of the residents are world class experts. Most of them certainly aren't. Most of them aren't even very skilled. Companies pay more money because they have to, not because they want to. They have to be stationed in the area with the highest population density to have access to more workers. What if they had both high pop density and low rents? How would that be bad in any way?

If you really believe in the "markets will fix it" rhetoric about workers wages (not to mention the wage=merit idea) then why don't you let the free market fix the housing bubble by allowing taller residential buildings? Right now, almost all of the extra wage ends up in the hand of land owners. That can be fixed, so the wages will actually reflect how much value the workers produce, not how exclusive the area they live in is and how much status they have.


I find myself in vigorous agreement with you. As far as I’m aware no one gets 500K without being a known quantity, worth it.

Companies pay more money because they have to, if they want to get the people everyone else also wants to hire. That’s why the Steve Jobs wage suppression agreement happened. And then Facebook said hell no and wages rose, at companies that made enough per employee to pay the new market price.

High population density and low rents sounds like a great combination. If you know it a developed country that lasted please tell. I’d hold out more hope for high density and Georgist land value taxes so that the economic rents accrue to the government/citizenry not the property owners, insofar as it’s rent, not a return on investment.


How many SF devs actually make $500k though? Mean for the city is ~$130k last I looked, though total comp is likely higher.

As far as people being worth $500k, companies that pay that much will either get more in return, or go out of business.


LA is more densely populated than people give it credit for. https://la.curbed.com/2012/3/26/10385086/los-angeles-is-the-...


C'mon, that's a joke.

LA is a city, it has less than 4 million people on 470 sq mi of land, New York is a city and has more than 8 million people on 300 sq mi of land. NY is is 3.5x more dense than LA (28k vs 8k per sq mi).

LA just isn't very dense. Look at either the data or the pictures.

What you did was reference a source that looks at places that in a way that nobody talks about. i.e. comparing arbitrary statistical areas which take some high-density location, then put it in a statistical area with a quarter of the state which is extremely low-density rural area.

Feel free to look at the data: This is sort of what you look at when you take LA data. https://censusreporter.org/profiles/31000US31080-los-angeles...

And then compare it to something like this for NY, density of 1.7k: https://censusreporter.org/profiles/33000US408-new-york-newa...

Which is nonsensical in the ordinary sense of the word NY. Rather, use this, density 28k: https://censusreporter.org/profiles/16000US3651000-new-york-...

Or say Manhatten or Kings County, 70k and 35k density, respectively: https://censusreporter.org/profiles/05000US36061-new-york-co... https://censusreporter.org/profiles/05000US36047-kings-count...

LA just isn't very dense, nor are most cities in and around LA. 9 of the 10 most dense places in the US are in the NY MSA, including NY itself. The other 1 is in California called Maywood. It's the densest place in the US, outside of NY, and it has only 27 thousand people and its still less dense than NY's 8 million people.


One other reason that density might have been more politically acceptable in Japan is that houses are not used as a vehicle for middle-class wealth accumulation.

On the spot.


I live an an extremely dense city.

Prices are not dropping even when thousands of units are hitting the market every month. The reason is because foreign buyers like to park their money out of their country so it won't get confiscated.

When there are multiple real estate agents all of whose promotional material is in Chinese in an English speaking country you have to be willfully blind not to see cause and effect.


Prices are not dropping even when thousands of units are hitting the market every month. The reason is because foreign buyers like to park their money out of their country so it won't get confiscated.

[Citation needed]

And, furthermore, exporting housing services is a huge, underrated opportunity: http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/05/19/exporting_hou... . We should be doing a lot more of it.


If we were really "exporting" housing services that would be an underrated opportunity, but when investors (foreign or domestic) purchase housing purely as an investment that just sits vacant, they drive up housing costs for local residents. And there's less to gain by selling to an investor as opposed a live-in homeowner since the homeowner will spend more money locally than the absentee investor that's just holding the property.


Citation on what? The price not dropping? The supply of units increasing?

I can't give you a citation on who is buying the units because that is obfuscated by design. If the people trying to hide their wealth put their names on the deeds they have just made sure they stay alive in the dungeon until the sale was finalized.


> I can't give you a citation on who is buying the units because that is obfuscated by design.

So all you have is a gut feeling.

Thousands of units hitting the market each month is a LOT.


>So all you have is a gut feeling.

Seeing three separate real estate agents having nothing but Chinese brochures in their offices tells me they aren't expecting locals to be buying from them.

>Thousands of units hitting the market each month is a LOT.

http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/8731.0

This has been going on for close to 10 years now.


This data shows 18 thousand approved for all of Australia.

Not "thousands per month" for the mysterious city you live in.

For comparison, in 2017 Seattle got 10k new apartments which was enough to match the growth caused by Amazon's hiring and generally keep the prices sane.

So a thousand a month for the city the size of Seattle is good enough to counteract one of the biggest population growths.


In January. There are literally 3 cities that matter and 4 kinda do. If you go by state you can see that a place like Sydney is getting ~1200 non house units approved.

I see 5 50+ story building completed in the last three months, with another 4 being build. Prices are not dropping. Buildings are not being occupied.


Prices in Sydney are dropping, have been for the last 5 months. WTF are you talking about?


Is the number of bedrooms increasing faster than the number of humans? If not the supply of units isn't increasing that much.


That's not a problem with density, rather letting non-residents purchase the units. It's not hard to think up solutions to discourage that, such as taxes as Vancouver did or outright bans.


Yup. In Amsterdam we now have fines against empty homes. We used to have a vibrant squatting culture. Any landlord who didn't live in his home, or made it available to the market for rent or for sale, would be met with squatters. In the past decade or so, squatting was harshly dealt with through the judicial system and instead landlords can now be fined if they let their home empty for more than 6 months.


> Prices are not dropping even when thousands of units are hitting the market every month.

Well in fairness, even with all else being equal, units entering the market doesn't imply prices dropping. It only should imply prices being lower than they otherwise would be.


Because there is no cost-of-carry. Tax land and get rid of the speculators, and socialise the common wealth.


>One other reason that density might have been more politically acceptable in Japan is that houses are not used as a vehicle for middle-class wealth accumulation.

How do the Japanese build wealth, then? Buying a desirable home in a solid market is pretty much the only way for an average person earning the median wage to make it into the middle class.


The same way the Germans do, they save money.

Rising housing prices have played out the same across the Anglophone world. It's not sustainable as a means to get the lower classes into the middle class, because the higher prices rise the more debt they need to take on to join the game.

Housing is something people consume. It's durable, but so are cars and imagining them as being a gateway investment to the middle class because they will cost more in the future should be just as silly as for housing.


The house itself normally isn't appreciating; it's the land that does. People don't consume land (usually).


Yeah the whole housing structure in the US seems to be geared towards creating a ton of wealth for the real estate business. Which isn't the worse thing; but lets not confuse ourselves that it is a legitimate way to build wealth (it is somewhat so; but you can usually get better returns from other financial instruments over the long haul).


>Housing is something people consume. It's durable, but so are cars and imagining them as being a gateway investment to the middle class because they will cost more in the future should be just as silly as for housing.

But when you're talking a capitalization period on the order of the average person's lifespan, it becomes a new class of asset in my mind. You can't treat something which will pretty much guaranteed always exist until the day you die the same as a usable good.


the simple answer is that they don't. They have recognised that closely networked cities, short commute distances, easy access to public services has significantly more advantages than building your own little castle in the prairie.

You've basically snuck in a tautology in your question. 'Breaking into the middle-class' in the US has simply become synonymous with owning a house, without really asking whether owning that house actually provides people with material benefits to begin with.

Like Switzerland, Germany or South Korea among some other countries Japan is very much a nation of renters. This has arguably saved them from some very grave problems.


Japan is very much a nation of renters

62% of households in Japan own their own home. This is ~10% above Germany and ~1.5% below the US.


Not only does Japan have a homeownership rate similar to the US, but a pretty significant fraction of those owners own single family detached homes, which make up the bulk of Japanese suburbs. The main difference from the US is the different zoning regime which doesn't force homeowners to pay for a minimum quota of land in order to buy a house, and suburban houses on 1000 square foot lots are not uncommon.


"without really asking whether owning that house actually provides people with material benefits to begin with."

I'm literally speechless to this


> Buying a desirable home in a solid market is pretty much the only way for an average person earning the median wage to make it into the middle class.

There's also low-cost index funds and ETFs...cheaper, lower barrier for entry, more diversified, more liquid. The government won't seize them for non-payment of property taxes in case of unemployment or health issues. I'd argue they're a better choice than a home for an average person to build wealth.

Index funds and ETFs have been around since the 70s - nearly 50 years.


The leverage you can get on real estate with a mortgage far exceeds any margin account.

The US gov subsidizes real estate investment with long duration fixed mortgages.


Do we really want the "average person" investing with leverage? That didn't go so well 10 years ago.

Besides, GP stated that real estate ownership was the "only way" for Joe-sixpack to get into the middle-class. Homeownership may well have financial and tax advantages but it's by no means the sole way to build wealth.


While not the sole way to build wealth, it’s one of the most accessible ways for anyone who isn’t already wealthy and intends to live somewhere more than a few years.

I could, tomorrow, go buy a duplex, triplex, or quad with only 3% down and immediately rent out all units except the one I’m living in. Usually a much higher cash on cash return than index funds when done properly, your co-tenants are paying your rent, and you’re getting to depreciate an asset annually on your taxes that is most likely appreciating.

How could you tell people not to take advantage of such a good deal?


> I could, tomorrow, go buy a duplex, triplex, or quad with only 3% down and immediately rent out all units except the one I’m living in.

But that's not something an average person does. The poster I replied to was speaking of real estate wealth building solely in terms of buying a house, living in it till you retire, then selling it at an appreciated value and going live in Florida or wherever. (or alternatively change house every 10 years, rolling the appreciated property value into a bigger house every time)

What you're talking about is the work of a real estate investor, and is far more time-consuming and involved than buying a few index funds on Vanguard. Researching properties, finding and screening tenants, performing or managing repairs is a non-trivial amount of work.

You're trivializing the work of getting into landlording (maybe you're already doing it so you underestimate how much work it is for someone who has no experience doing it). If it really was that easy to earn better than index fund returns, everyone would be doing it and the returns would naturally come down.

> While not the sole way to build wealth, it’s one of the most accessible ways for anyone who isn’t already wealthy and intends to live somewhere more than a few years.

I don't even agree with that. To buy a single share of an ETF you need $50-100 max to spare. To put even 3% down on a property that you can rent out, you're talking thousands of dollars + decent credit for getting a mortgage on the property.


Doing it already, I probably am glossing over the complexities of doing so. My apologies.

My point is that almost always, real estate values in the US go up. So if you need to live somewhere, and the government is going to give you cheap money to do it, you’d be crazy not to.

Yes, it’s not as easy as opening a Vanguard account and buying a share of a mutual fund. But it’s also not terribly difficult.


You would have gotten killed in the 90s if you think real estate could just go up. You definitely have risk that prices might not be where you want them to be when you need the liquidity.


As with all investments, you must ensure you have sufficient capital to not be forced to liquidate your investment when it’s not advantageous to do so.

Your market investments did fine if you could weather 2008. If you had to liquidate, you got wrecked.


Sure, but the 90s was basically a nightmare decade for real estate. It’s one thing to weather one year, but an entire decade?


I have yet to have a property I couldn't keep tenants in for at least a decade. Some even sign 2+ year leases if they plan on being in the area for a while.

As long as the mortgage is covered, I can hold a property indefinitely.


You were active in the 90s?


I was through the global financial crisis, 2007-2009; I had some properties lose >$100k in value.

I'm mid 30s, and have invested in real estate since my early 20s.


2007-9 isn’t really comparable to what went down in the 90s, especially for californian real estate after the Japanese had to liquidate from their binge, but all throughout the country as well.


You can't live in an index fund. They might be a superior alternative to vacation/rental property, but you're going to pay for a primary residence one way or another.


Lack of consumer credit debt, and a steady savings rate.

> Buying a desirable home in a solid market is pretty much the only way for an average person earning the median wage to make it into the middle class.

Not true. You, too, can ascend from poverty if you don't fall into the finance-everything lifestyle of the (former) American middle class.


Investing in the stock market over the long term is both simple and accessible to almost everyone.


But in the case of Japanese specifically, I’m sure some of them are weary of stocks after the big crash in the 80s.


Housing prices can crash too. See: the US.


The question here was “how do Japanese build wealth?” and someone suggested the stock market, so I replied that in the Japanese case, that might not actually be likely, because they had a big crash in the 80s which they have yet to recover from. No offense intended, but your comment doesn’t seem relevant to the discussion.


The point is that any asset class can crash, and it's very relevant.

People need to stop treating housing with the expectation that the value of a house should grow and grow and grow, because that's part of how we got to all this NIMBY bullshit.


It really isn't relevant. The question was "How do the Japanese build wealth, then?" and your response was "the US housing market can also crash".


They don't. Personal debt levels have been going up and savings diminishing in Japan, while wages have been stagnant for decades. Japanese middle class has been getting poorer and poorer consistently.


There was an analysis on HN not too long ago that extrapolated real estate and stock market valuations back 150 years or so and concluded that the return on investment for both were roughly at pairity.

Buy an index fund.


the ROI for stocks would have to be significantly higher than the ROI from real estate for it to make sense for a working/middle class person to invest in stocks instead of the structure they live in. you need to pay for housing either way.


> you need to pay for housing either way.

Yes but you don't have to pay the same amounts. There's a reason "rent-or-buy" calculators exist.


Once owned outright, a home also serves as insurance against economic downturns.

Rent, 4 or 5 year economic slump and people are out of a home.

Ownership doesn't lead to this. Even mortgages have more forgiveness for late payment than most rental agreements.

Multi-generational property ownership also helps. Buy a good house now, and your kids/grand kids have insurance against economic downturns.


The insane levels of year-over-year appreciation/rent hikes make any calculator say "buy" in expensive major cities, regardless of the difference in cost today.


Citation needed. That's not the case in the SF Bay Area, Manhattan/Brooklyn, Vancouver, or Toronto. The new tax bill's provisions to cap mortgage interest deductions has further tilted the balance against expensive houses.


That depends almost entirely on the rent to value in their local market, and is far more volatile than index funds.

I rented a 1.3m home in CA for $3,500/month, made no sense to buy at that level other than a forced savings program.


People don't typically have access to leverage for an index fund. Most debt is printed for purchasing land.


Also no tax incentives for investing in stock compared to real estate.


401k, defines benefit pensions, HSA, IRA, 529 plans, etc. There are tons of government subsidies for the stock market, and not just via tax incentives.


What tax incentive is there for real estate other than the small SALT deduction? A mortgage is just leverage, you can similarly deduct margin loan interest (with no cap other than investment income IIRC).


Isn't that a chicken and egg situation? If homes aren't considered to be equivalent to wealth, then not having a house doesn't preclude the average person from membership in the middle class.


I’m also keen on this question. Seems like there’s a broad vested interest in maintaining a scarcity of housing supply. Is there a compromise that can keep homeowners mostly profitable while allowing for others to get reasonable rents / purchase prices?


There is no such compromise. High and rising house prices are inherently incompatible with low and flat housing prices. These are two counterparties on opposite sides of the same market.


If housing prices don't go up, landlords make profits from rents rather than appreciation. Currently in SF, if housing wasn't appreciating, landlords would demand a greater percentage of the purchase price from renters, or house values would stabilize at a lower point where rent receipts are enough to make a reasonable return.


They mostly haven't in recent years. Japanese homes are famously disposable [1] and there's generally been an asset price collapse followed by stagnation since the early 1990s.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/disposable-...


I think it's important to have a bit of perspective on this graph. While it includes the tail end of "the bubble", the vast majority of this graph documents a time that is pretty difficult to compare with any major city. After the bubble, real estate prices lost up to 80% of their value. It slowly crept back up and in the early 2000s there were signs of vigorous recovery, but in 2006 when the government saw prices going up again, they restricted loans. This stabilised prices. In the last decade, while the prices have gone up and down, the price index now is practically the same as it was in 2010.

There are a couple of other important factors. Between 1988 and 2013 (the part documented by the graph), the population of the country grew by only 5 million people. Tokyo's population grew from about 11 million to about 13 million in that time -- so it absorbed almost half of the total population increase of the entire country. Although I haven't looked, I'm willing to bet that Osaka absorbed the other half. So it's quite a bit easier to focus the government when all of your growth is in the same place.

Furthermore, if we look at the population increase and compare that to the household increases in the graph, something is pretty apparent. Population increased by 2 million and households increased by 2 million. What that means is that Tokyo was overcrowded in 1988, with large numbers of people living in the same household. As new residences became available, they spread out. It's especially important to understand that in the early nineties, prices were getting cheaper, so that made it easier for people to move.

So while building new residences is important, there are a whole host of other factors that led to Tokyo's success in this regard. Personally, I think the resolve to avoid real estate bubbles, even at the cost of economic growth is huge. One last thing I really need to point out because it's confusing for people who don't live in Japan: "Tokyo" usually refers to the prefecture of Tokyo, not just the city. There are parts of Tokyo prefecture that are decidedly rural, so it is doubly difficult to compare it with cities in other countries.


If you want more data, see the chart in this article (sometimes behind paywall, so I'm linking archived version): http://archive.is/oXNHv

The chart shows a comparison of increase in population vs increase in price, for four regions: San Francisco, London, "Tokyo", and the central district of Minato-ku. While the first three are vaguely defined since they could be either city limits or metropolitan areas, there is no such uncertainty about Minato-ku.

Minato had a much larger percentage population increase than SF or London but a much smaller percentage price increase.


Meanwhile, rural places in Japan are being rapidly de-peopled by both urban migration and an aging population.

I read last year that some towns will actually GIVE foreigners a house if they promise to live there a certain numbers of years.


Not just in Japan either. There have been cases of crumbling historic villages in Italy promising very cheap housing provided that the buyer commits to renovating and living within a certain period.

I think stories like this couple well with one also from this week on HN:

  Why Cities Boom While Towns Struggle
  https://archive.is/9yDHx


There's a reason for this. People love to go to the countryside for a weekend trip, but nobody live there. Why? Because there are no jobs and no people (or very few of them). Many families would be glad to escape to the countryside once they grow older and bigger, but they usually don't, because these problems still exist. Would you give up your carreer and your disposable income when you start a family, just to move to a village? Can you even find a job there? What about your social circles? What about when your kids need to go to university?

I remember hearing a lot of talk about "the need to promote de-centralization" when I was a kid, but I don't remember hearing a single valid reason for it. It's always someone else that needs to move back to the countryside, not the speaker.


This is a sign that the city is simply becoming more efficient and provides more for the population than rural sprawl.


California is bleeding something like 60,000 residents to Texas each year. That sounds like a big number.

https://qz.com/1189388/conservative-californians-are-moving-...


LA increased in population by 42k last year. That’s not the metro area which is also increasing.


That's not nearly fast enough. We can't possibly loose enough people. But, it's a good start. Ideally, we would have a mass evacuation! I'd leave too, but we have family and friends here, not to mention a good job.


I don't really see the reason for downvotes. I don't take his comment as hostile, but rather simply as a function of economics.

Suppose for a moment that everyone of the 7 billion people wanted to live in a single city. Taking it to the extreme. It doesn't work. Land prices would make everything unaffordable, there wouldn't be enough space to produce goods and provide space to live and work. The best thing in such a situation would be to say, let's have substantial people move away from this particular city, to live and work somewhere else where natural resources (land, what's on and under it) is abundant.

To me it seems pretty obvious that this is the position that some price cities find themselves in.

You can sort of look at a heat-map or height-map of population density. This map essentially expresses demand for that land, and that expresses the cost of the land. In that sense, population density to land can be viewed as interest rates to debt. The smartest thing to do in a debt situation is move high-interest debt to low-interest debt. Redistribute your debt to where it is cheap. Similarly, we ought to redistribute our demand for land to where it is cheap, which means moving people around. In that sense, the above comment makes sense to me.

I'm not advocating for some kind of forced migration or anything, but companies and governments should inform, educate and incentivise this redistribution in a soft manner. Introducing (progressive) land taxes is probably part of the story.


IDK about some of this. When thinking about what policies we should have, we tend to overemphasize policies' effects on whatever we're we're looking to fix. A common trope is policing methods and crime rates.

For example, I've heard a lot of talk this past year about german housing policy with Berlin cited as the best example. It rarely mentions that Berlin's population peaked before the war, reunification and other things that aren't housing policy. I'm not saying that Tokyo's housing policies are not good, just that there's likely a lot of context to their successes.

Housing can be pretty complicated and nuanced. Policies don't translate well from one place to another. Where I live (dublin), house prices are effectively a derivative of bank policies. Whatever banks will loan the median person becomes the median house price. Now that we've had boom, bust & boom again... it's very easy to see how these two things track.

In a less supply constrained scenario I think bigger houses, not cheaper ones. Another big part of the story here is a near unanimous objection to development in general, more out of conservatism than NIMBYism. So, stasis biased.

Anyway, my point is that it's complicated. The dynamic in Dublin is different from Austin or Berlin, and policies exist within these contexts. It sounds like NIMBYism is a big factor in california. I imagine that the economic & population growth in these cities is another big factor.


Bigger houses by definition mean cheaper, at least in the city.

This is because a bunch of young people can get together and live together in this hypothetical bigger house.

Twice the size IS half the cost if twice as many people are living there.


It’s bullshit that people who would prefer to live in studio or 1-bedroom apartments are forced to live 3–5 roommates to a house with all available rooms converted to bedrooms (for which the same land could easily fit several apartments) because the zoning doesn’t match demand, and otherwise it’s too expensive to stay anywhere within commute range. Especially bad when one of them wants to start a family but it’s simply impossible because giving up space in a rent controlled unit makes the whole region entirely unaffordable.


Unfortunately, it's incredibly good politics to be for "real families" and against young single antisocial techies who want to live alone. One of the restrictions on multifamily construction is a minimum proportion of 2- and 3-bedroom units.


Not only is there enough housing, but the market calibrates it to be affordable. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jv6SbFlZMbU

And there's enough space in the housing market to allow for ultra-precision housing alternatives like capsule hotels.

If you need to commute in, there's an astonishingly good public transit system.

The same youtube channel has an excellent multipart series on homelessness in Japan that's absolutely worth watching. Here's the episode on housing the homeless: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBPyN3LE65g


Everything in America should emulate Japan, pretty much.


Just not the oppressive gender norms, the work-life balance at mainstream employers, the level of direct political corruption, or the thousand other very real problems Japan has that are worse than in the US.

Let's not idealize foreign countries, please and thank you.


I agree that we shouldn't idealize.

As an American, I've lived in western Europe, eastern Europe and spent months in Japan. There are some things these places do worth idealizing.

Americans should travel more and replicate the best parts.


>Americans should travel more and replicate the best parts.

I hope you realize that the vast majority of the country isn't as privileged as we are when it comes to being able to afford to travel, or even to get time off in the first place.


I think this gives those of us who do have that privilege an obligation to be responsible about the ways we speak and write about our experiences. For the majority of Americans who never make it to e.g. Japan, it makes a difference how they hear travelers speak in person, on TV, or in commenters on reddit (or even, gasp, Hacker News).


> I hope you realize that the vast majority of the country isn't as privileged as we are when it comes to being able to afford to travel, or even to get time off in the first place.

Yet those people will vote and otherwise support bad policies with their uninformed-ness.


Hence the "pretty much". Clearly Japan has numerous numerous social issues, but other than that they're doing much better than we are over there.


Japan is so idiosyncratic that you cannot assume that any policy from there will behave similarly anywhere else (except in some cases Singapore)


When did "idiosyncratic" come to describe a country where people are polite and keep their society clean and running punctually?

Japan has little litter even though there are few trash cans in public.

In the NYC subway, there is a ton of litter in the tracks even near a trash can.

Maybe it is the West that is actually idiosyncratic?


Every culture by definition is idiosyncratic compared to others. Cultures are demarcated by their differences.

There is no objective measure by which individual aspects of one culture can be judged better than another, unless the majority of people from every culture involved in the comparison have agreed to certain principles, e.g. slavery is unacceptable.

The litter example simply illustrates a different cultural norm in a very homogenous society. The US is profoundly diverse and individualistic.

Besides, the NYC has litter, when Tokyo transit has men reading rape comics on the train. Japanese culture is not perfect, nor is any culture.


Men reading rape comics while keeping to themselves is still less of a nuisance than all the musicians, panhandlers, and people talking to themselves on the NYC subway.

Those who litter when there's a trash can nearby are not demonstrating individualism. They are demonstrating a profound LACK OF CONSCIENTIOUSNESS.

These same people vote too, you know. The nuts have taken over the nuthouse.


If cultures can’t be better than each other than American culture today is no better than it was during slavery.


Idiosyncratic means unique. There are more countries with litter than without.


Fair point. But the laws of economics don't treat people differently just because they are culturally different -- supply, demand, price elasticity, cause-and-effect. If you restrict supply while demand goes up, don't be surprised that the city's real estate prices far outstrip people's incomes.

Similarly, if you loosen the limitations to development, don't be surprised to see prices come down.


If you think there's a lot of litter on the NYC subway, come and visit the Philippines and take a look at most of the streets here. It's an Asian country, but the culture is much, much different from Japan.


I'm not making that comparison because the Philippines are not a developed country like the USA or Japan.


I enjoyed this read a while back.

How I Used Eve Online to Predict the Great Recession (2013) (gamasutra.com) https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16469619


What if I don't want to live in an apartment most of my life?


Pay ~$300k for a house in Tokyo, which will cost you +/- $10k down [+] and ~$1k a month for a mortgage. Japanese underwriting standards would consider this doable at a household income of approximately $2.8k a month or so.

c.f. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGbC5j4pG9w

[+] I realize that number is surprising, and I would have found it surprising up until ~3 weeks ago, but I can assure you that this product is presently commercially available in Tokyo, including to people who do not exactly smash Japanese banks' definition of "desirable client."


You are thinking about this wrong.

For every apartmemt complex that gets built, that is X many LESS people who are competing to buy that suburb house that you love.

The suburbs will still exist. But more appartments in the city means that prices go down for everyone.


Then you should probably not be living in an area where land is in short supply and high demand.


Earn more or move or commute longer.


Or vote and be politically active.

Ignoring that as a rational choice for many people already in expensive areas is just asking for your proposals to fail.

We very frequently talk about the economic value that could be produced by different housing actions, but policy is not purely determined by economic value. I know more people opposed to upzoning because they like their yards and their space than because they're worried about their property values (denser cities in the US are very rarely cheaper).


Or work remotely


Pay up the real value of a house in a city.


I’d be happy to live in a condo, but live in a house instead, because you can’t really build condos here. I’m sure there’s somebody else who would like to live in my house.


Then move out to the suburbs? Don’t force the city to stay suburban to accommodate your snowflake preferences.


Leave. Or ask millions of people to kindly stop existing.


Then you will be ostracized on HN for not being pro-urban.


No one is ostracized, just confronted with economic reality of competition for space and the laws that distort it. I love living in a house but it’s a little silly to mandate that a house is the only thing that can legally be built on land that’s valued at over $2M/acre.


Aesthetic reasons are the worst reason to be anti-urban.


What are some other cities which are in-demand but have plentiful housing. Berlin? Montréal?


Not sure what the definition of plentiful is but Chicago is a great city and housing is far less expensive than other cities of similar size and with lots of stuff to do/eat. Doesn't have mountains or coastal California weather, so you win some you lose some. Seasons are nice though.


And the residents complain of high property taxes. They may not realise the blessing.


Better than prop 13. Also, Illinois has lower state sales and income tax than California (not as low as other places though).


Seems that 'not in my back yard' is a big problem. So what about a rule that says, "If you build a high-density apartment you must financially compensate nearby residents"?


Nearby residents are already compensated. When you build a high density apartment, the value of land near it goes up.


The value of the land goes up, but the potential rental income goes down due to increase in supply. For house-owners the net change in property value will likely be positive, but for apartment-owners it might well be negative.

In any case, support for NIMBY suggests the current level of financial compensation is insufficient.


which will only help the property developers IMHO


Let's also set limits on how much milk farmers can make.

Producing enough milk to fully satisfy demand only helps farmers.


you think developers aren't going to game the system big time


"Sadly, the bill is already encountering opposition from homeowners’ groups, which are no doubt eager to push up their property values."

My impression is that neighborhood groups aren't generally interested in raising property values, but rather in preserving the less-developed neighborhood in which they have invested and chosen to live.


> rather in preserving the less-developed neighborhood in which they have invested and chosen to live.

If they didn't buy the property, they should have absolutely zero say about what kind of housing someone else builds on their property. Central-planning-via-veto (the effective state of USian land use law) is utterly broken in its giving veto authority to the most meddlesome moralistic normies on anything that they might not like, whether it be a cell tower, an apartment building, or bloody clothes lines (not kidding about the latter: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clothes_line#Controversy_in_No...).

That these people (the Twitter thread here has some prime material https://twitter.com/maelig/status/975219562433015808) have the ability to obstruct the construction of housing (to the point that there are people literally living, shitting, and dying in US streets because housing is so unaffordable) is heinous. This is not how well-functioning societies look like.


The UK has a similar homelessness problem as far as I can tell from perusing the BBC. Do you think the causes are the same? I only keep up with the news there so not certain of historical trends except impending Brexit has seemed to have cause a slight dip in housing prices in London.


I agree, it's more the "I got mine, screw everyone else" mentality.


The term for that is NIMBY. Frankly, this is not news. The fact it has such an acronym means it is well established.


I think often it's more complex than that. If prices are high enough in LA, it might actually be a case of "I got mine, screw everyone else" mentality, but I think much more often is more nuanced. People work hard to afford s home, and how do you explain to someone that saved for five plus years to afford a home that because of a new housing policy, it's possible their home could drop quite a bit in value, and not just because of normal cyclical market forces (meaning it could take decades to reach the same real value, if ever)?

It's a hard decision to support legislation or policies that may may hurt double digit percentages of your populace, just because of bad timing on their part.

At the same time, the need for cheaper housing is real. It's just not as simple as rich vs poor.


People were (and many still are) convinced that if black people move in next door, that the value of their house would fall. So they created policies, and acted, both formally and informally, to prevent that. These days most people regard that as horrible and in no way justified. Maybe one day we'll view exclusionary zoning in the same way.

Furthermore, if housing is expensive, adding to the supply won't crater the price like the economy going bust does: at a certain point, people become less enthusiastic about investing in new housing, so it's a much smoother curve that, realistically, is probably not going to crash prices.

In the end, though, you can't have both housing that's affordable, and also treat housing like some kind of investment that's supposed to keep growing and growing in value.


> ... These days most people regard that as horrible and in no way justified.

Sure, but does that mean the family of five that was finally able to afford a home last year after scraping for years should pay for that? They could even be in the same demographic as the original victims of those exclusionary policies.

> Furthermore, if housing is expensive, adding to the supply won't crater the price like the economy going bust does

I'm not so sure, depending on how it's handled. Housing is a free market, and as such it's subject not just to supply and demand, but people's expectations of supply and demand. If I just bought a house and policies were announced that I thought might not just stagnate my house value, but actually reduce it over time, inflation-be-damned, I would be mightily tempted to sell if I had options. Get enough people doing that, and you might have a run-away market drop. The people who mainly benefit from that are those that are poised to take advantage of the situation on short notice (those with money available already and can take advantage of the eventual rebound).

There are obviously ways you could crater the housing market in an area on purpose through policy, so it's not out of the question it could happen accidentally. I'm mainly arguing for people to see both sides and try to prevent that, and soften any blow and be prepared to counter a market that looks to be behaving irrationally.

> In the end, though, you can't have both housing that's affordable, and also treat housing like some kind of investment that's supposed to keep growing and growing in value.

I agree. I just think it's a complex situation that requires nuanced policy and constant attention, and isn't as simple as "build more houses" implies.


> Housing is a free market

I would encourage you to attend some planning hearings, city council meetings, and so on before asserting that. Because it really, really isn't. Look at a zoning map of your city.


I mean the buying and selling of existing houses, not the building of new houses. Those comments are primarily with respect to what could happen to the housing market for existing homes in a city that implements large changes housing policy.


If you believed in principles of free market you wouldn't start by explaining how bad it is for person X that their investment dropped in value.

They made a bet, they lost it.

Someone else made a different bet and won.

That's how free market works. People are free to make bets and they loose or win based on how right they were.

Trying to enact policies that mess with market forces because you want to protect that person who lost the bet is the opposite of free market and also a bad economic policy.

Economists estimate that lack of housing in California is costing us all a lot. From https://www.wsj.com/articles/californias-housing-costs-hurt-...:

> California’s high housing costs are crimping economic productivity, increasing poverty rates, lowering homeownership, increasing crowding and lengthening commute time

This is the cost of protecting the investment of your hypothetical family not paying "unfair" prices.

Not to mention that your hypothetical scenario wouldn't happen if we had reasonable zoning policies to begin with.

The only reason price of a house could significantly go down due to new construction is that we allowed to prices to go up 10x in the past.

If we were building enough to meet the demand, everyone would be paying roughly the same price and price increases would roughly match inflation, not exceed it by miles.


I kind of get his point though: what if all this is pushed to the breaking point, and things snap suddenly?

First of all, I just don't think that will happen. Regulations aren't changing quickly, houses aren't that fast to build, and if prices start to go down, building is going to slow down too.

Second of all, if "the dam breaks", it's only because of years and years of doing the wrong thing, so yeah, it still sucks for whoever gets caught out, but the longer you put off fixing things, the worse it's going to be.


> If you believed in principles of free market you wouldn't start by explaining how bad it is for person X that their investment dropped in value.

Houses are bought and sold on a free market. Houses are so much more than just an investment to the majority of people that purchase them. If you disagree with that, fine. Feel free to work towards changing many decades, if not centuries, of culture.

> They made a bet, they lost it.

There many are reasons why the government, whether it be local, state or federal might not want to punish people that tried to set down roots to establish stability just because other people decided that was a good market to play in, even if the latter group's thinking has infected the former to some degree.

> That's how free market works. People are free to make bets and they loose or win based on how right they were.

Yes. The problem here is that while a free market is agreed upon by many people to be an effective way to make sure the housing market is somewhat fair, it's also a very dangerous way to allow a very important resource to be handled if there are no controls. Would you argue that bread and meat should be allowed to reach 1000% or more the current price in a short period, or should the government step in to stabilize the market because these are essentials for many people? What about electricity? Housing isn't quite on the same level, but it's important and is not some abstract fungible product to the majority of people.

> Trying to enact policies that mess with market forces because you want to protect that person who lost the bet is the opposite of free market and also a bad economic policy.

No, providing stabilizing controls to markets is not bad economic policy. If you think so, perhaps we should abolish the Federal Reserve, and just let the market do what it wants? How bad can it get? Geez, why did we even start the Fed anyway...

> If we were building enough to meet the demand, everyone would be paying roughly the same price and price increases would roughly match inflation, not exceed it by miles.

Then let's do that, and let's look to make sure we're actually doing that by tracking demand, and prices, and trying to make sure we make informed decisions.

Has a single thing I've said lead to you believe I'm not for that? Because I'm pretty sure I've advocated for exactly that type of thing in every comment.


.


No, it's not, because regular people don't buy a lifetime worth of food or electricity and pay it off over 20-30 years.

It's about keeping the market from playing havoc with your populace, whether that's through a large rise or large drop.

The rest of your comment is just an extrapolation of that failed comparison.


.


> Even IF people bought a lifetime worth of food or electricity, I still wouldn't care. A 90% decrease in costs for food and electricity would STILL save 10s of thousands of lives every year.

And yet the "saving lives" portion of this comparison only works with food, and a select other few items. Do I really have to explain why making a comparison between items and using a feature that only exists within the compared to situation makes for a poor comparison?

Are you saving millions, or even hundreds, of lives by dropping house prices immediately in a locale instead of looking for policies that both create housing (hopefully affordable) while also trying to reduce the most egregious losses from the middle class?

To be clear, again, I'm not against allowing house prices to drop, and I'm not against building more housing. I'm for a considered approach that tries to reduce extreme negative impact for people who would also have a hard time dealing with a large drop in their home price? Because I'm having a hard time understanding why people are so averse to trying to find a best possible option instead of just doing the thing that immediately just sounds like the simple thing to do.

Feel free to have the last comment. On this topic, I think I'm done telling people over and over again how they've ignored the actual point of my argument only to have them double down.


> because of a new housing policy, it's possible their home could drop quite a bit in value

Is that even true though? If an area can become more densely zoned because of higher demand, isn't your property more valuable now? I could probably sell my house with 1-acre plot (I don't have one, just hypothetically) for a lot more if a condo developer were allowed to build on it.


What you elaborate is no different from "I got mine, screw everyone else".


No, what I elaborate is a policy level decision to reduce extreme negative impact to one group of people while providing benefit to another. You know, the regular push and pull of government where when it's running well officials try to balance aspects of what they are doing so that the overall impact is both a net positive while also reduce extreme spikes of negativity (and positivity, unless those people were really having it bad!) for any particular group.

I'm honestly surprised how a comment that essentially says "hey, it's actually a bit more complicated than the caricature often put forth for a solution and paying attention to that and reducing negative outcomes is worthwhile" is seen as so contentious.


Those are all real risks of homeownership that we can't just handwave away with misguided NIMBY legislation. The first step is coming to grips with the reality that homeownership isn't a magical risk-free investment.


If developers were given the chance they would turn every plot of land into a Kowloon walled city.

We need someone pushing the other way to keep some spaces livable.


We do, but clearly the balance right now is far too much in the favour of the naked self interest of shameless home owners. I mean a place to live is not a luxury, it's up there with food and water.


And if you're starving and there is free food one block over you go and eat there.

There is plenty of very cheap land to live in. The problem is that no one wants to live there because living in dense cities for whatever reason is extremely appealing now.

The price of a house grows exponentially with the minimum travel time to a metropolis from it.

Blaming home owners for this is very useful scapegoating while ignoring the context.


"Whatever reason" is because the quality of life in an urban area is much higher than in a rural "cheap" area. Jobs are centered in urban areas, you can eliminate a huge commute by living close to work, clawing back hours of your life. For those who are unable to afford a car the rich transit options available in urban areas are life lines to school, work, a community. Cheaper areas can be massive voids where go to the grocery store or post office is a 30 minutes round trip car ride.


>And if you're starving and there is free food one block over you go and eat there.

Well most people generally want to do better than that, surprisingly enough.

> The problem is that no one wants to live there because living in dense cities for whatever reason is extremely appealing now

People want a better quality of life, is that not obvious? Not only that but its better for the environment as well. You don't need a car in London, but you definitely do in suburbia.

>The price of a house grows exponentially with the minimum travel time to a metropolis from it.

It becomes exponentially more expensive as you get further away from the city? I don't think that's true, and I don't know what the relevance is to the discussion anyway.

>Blaming home owners for this is very useful scapegoating while ignoring the context.

What context? You've provided none. Home owners aren't the problem, home owners who seek to deny people affordable housing are the problem. It's selfishness, plain and simple.


Most people who are starving will eat rats if given the chance. What you're complaining about isn't a human right, it's bells and whistles on top of a luxury. There are plenty of places that you can afford to buy a house. As you've said you don't want to do it because it isn't as nice.

So you've gone from necessities to Veblen goods. This is as daft as expecting the government to build gold toilets for everyone because the quality of toilets is so much higher when they are gold.

As for your point in suburbia: it's easy enough to build a high-rise anywhere. They aren't being build because people don't want them.


> The problem is that no one wants to live there because living in dense cities for whatever reason is extremely appealing now.

I think you answered the "whatever reason" with your next sentence.

> The price of a house grows exponentially with the minimum travel time to a metropolis from it.

Jobs are in metropolises and people prefer shorter commutes over longer ones.


As someone who lives in the center of a large city: no. It's not the work commute. It's everything else.

Having a coffee shop at the bottom of my lift. Having 4 super markets within walking distance. Having 200+ restaurants to pick from. Museums when I get bored, book shops, theaters, cinemas, meetups, hacker spaces the list goes on.

Having to commute for an hour would give me enough time to wake up. My previous job was 5 minutes walking from where I lived, my current one is 8. I take a detour through a park to make it 30 so I can drink a coffee before I get in.

That people are complaining that they can't afford that and making it into an issue on the same level as getting food and drink is ridiculous.

Housing prices are a systemic problem that needs to be addressed. The way to address it is by cutting demand. Build up infrastructure in rural areas so I can actually get decent internet, that bridges don't feel like they will fall down if I drive over them too quickly. Change the regulations so only livable units are built in cities. Change the requirements that non-citizens can't own more than 50% of a dwelling. There is a huge number of tweaks that could solve the housing affordability problem.


Cutting demand is what California has been trying since the '70s. It's a failed approach.


> The price of a house grows exponentially with the minimum travel time to a metropolis from it.

10 minutes away: $1,000,000

20 minutes away: $2,000,000?

60 minutes away: $32,000,000?


P_0 * exp(-k*d)

Where P_0 is the price in the heart of the city, d is the effective distance to the heart of the city and k is a factor to get units matching up.


Usually saying one quantity "grows with" another quantity would mean that one rising causes the other to rise, not fall.


> If developers were given the chance they would turn every plot of land into a Kowloon walled city.

No, they obviously wouldn't. Look at Houston, where zoning is near nonexistent, and density is similar to or lower than most of the US.

This argument is actually an example of the extreme hyperbole that homeowners will resort to.


A large influx of people into your area is almost guaranteed to lower your quality of life, either by increased crime, or just by increased congestion, increased noise, decreased property values, and possible demographic shifts that marginalize your culture.

To minimize these concerns in the way you do seems non-productive and can only lead to more polarization.

These types of initiatives stem from Agenda 21 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agenda_21 proponents that, while advocating many admirable things, tend to completely ignore the feelings of the populations they are intent on engineering a radically different future for.

I am saddened that the dream we all shared of allowing small towns to once again flourish, because knowledge workers could be located anywhere on the planet, are being quickly forgotten in favor of ultra-dense citiscapes.


If you're worried infill will cause cultural degradation, then perhaps your culture is not well suited to centralisation. That is, not suited to city living. Why else use Tokyo as an example of the success of infill? Japan is famous for it's low (petty at least) crime rate

The point of decreased property values is even mentioned in the article as desirable and here you are saying it isn't. The objective here is to make housing affordable, not the preservation of wealth centres.


This is the definition of "vaguely racist": "increased crime... and possible demographic shifts that marginalize your culture"

Don't want none of them other demographics moving here to increase the crime, and marginalize the culture.


. . . It wasn't, though? He could easily be talking about Midwesterners moving there, too. He never brought up race, and thinking "Increased crime rates!? Demographic shifts by [Anything can go here, try "Neoconservatives" or "Neoliberals" or "Social Conservatives" or "Fiscally Conservative Liberals"]??!? HE MUST BE THINKING ABOUT [RACE]!"

I think they're not the racist one here.


They could've been, but they weren't.

I wasn't calling it "explicitly racist", I was calling it "vaguely racist" because, while we all new what they were implying, They didn't come out and say it. Ergo "vaguely racist".

Nobody is talking about "neoconservative demographic shifts" causing problems in cities in this article. The demographic referred to is "poor people".

But please continue being intentionally obtuse for the purpose of calling me a racist.


> They could've been, but they weren't.

> I wasn't calling it "explicitly racist", I was calling it "vaguely racist" because, while we all new what they were implying, They didn't come out and say it. Ergo "vaguely racist".

You're saying that "poor people" can't include Caucasians and Asians, then?

Midwesterners are quite notable for being both neoconservatives and poor, along with (generally) being majority-white. He could have easily been referring to them. What made you associate "Poor people" and "Racist"? Poor people are a demographic.


> Midwesterners are quite notable for being both neoconservatives and poor

No, they aren't, especially the former.


They very much are - Reagan's loved and Cheney even moreso in the Midwest. Both of which are notable neocons. [0]

And economically, they're on average more poor than a lot of areas. See "County Level Poverty." [1] And if you're comparing wages between the two, Midwesterners make significantly less on average than those on the West Coast.

Although I was moreout giving an example and sticking with it for the sake of the main argument to begin with.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoconservatism

[1] https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/rural-economy-population/rur...


Thanks, those obvious points really needed references. And come on... SF is the last place a Midwestern neocon would consider!


Is that bad? If someone lives in a community that is 90% their race, with their neighbors listening to their kind of music, engaging in their kind of activities, going to the same kind of events, not wanting to become a 10% minority? It would be like a Chinese person not wanting to move to India or vice versa.


I actually thought of rich ultra-competitive types (or "techies") pushing out locals.


Yeah, except that the quality of tech jobs is such that it does the opposite of those things.

This person is not describing gentrification, in fact, they're describing being avidly opposed to the opposite of gentrification.


Your critics are correct that you have failed in your attempt to read my mind. You should not have needed to, so let me be more clear.

Demographic shifts forced on an area by an unelected bureaucracy are almost guaranteed to be detrimental to the lifestyle the residents enjoyed prior to the shift. Whether that is gentrification pushing up property tax, low income housing pushing up crime rate, large influx of practitioners of non-tolerant religions who verbally and physically assault resident women dressed to western standards, or even large influx of young western professionals who don't respect the religion that was previously dominant in the area before.

Neighborhoods are a sum of their parts, and those who choose to live in them, choose them because they like them the way they are.

Overriding the wishes of those people to push your own agenda can be necessary for a city, perhaps, but should never be dismissive to the point of blaming and shaming the original residents to assuage your own guilt.


>This person is not describing gentrification

Are you sure?

> A large influx of people into your area is almost guaranteed to [lead to] possible demographic shifts that marginalize your culture.

Gentrification sure sounds like an instance of that, and I've been hearing about techies pushing out hippies and artists for about as long as I've been old enough to pay attention. The fear of cultural change in SF is a constant enough thread in SF that a knee-jerk reaction that it's racial seems like an uncharitable reading.


If you look at any crime heat map of a city, you will note, hopefully with no surprise, that crime rate is inversely proportional to income distribution. If low income housing enters an area, the crime will go up. You may be fine with that, but you have to imagine that the already established residents of that area might not wish their crime rate to increase. Calling those concerns selfish is just name calling.


Yeah, You'll notice I called what you said racist, specifically because your statement didn't tie what you were saying to income, but instead to "demographics".


“Demographics can refer to any subdivision of a population, it’s not a synonym for “race”.


> I am saddened that the dream we all shared of allowing small towns to once again flourish, because knowledge workers could be located anywhere on the planet, are being quickly forgotten in favor of ultra-dense citiscapes.

It was always a futile dream, mostly propagated by people who themselves enjoy small towns and certainly not "shared by all". It turns out that many knowledge workers actually like big cities for the leisure options, health services, people and neighbourhood diversity, much bigger selection of potential life partners, and high availability of jobs.


Circular? Remote workers means, there aren't more jobs just because you're in a city. As for neighborhoods, an expanding cityscape of just more apartment blocks means no neighborhoods at all.

As for leisure options, a beach shared by 1M other people is not much of an option. Living in Colorado has orders of magnitude more leisure options for instance.


Isn’t that why Colorado cities are some of the hottest markets to be in right now? I’ve heard a lot of complaining from people in Denver, Boulder, Aspen, etc.


If the lot your house sits on in rezoned to allow for taller buildings your property’s value will very likely go up.

It is definitely less conveneient to have to move out of your house and wait for something bigger to be built.


Cities are built on network effects. It's the suburbs specifically that are conceived and designed such that growth and diversity destroys value.


> A large influx of people into your area is almost guaranteed to lower your quality of life

Speak for yourself. My quality of life has been very positively correlated with population density. It's why I'm settling down on the east side of San Francisco, and I'm eagerly awaiting the new development there.


...guaranteed to lower your quality of life...

This is why many people (not me!) support draconian immigration restrictions.


I assume you are talking about Japan and Israels immigration restrictions. I support their right to them, personally, but I know there are many Americans who riot and march because those countries restrict their immigration so carefully.


No, I was thinking of an American politician who has been in the news quite a bit, who is a big opponent of immigration. He really represents the values of his NIMBY supporters.


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