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A proposal to roll back exclusionary zoning would make housing more affordable (bloomberg.com)
160 points by petethomas 65 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 183 comments



In Japan, zoning is handled federally; and the result is much more affordable cities.

"Why Tokyo is the land of rising home construction but not prices" https://www.ft.com/content/023562e2-54a6-11e6-befd-2fc0c26b3...

An overview of zoning practices there: http://urbankchoze.blogspot.com/2014/04/japanese-zoning.html


Federal zoning would be really difficult to get done constitutionally, but state level zoning wouldn’t be as hard and would have most of the same benefits, ie. reducing the power the nimbys.

However there’s no reason to think that would fix it all, transportation planning, design, and funding is almost entirely a state and federal affair, and the nimbys still torpedo all sorts of things that would be great for the region at the expense of a particular neighborhood or block.

To some extent though, that’s a feature of democracy, not a bug. There are a bunch of reasons we’re in the mess we’re in, and federal programs and subsidies contribute a lot. The threat to take away federal funding for places that don’t accept housing growth may be more effective than a brute force approach in the end, who knows.


The threat to take away federal funding for places that don’t accept housing growth may be more effective than a brute force approach in the end, who knows.

I believe this is similar to the approach the feds used to move the drinking age to 21 [1], and the old nationwide 55 mph speed limit [2]. They didn't force states to create laws, just said "Federal highway funding will be drastically reduced to states that do not meet X" and magically, this was done.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Minimum_Drinking_Age_...

2. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/07/four-ti...


Both of those are regarded as examples of the federal government acting outside its authority by a lot of people.


Right. There’s no need to take this “all the way to the top” (ie Federal). States can easily supplant the zoning powers of their local governments.


Won't happen. The Nimbys have all of the money and can influence the votes in extraordinary ways. Look at Seattle, they won't budge and we have an enormous amount of single family housing. Our mayor is also nearly entirely useless as well, and seemingly only cares about sports teams.

The amount of propaganda that would be pushed out to crush any changes to zoning would be on historic levels.


AB 2923, which overrides local zoning in order to allow BART to develop on its parking lots, recently passed both houses in California, despite NIMBY objections. And the Housing Accountability Act, which NIMBYs loathe, has long been law (and was even strengthened relatively recently).

Renters are a growing political force.


> Renters are a growing political force.

Renters (often under rent control) are NIMBYs as well, don't understand or are convinced that supply and demand don't apply to housing.


> Renters (often under rent control) are often NIMBYs as well

This is a very SF-specific view of the world. :)

Rent control is specific to just a handful of locations and is often subject to statewide restrictions (e.g. Costa-Hawkins). In general, renters are less inclined toward NIMBYism. This is especially true for the younger ones, who don't benefit as much from RC even in the locations where it exists. And even rent controlled tenants don't like the fact that they can't move.


It applies beyond just California. It's in NY as well, and I wouldn't be surprised if there were more locations.


I'm in Los Angeles, where it is a factor.


Rent control is almost exclusive to California and New York. Ref: http://www.landlord.com/rent_control_laws_by_state.htm


Your link doesn't support your claim, as it indicates rent control exists in D.C., several cities in Maryland, over 100 jurisdictions in N.J., as well as a smaller (but still large) number of jurisdictions in NY and almost a dozen in CA (there's also some more in CA listed in a heading of “other than rent control”, which seems likely to be intended to indicate something that is not rent control but raises some similar issues for landlords, but the links all appear to be dead links, so the actual specific meaning is less than clear.)

So, if it's “almost exclusive” to any pair of states, it's New Jersey and New York, not NY and CA.

(The source is also inaccurate in at least one respect, in that NY by the description given on the page and CA due to Costa-Hawkins both meet the criteria for a “Yes” in State Prohibits or Preempts Rent Control column, but both have blanks in that column.)


To clarify, I meant “easily” in terms of fewer legal barriers. Political barriers is indeed a whole other issue.


Depends on the state. Some states are pro-growth, some are not.


>States can easily supplant the zoning powers of their local governments.

Depends on how home rule is set up in that state's constitution.


Most state constitutions are relatively simple to amend. Certainly much easier than the U.S. Constitution.


And they do; see the Housing Accountability Act in California, for example.


>To some extent though, that’s a feature of democracy, not a bug

Because of strategic (cynical?) choices over how voter registration is implement, tenants have far less power at the polls.


Yeah I know, it’s far from perfect. This is the fundamental problem with democracy, you get power blocs that can turn out 51% of a vote and then legislate things that aren’t good for everyone else.

But my point is that, suppose you are a low income neighborhood and the state naturally wants to blow up your houses to put in a freeway — because they know they can’t get it put through the rich neighborhoods. Shouldn’t you still have the right to fight that?

Ex: https://www.strongtowns.org/shreveport/


There is a hack to it: abolish zoning altogether. Replace it with sanitary codes


> Federal zoning would be really difficult to get done constitutionally

Would it? I feel like this has Commerce Clause uber alles written all over it.


How is zoning about interstate commerce?


"How is <x> about interstate commerce?" is a question that's been asked by reasonable people for many values of x that've been before the Supreme Court.

In other words, don't ask me. Ask SCOTUS. They've used the Commerce Clause to justify regulations on activities that were far less obviously about interstate commerce than zoning is, most famously in Wickard_v._Filburn, which restricts a farmers right to grow wheat on his own property for his own consumption, which, according to the court, is indeed an example of interstate commerce.

My statement, in other words, has nothing to do with my own interpretation of those rulings. It's merely an acknowledgement of them. It's not difficult to think of ways in which local zoning restrictions affect national commerce. And that's been good enough for the Court in the past, it seems.


I feel like this is the case for a lot of the differences between the US and other countries. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as "just make the Federal government do it for everyone".

The constitution limits the authority of what the Federal government can do in the US and delegates everything else to state and local governments.


What people are thinking is to do it at the state level (California, Oregon). There are no restrictions on what states can do relative to cities. (In other words, if a city can do it a state can too, cities are entirely creatures of the state, there is no real 'federalism' below the state level.)

This HUD effort would be more minor, something like removing some zoning restrictions in order to get federal dollars. The existing political entities (probably cities) would then have to pass those rules to get the money.


> There are no restrictions on what states can do relative to cities.

Just because the restrictions on this are not in the federal Constitution doesn't mean they don't exist; just as the federal Constitution has rules on State-Federal power balance, State constitutions often have rules on State-local power balance.

State Constitutions are usually procedurally easier to amend than the federal one, though, so, the barriers, though real, are smaller.


Are the State governments the problem here though? From what I(not American) can tell the issue seems to be more that local residents have a surprising(to me) amount of political control over zoning on the municipal level. I guess this is all part of the American approach to the distribution of power and there are certainly good sides to this, but it also means that NIMBYs can have so much control by voting for the mayor that supports their issues.


Cities are legally an extension of the states, so states could take control over the process, but you're right, as far as I know municipalities (cities, counties, townships) have almost total control over zoning standards (at least here in Michigan).


Which means there are about 1500 separate zoning standards (they are largely the same, but a wind energy project might have to work with 2 or more townships to get permitting).

I wonder about a state law creating a new type of township that is totally subordinate to the county (dissolving all functions of the township). Would it be a good thing? What are the pitfalls, etc.


Plenty of states have the concept of unincorporated land.


But states can just decide. They usually leave it to the cities, but all they have to do is pass legislation and it will override all the city rules.


It's tough politics for state legislatures to say "fuck you, cities, we're centralizing control in {Austin,Springfield,Albany}". They will essentially only do it if they are fearful of challenges in the next election by big money. In other words, states tend only to take over traditionally local issues when local government passes some ordinance odious to industry (see fracking in PA, Uber/Lyft background checks in Austin, etc.)


NIMBY's have practically all of the power with zoning laws in Seattle. They have all of the money as well. We have a crazy amount of SFH right now when we have a housing crisis.

It's not like housing would become more affordable anyway, Seattle only builds luxury housing for the rich (and they're having a hard time filling these units!).


> It's not like housing would become more affordable anyway, Seattle only builds luxury housing for the rich (and they're having a hard time filling these units!).

They only build luxury housing because housing supply is restricted and the rich can outbid the poor for that restricted development.

And no, they aren't having a hard time filling units.


>And no, they aren't having a hard time filling units.

Seattle Times says otherwise.

https://www.seattletimes.com/business/real-estate/free-amazo...


That's like saying I'm having a hard time becoming a billionaire. Of course I am...but that in no way implies I'm having a tough time paying my bills.


Building housing for the rich has a displacing effect. Either they are locals and their old place goes to sale or rent or they no longer displace existing residents. And absent sweetheart deals incoming rich with their increased tax revenues should allow the city to upgrade public transit, build public housing or other solutions. But it is up to the city to solve their problems.

Apparently in Boston contrary to concerns luxury high rises didn't act as gentrification locuses but stemmed its tide in other areas instead.


Houses are generally built for/by the richer class. Then in a few tens of years the rich build a new house and sell the old one to someone poor.


Even if it were handled at the state level you'd see a big improvement with municipalities playing games to get "the wrong sort of people" to more to the next town over.


You could easily make an argument that lack of proper zoning in California has resulted in people moving elsewhere and that invokes the interstate commerce clause.


Someone moving to another state is not interstate commerce.


> The constitution limits the authority of what the Federal government can do in the US

I wish. If that was true I'd be much happier with politics than I am.


Your response only makes sense if the there are no constitutionally enforced limits on the powers of the federal government vs. state governments. The Medicare portion of the ACA being struck down by the Supreme Court is a notable counterexample to your comment. The check on federal powers may not go as far as you like but laughing in response to the comment that was made is in poor taste.


> The Medicare portion of the ACA being struck down by the Supreme Court is a notable counterexample to your comment.

Except that, AFAICT, didn't happen. (Though there is a current challenge to the Constitutionality of the Medicare changes, among other things.)

You may be thinking of the mandatory (for continued state participation in Medicaid) expansion of Medicaid portion of the ACA being made optional rather than mandatory by the Supreme Court.

Of course, one could argue that is an example that is arbitrary and, while it certainly evidences judicial limits, is hard to connect to it's Constitutional pretext, as it explicitly requires that both pre-expansion Medicaid are post-expansion Medicaid are Constitutional federal programs, but that Congress is somehow barred from replacing one with the others except by consent of the individual participating state.


I didn't mean any disrespect, but fair enough. Edited my original comment.


Housing in Japan is culturally unique. The average house depreciates completely after just 22 years. People just don't buy used houses.

It's folly to compare zoning rules when the spirit of the law is so different.


This is a big difference between the two. I'm totally ok with Japanese zoning, if we get Japanese depreciation and all housing is required to become worthless after 2 decades.

However, YIMBYs only want half of that -- they want Japanese zoning, with American infinite appreciation. Which is disastrous to basically everyone who works for a living.


> YIMBYs want [...] American infinite appreciation.

I'd appreciate a source on this. Most self-identified YIMBYs I've met in San Francisco would be ecstatic if housing prices stabilized or fell – in fact that's one of their primary objectives.

Vocal YIMBYs I've met are either (1) young people who don't own property, for whom the current stratospheric prices are out of reach, or (2) employers who have to convince those young people to come and work in the Bay Area, despite the unbearably high cost of real estate.


Are these really YIMBYs? Do they own the property they want to live in (ie is it their back yard?), or are they renting nearby and want to own a nicer property?

I'm certainly not arguing that some markets need resetting, but as parent says, this isn't what the people who want this want. They'll sell progressively crappier and crappier property because that's what property markets will bear when unregulated.

The only way to depreciate without lowering quality is area decline. Sounds awful but I honestly think some places need this. If they keep growing, keep sucking in high paid jobs, the lower classes (that the upper classes need) won't be able to afford to live where they need to.


The property and land owners in areas like this want to flip everything for the highest possible amount of money. They have no long term interest in it remaining their back yard.

You might argue that it might become self-limiting based on what the market will bear... But looking at London, and the awful living conditions at the bottom end of the market only confirms that once you have critical mass, and people need to live somewhere, vendors and landlords can get away with murder and somebody will still chuck money at them.


I'm for Japanese zoning, and Japanese anything else, provided we make everyone "Japanese" first: bred with the same common code of decency.

Also, Japan is NIMBY at the national level, as in "not on my island". For instance, accepting few refugees.

Smart in other ways, not just the zoning, you see. They protect their culture.


Ah, the classic "only monocultures can work toward the social good, if we'd stop accepting 'outsiders' we could do the same" trope. It's tired and xenophobic. The presence of foreigners isn't why laws that benefit already-wealthy real estate developers persist.


Exclusionary zoning developed in response to Supreme Court cases striking down state laws making it illegal for african americans to buy property in majority white neighborhoods: https://tcf.org/content/commentary/exclusionary-zoning-conti...

People are racist and xenophobic, we know that. It’s not xenophobic to point out that, within a democratic framework, peoples’ racism and xenophobia, coupled with a hetrogenous population, could make it difficult to implement policies that more homogenous populations implement successfully.

For example, one mah argue that our justice system is strongly influenced by racism (an uncontroversial assertion, I think) and that’s a major reason why our voters prefer harsher sentencing and more aggressive policing than in Western Europe.


That's right; so why would Japan have developed exclusionary zoning, when the question doesn't even arise that the vast majority your neighbors will be other than Japanese wherever you go, with the help of national policies that help keep it that way.


I don't understand the question. Japan is intensely racist and xenophobic, probably significantly more so than the US.


>Japan is intensely racist

Would you care to provide some substance to this claim? You're tarring over a hundred million people with a very nasty brush.


See below, written 10 hours before your question. There is still overt, broadly-recognized and tolerated ethnic and hereditary discrimination in Japan, not just in hiring and school admissions but in stuff as basic as housing. Japan appears to be stuck in the 1960s in terms of public policy on this issue.


Below is a discussion of Burakumin and ethnic Koreans in Japan, which doesn't appear to be racially predicated, unless you're operating under an unusual definition of race. You've specifically claimed that "Japan" is "intensely racist". Are you going to claim that Koreans and/or Burakumin are racially distinct from Japanese?


Whatever semantic thread you're trying to cling to in order to keep this argument alive, I'm not interested.


No, please, it's not semantics, I'm directly refuting your claim. If burakumin and ethnic Koreans in Japan aren't racially distrinct from Japanese people, then discriminatory treatment of those people isn't racism. Your example doesn't support your claim. I'm inviting you to please explain how the example supports your claim. Maybe a good start would be providing an operational definition of "racist", as in "Japan is intensely racist".


Japan is intensely racist. My spouse lived there for a year. When she went about her business outside, small children who saw her would literally burst into tears screaming to their parents about gaijin.


That never happened to me, and I have been living there for 8 years now.

But I would agree that Japan is generally racist, as in most Japanese believe there are fundamental differences between people due to what they call race. I am not sure whether most Japanese would consider Korean a different race, but I would not be surprised either.


Their point was that Japan is ethnically and culturally homogeneous enough that they don't feel the need to implement exclusionary zoning, regardless of how racist and xenophobic the general population is.


Japan is neither ethnically nor culturally homogenous despite an image at home or abroad regarding this; see Sugimoto’s Japanese Society if you want a book-length takedown of it.

For an example of how this affects who can live where and how where one lives affects non-residential opportunities, you can read up on burakumin (a disfavored heredity pseudo caste). Burakumin status still exposes one to highly non-trivial societal discrimination, and is primarily observable based on “Have you or yours ever lived in a burakumin neighborhood?” This makes e.g. historical maps which mark out burakumin neighborhoods into socially contentious informational hazards; Google Maps had to take them down after a (utterly well founded) fear that at least some employers and schools would cross-reference neighborhoods with current or historical applicant residential addresses and then go full Harvard University on them.

Similar observations can be made about ethnic Koreans, Japan’s rapidly growing population of long-term resident foreigners, etc.


Key word is "ethnically and culturally homogeneous enough". And since we're talking about political policy here, domestic image is what matters here.

The actual numbers are not known because they aren't collected as part of the census, but the government estimates that upwards of 98% of the population is "ethnically" Japanese. Furthermore, many of the ethnic Koreans that you mention, as well as ethnic Chinese (the next biggest group, as I'm sure you already know), are culturally fairly assimilated, even if many are second class (non)citizens in the eyes of laws and much of society.


My understanding is that this is not in fact true: there are significant populations of disfavored minorities in urban Japan.


It's much nicer to live densely when your 100s of neighbors within earshot don't play music loudly, let their dogs bark, sit on the street playing drums at midnight, etc. like in the USA.


I just got back from Japan and it is always surprising whenever I first get into town how quiet everything/everyone is both in their homes and walking around.

A major factor there is the lack of cars (and higher buildings to wall out car noise from highways) compared to where I live, but even so people are just quiet. It was weird for a while, but coming back to the states I really miss it.


Calling something a "tired and xenophobic trope" doesn't make it not true. On your second point, there's actually a strong argument to be made that it does. The more racially divided a region is, the more likely politics will split down racial instead of evonomic lines. Was California more economically egalitarian before or after mass hispanic immigration?


How exactly do laws that prevent development benefit developers?


Laws that limit development benefit developers. The few that develop get to develop something that fetches an inflated market value due to low supply and high demand. It's the same way dairy "supply management" in Canada gets dairy farmers a higher price for milk.


Granted, but a decreasing population and a growing number of uninhabited houses sure doesn’t add to housing pressure.

So it helps, but it may not account for all of it.


That's not true for Tokyo, which has been growing rapidly for 30 years now. Yet Tokyo's prices have remained flat during that time.


You can't just cherry pick a single factor: Tokyo sprawls, but it's not especially dense. It has smaller buildings, much smaller apartments, and higher costs per square foot. Japan has better transit than the west, which makes long-distance commutes feasible. Moreover, there's a culture (and a tax system) that treats housing as a depreciating asset. On top of all of that, the Japanese tend to live together in communal units, with children living with parents long past the point where it would be considered okay in the west. And housing is still expensive relative to the local economy (which has been depressed for 30 years, by the way).

All of these factors (and more) result in the housing economy you see in Japan. HN people love to fixate on zoning, but it's not even close to the whole story. If we suddenly asked westerners to live the way Japanese people do, there would be open revolt and riots in the streets.


Fixation on anything other than housing supply is fixating on irrelevant noise. That includes density...there are plenty of dense cities that nonetheless restrict new supply and are thus unaffordable. Other affordable first world cities have accomplished the same thing as Tokyo via other means, including social housing (Vienna, Singapore), sprawl (Houston, Louisville), and density (Chicago, Montreal).

There is one thing they all have in common: they all allow housing supply to meet demand. Anything else is a distraction.


"Fixation on anything other than housing supply is fixating on irrelevant noise. That includes density."

That's like "fixating" on the money supply. Sure, having more of it lowers prices. The point is: how do you get there? What are the side-effects of your proposal? These are not simple questions.

Fixating on zoning, at the exclusion of all other considerations, is a facile answer.


Zoning is the primary means by which supply is restricted in the US. That isn't facile, that is ordinary root cause analysis and reasoning in action.

Japan is proof that zoning doesn't have to represent a restriction on housing supply. But don't just dismiss Tokyo because you think other cultural factors are at play: Montreal, Chicago, Dallas, Calgary, and plentiful other US/Canadian cities have confirmed what Tokyo has already taught us.


Chicago is cheap because the city lost nearly a million people in the last 60 years. But if you limit it to the places folks moving to the city move, it is not cheap.

Chicago city average really hides the fact that the places most people would consider living in Chicago aren't super cheap; still cheap-ish when compared to other coastal cities


Is there any data to support that Tokyo has more affordable apartment than New York?

I have seen numbers compare rental price of 1/2/3 bedroom(s) in Tokyo to New York [1,2], but I do not trust those numbers, because they do not have the size of the apartment. I think it really matters, because apartments in Tokyo could be much smaller than those in NYC. I don't have a statistics for this, but there is an example [3].

OK. I found a table of comparison by sq instead of # of bedrooms [4].

[1] https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_cities.jsp?cou...

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/one-bedroom-apartme...

[3] https://www.lifewhereimfrom.com/lwif-x-ep4-what-is-an-averag...

[4] https://resources.realestate.co.jp/buy/average-rent-in-tokyo...


Tokyo is anomalous to the entire world.

There is no city like it in terms of population density. It is literally NYC + LA + Chicago, the largest 3 US metropolises, combined.

It would make more sense to use a remotely comparable city for comparison, like Osaka (still larger than any US metro)


> because they do not have the size of the apartment. I think it really matters, because apartments in Tokyo could be much smaller than those in NYC.

No, it doesn't matter to most people. A country with smaller apartments will have smaller appliances, smaller computers, etc. - like Japan.


Japan and China also have one national building code. A very different issue, yes, but should aimpkify the challenge of construction technology (in the US building codes are localized)


All of the heavily populated areas in Japan have a similar climate and risk of natural disasters. Those factors are much more variable in the USA. A building code that works in San Francisco to protect against earthquakes would be ineffective in Miami where the risks are flooding and wind.


Japan is also the unique case of a developed country with declining population. That must contribute to the higher availability of affordable housing, right?


Far from unique. Look at Europe.


The aging population is countered by powerful forces:

- movement into few urban mega-centers (you can't even say "into cities" because there are plenty of cities with little or even negativ population gain)

- immigration (e.g. see https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-immigration/immig...) -- and they mostly want into the already crowded areas, of course

- aging population needs different homes than young families


The charts at the top are eye opening. More and more of our income is going to pay for pieces of land. Unlike computers, TVs, and even troublesome areas like healthcare the land is not getting better and better. It’s instead a purely zero sum game.

We probably can’t eliminate the scourge of land rents altogether but we can stop making the problem worse by putting in place more and more policies designed to raise housing prices rather than lower them. Such policies are exactly the opposite of what the government should strive for.


Because we can make more computers, execute more healthcare services, etc. Land is a zero sum game; we have a fixed amount, and while it's possible to create more, it's prohibitively expensive to do so.

Add to it, land is the primary method by which "old money" remains in that category.


> Land is a zero sum game; we have a fixed amount, and while it's possible to create more, it's prohibitively expensive to do so.

Yes, but that sum in the US is huge. Drive around the midwest or any region outside of an urban core and its empty space as far as the eye can see.

The problem is large-scale economic and demographic changes. The US used to have:

* A culture that prized living in suburbia away from dense areas.

* Labor-intensive agriculture that provided a lot of jobs in rural areas.

* Labor-intensive manufacturing that provided a lot of jobs in a large number of smaller cities.

All of those forces encouraged the population to spread out. Those forces are evaporating. The suburbs are now seen as soulless sources of miserable commutes. Automation and consolidation has dramatically reduced the number of farm employees needed for a given square acre of land. Automation and cheap imports from other countries have eliminated manufacturing jobs.

Without those forces counterbalancing things, there is a strong trend towards consolidating into large metropolises which can't absorb the growth that quickly.

We can try to stuff every more dense housing in those cities and gradually turn them into concrete boxes. Some amount of densification is good. But instead of investing almost entirely in that, I really wish the US was working to try to make small and mid-size cities more desirable too.


> large metropolises which can't absorb the growth

They choose not to.

> more dense housing in those cities… turn them into concrete boxes

A "US NIMBY-like" viewpoint. Paris is denser than the average city and lovely, as are many EU cities. US cities designed before the car took over usually nicer and more space-efficient as well, but are few and mostly on the East coast.


Suburbia is a short term and unsustainable model. The long term costs of purposefully watering down your economic activity per infrastructure dollar is horrible.


why? just because you grew up that way? stop fighting it. lots of sprawl/small-cities is bad. to put it a little (but not a lot) hyperbolically: we should retreat to megalopolises and declare everything else state parks.


The US isn't particularly space constrained. In city cores the lack of space is significant. For most of the country, there's plenty of room to build.


Distance costs money or time (basically the same thing at the macro level). When you have things spread out people need to eat the large opportunity cost of forgoing jobs or other opportunities that are far away or spent a lot of time and money commuting. If cities prioritized making it easy to commute in and out that would make distance cost less, effectively the same as increasing density. The problem is that there's many decades of pent up demand for both housing and transit infrastructure. There's no cheap way out of the situation. It's going to take a hell of a lot of either/both in order to measurably improve people's quality of life.


Instead of trying to put cheap homes where the jobs are, we could also try to put jobs where the cheap homes are. People constantly talk about the former, but I almost never see people talk about the latter.


The former problem is much easier than the latter. In order to accomplish it we just need to governments to stop actively blocking it from happening. We have no idea where to even begin with the latter. The best we can do is throw a whole bunch of untested ideas at the wall and hope one works.


> The best we can do is throw a whole bunch of untested ideas at the wall and hope one works.

You're such an optimist. Governments around the world have been trying to relocate employment and labor for centuries and the best they have come up with is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


I've talked about it, but I seem to be the only one...

In any new suburb or city you are not allowed to put jobs where the people are. There is exactly one house within comfortable walking distance of my office: the farmhouse that was here before the area was developed. If I bought a lot in this office park I would not be allowed to put apartments or houses. A couple miles away there are lots of houses, I wouldn't be allowed to buy a few and put in an office. A few miles in a different direction is a shopping mall that is failing. If I bought the mall I wouldn't be allowed to rent space for offices or apartments without first doing a zoning change, and then I'd have to choose either apartments or office, I wouldn't be allowed to put a house in the parking lot that is bigger than either apartments or offices would need.


Jobs that require "facetime" can't do that. The only ones that can are remote work. I'm in favor, but most companies resist even when feasible.

Not to mention a city is more than housing. It's nice to walk to the corner pub, go to a theatre, sporting event, etc.


Homes are cheap by definition because not enough people want them in the area. The closest thing we have to that is the Military Industrial Complex and setting up locations to ensure votes. They have the most influence per dollar by going to areas which have fewer other jobs.


Land is zero sum (which is why a Land Value Tax is such a good idea), but housing, which is what people actually consume is not. We have the technology to build more housing, just not the regulatory regime, which is what this article is about.


That is the most significant comment here. People keep going on about land when the real problem is housing. US housing density is awfully low. Our country's major population expansion took place after the car and our model of building cities went horizontal rather than vertical.


It’s true that it’s inherently a zero sum game. As I said I don’t think we can eliminate the drag altogether. But there are lots of interventions at all three levels of government that make the problem worse. And worse yet these aren’t unintended consequences, it’s governments’ policy to try to increase the costs of housing.

Various cities have tiny band aid programs under the rubric of affordable housing but the low hanging fruit is to stop actively intervening to make the problem worse.


For a long time there was a roughly equal balance in the US between the amount of money paid out as wages and the profits that go to capital. Recently that balance has gotten skewed with 60% going to capital. But basically all of that skew is due to rising rents and housing prices.


A big part of it is wage stagnation too. The average American hasnt had a meaningful raise since 1973, that's half a century. Not good. Growth of the labor supply and repeal of trade protections for industries that employ low-skill workers have caused it.


This metric is comparing returns to capital to total returns to labor, not the median returns to labor. Median wages haven't been doing too well recently due to rising inequality but gains by the best paid professionals would be enough to make up for that on this metric except for rising housing costs.


I dont see how a low median return plays no role in total returns. If the median were higher surely the total would be higher no?


All things being equal, raising the median wage income raises the mean wage income. But the mean wage income can also rise form things that don't raise the mean income, like people in the top quartile being paid more. And you get the total wages paid out by multiplying the number of wage earners by the mean wage, not the median wage.


Governments aren't striving for ideal outcomes - government is necessarily a bunch of scoundrels whose chief goal is to stay in power, which is achieved by giving sufficient bungs to donors and voters:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11612989-the-dictator-s-...

Sorry to ruin your day ;-)


I live on Long Island, and it is expensive. Schools are funded mostly through high property taxes. It is nearly impossible to get high density housing approved for working age people. The constituents want only 55+ for complexes so they can reap the school tax benefits without more students.

So this in effect keeps affordable housing out as developers either build 3000+ sq foot "luxury homes" or 55+ communities.


Oh, smart move! Never thought of using that strategy to get advantaged school funding.


If you want to make housing affordable you will need to reckon with this: http://positivemoney.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/UK-House...

House prices move with mortgage credit growth. Credit growth is one of the key pillars of the politically sustained Ponzi-scheme that is the modern urban housing market.


Banks love mortgages because they are easy, safe ways to earn a bit more than the federal rate.

Wealthy consumers love mortgages because it's a cheap way to leverage a huge asset for market-rate returns.

Normal consumers love mortgages because it allows them to buy a house.

Good luck taking that away.

Additionally, while access to credit raises housing prices, there's no guarantee that removing access to that credit will in any way make housing more affordable for moderate- or low-income people. More people would be forced to rent and it's possible that the wealthy apartment owners will engage in rent seeking and rents will just raise to match or exceed the cost of a mortgage.

That will rob lower income people of their biggest opportunity for wealth creation (housing appreciation) and increase wealth inequality.


But you're ignoring the fact that people are already being priced out of the housing market. The market only continues to gain steam while the next generation can reasonably shoulder the burden being placed on them by the previous. Otherwise those assets are going to deprecate. Credit allowed a handful of people to become incredibly wealthy by becoming rent seekers, while most people didn't realize they had the opportunity. The general consensus seems to be "Tough shit if you weren't born in the 60's - 70's". I don't see that ending well for the economy as a whole.


People will always be priced out of the housing market. Adam Smith observed in the wealth of the nations that once people have the basics housing tends to eat the rest of their income. You can afford to buy/rent closer to where you want to live, or you can afford to buy/rent a bigger place. Since you already have enough for the basics most people find that better housing improves their quality of life.

I have noticed in recent years that improving without changing location or size is also often done as well. A cheap laminate counter is replaced by granite - no change functionally or in size, just an aesthetic change.


Yes. Here in the UK, I have a lot of sympathy with the view that Corbyn's Labour would deliver debt-funded jam today by dumping the burden onto future taxpayers, but the Conservatives have been doing the exact same thing for their own clients, via property inflation.


"Land by its nature is scarce. A site in Mayfair cannot be reproduced like a pair of shoes. The monopoly rent it commands plays no productive role. It acts as a private tax on the productive economy. The question has always been what can be done about it." [1]

I posted that quote because it's the reference I found most speedily to the idea that high land prices impose private (i.e. paid into the private sector) taxation, rather than public. You didn't make the distinction between public vs private taxation in your comment and I thought it should be made.

Public taxation is also involved of course, e.g. when governments need to bail out the banking system; Help to Buy in the UK; etc.

[1] https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/how-land-property-is-tied-to-...


> high land prices impose private (i.e. paid into the private sector) taxation, rather than public

Agreed, though I'm not sure that's much consolation to the ones paying it. With public taxation at least you can hope you're helping to fund something useful.


Indeed!

BTW, you mentioned reservations about possible overspending by Corbyn's Labour. I'm encouraged however by the noises they're making about productivity, e.g. in a recent report:

"The report’s guiding idea is to encourage finance to flow towards productive investment rather than speculation in property. This reflects an old complaint about the City of London: it is a global entrepot with little interest in promoting productive investment in the UK." [1]

And here is a very good primer on the important distinction between productive and unproductive credit. [2]

[1] https://www.ft.com/content/c59c189e-85b8-11e8-a29d-73e3d4545...

[2] https://youtu.be/N-FDdHj7rPk


Mortgages per se aren't the problem; low rates and high LTV are the problem.

I agree that changing this is politically difficult, and it's downright depressing to see discussion threads on the topic filled wall-to-wall with turkeys demanding more Christmas, but there are limits to how far credit bubbles can take you, and there are signs we may finally be getting there.

Big mortgages would rapidly become a lot less popular if prices weren't a one-way bet guaranteed by the government.


Sorry to post this link at you again, but the problem is a high ratio of financial credit to productive credit: https://youtu.be/N-FDdHj7rPk

Low rates, high LTV, and government guarantees all help to keep that ratio high.


Easy access to credit drives up prices also in health care and education.


That is one crap graph. What’s the Y axis?


I'm going to guess using the context clue of the title of the graph that it's the average cost of a house in thousands?


Pretty sure it must be percentage of the 1997 value, otherwise it's hard to understand how the scale can accomodate both house prices and population in a single set of units.


> On Aug. 13, Carson proposed requiring that cities that receive federal housing grants reduce their use of exclusionary zoning.

Question: is there anything stopping these cities from just deciding to decline federal housing grants? The biggest culprit in this issue is Silicon Valley. Do they really need Federal housing grants to make people want to move there? The issue is too much demand already.

If Carson forces the issue, I can absolutely see San Francisco's city leadership just declining grants instead of changing their zoning. That might be enough to get some people voted out, but it'll take a while.


HUD grants are a major source of funding for things like fighting homelessness. The city could decline them, but they would have to make up the difference.


The cities probably won't decline. They probably want an external reason to change the zoning laws vs doing it themselves. They might all be voted out though in the next election by pissed off homeowners... unless there are enough pro development voters in the city to offset them. My guess is that if this doesn't work then the Feds will tie removing exclusionary zoning to some other funding source. The question will be will it go to the Supreme court.


I could see cities going one way or the other.

* Some cities might readily accept the leverage to change policy they weren't happy with.

* Some cities might decline the federal grants, under threat from home owners.

* Some cities might decline the federal grants, because pricing the lower class out was the entire point all along.

Maybe a later volley will force more hands, but it seems like this policy will blow up in HUD's faces.


Would they though? Are cities required to make up the difference?

Problem: cities are artificially keeping housing prices up, pushing lower income people out in favor of the upper class. The housing market is forcing lower income people out of cities.

Solution: tell cities they have to stop artificially keeping housing prices up, or the federal government will stop subsidizing low income housing and subsidized loans.

If the goal is to gentrify your city and keep prices high, how is that a real threat? That solution is only a threat if you assume these cities aren't paying attention to what's happening at all, and I don't think San Francisco's leaders are that dim.


There’s a pretty clear political mandate in SF to provide things like healthcare and housing for the homeless, part of which is paid for by HUD. If a large chunk of that budget went away, I doubt voters would want to cut services, so the city would have to make it up themselves.


It isn't just about your city. If the working poor find it advantageous to live your city for one half way across the state that is less people to work the lower income jobs - now it is more expensive to get the toilets cleaned in the office. This raises your cost of living, and lowers it in the other city.

Of course how this all works out is very complex and messy and will take dozens of years before we see anything significant.


San Francisco has already found "ways" to deal with many of those issues. They can't afford wait staff anymore, so restaurants are switching to counter service[1]. A law firm started housing their lawyers in Texas and flying them in because it was cheaper than housing there [2]. Delivery drivers can't afford to work there, so they experimented with having robots do it instead [3].

It's been tremendously clear that San Francisco has become an experiment in seeing if you can still run a city while pushing out all the poor people. Its been worker infrastructure has been coming apart at the seams for years now and the city's leadership has made little attempt towards fixing it -- instead entrepreneurs are just trying to find ways to work around it. I have little confidence that threatening to pull federal housing funding will dissuade the city from their path.

1. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17394551

2. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15874565

3. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15880100


> The issue is too much demand already.

Only those who already live there think there's too much demand. Everybody else on the planet recognizes that there's not enough supply.


Seems like it could work. Nonsense local policies to encourage "affordable" housing like inclusionary zoning have been huge failures. In big cities, we just need way more housing. Yet NIMBYs fight it at every step, esp in SF.


You can’t just add in “moar housing” in a vacuum and declare mission accomplished. Let’s say SF doubled its housing. Where are all these new residents going to park? So, now it’s housing and parking that needs to be fixed. Assume none of these new residents have cars? Ok now it’s housing and public transit that needs to be fixed. Where are their kids going to go to school? So we need more school capacity, too. How much more water, sewage, electrical capacity will you need? How many more grocery stores will you need? Restaurants? Gas stations? Where will all this new development go?


Chicken-egg problem though. If you say transit doesn't go places or doesn't run often people claim the density is too low and we need more people to use it. Can't have the same excuses just used to block everything. Just start building everything, high density housing, dedicated bus lanes, multi-level parking garages, better utilities.


Problem is it takes forever for the egg to hatch.

SF Central Stubway took 20 years to construct and will take another 20 years to reach the wharf. Caltrain DTX has been in planning for 20 years, construction probably won't start until 2030s. Geary BART has been talked about since the 1960s with no motion. Second transbay tube is needed, no specific plans yet. Muni Metro is at capacity with no plans to fix.

So you can build a lot of housing and tell people to deal, but they may be retired or dead before it gets fixed.


>Just start building everything, high density housing, dedicated bus lanes, multi-level parking garages

I'd advise against this. We did that in Madison, and before we even got very far doing this, Mother Nature started to hint to us that it might not be a good idea.

Maybe there are places where you can just build Willy-Nilly. (I doubt it, but what do I know?) I suspect, however, most places are like Madison, just not quite as delicate. You probably have to be REALLY careful about what you're building.

And even more careful about where you're building it.


While I'm sure there are areas where this is true, this seems like a special case. In the Bay Area some liquefaction zones and high fire risk hilly areas are likely candidates to not build on, however, I didn't suggest to build everywhere. In fact, I think we should keep open space and hilly fire-prone areas as parks, we can in fill low density areas and empty lots with high density.


> Mother Nature started to hint to us that it might not be a good idea.

Could you explain what you mean by this?


When we started building down what all the experts told us was an "under utilized" corridor, a bit of flooding appeared. Initially, when the rain would come down, you'd have to navigate through maybe 6 inches of water. Max. Annoying, but not necessarily cause for alarm. As we built more, and more down that corridor, it's gotten worse. Fast forward to today, and when the rain comes down hard you're navigating through maybe a foot or a foot and a half on a bad day in that area. It's also taking much longer to drain. (Nothing speaks to the folly of thoughtless building like high end, fancy restaurants, in gleaming new fancy buildings with sand bags out front that you have to jump over.)

So yeah, no new plans for any new massive footprint, high density buildings along that area in the near future. I suspect until they get this whole thing worked out. Point is that just digging out massive parking garages, paving over areas, building high density housing, it all sounds good on the surface. And it might be good for other cities? Who knows?

But we now have a better understanding that you need a more well thought out plan if you're a city built on a system of five lakes with a dam and locks system delicately balancing their water levels as it is.


Nearly every city in the world has built infrastructure in lockstep with growth for their entire existence. Thats simply how its done. When you have existing demand for more infrastructure, you build it.

Maybe you could claim that it is better to provide infrastructure before people, but it is actually the master planned cities that have yet to succeed, not the other way around. It's just too damn expensive to provide infrastructure for people that don't exist yet, and that deters people from moving there.


This isn't strictly true. A lot of the London underground was built first and then housing developed around it. Actually the tube getting to a place prompted massive development in the area. Similarly now if a new line gets created to an area in many cities you see development around it.


The tube was built outwards, not within. It was a reflection of demand for housing that already existed in quantities large enough to justify it, and was also growing at paces never seen before with no end in sight, and there was no possible way to build upward at the time. In other words, given the conditions of their time, they were building the infrastructure in response to already existing demand.


Isn't the massivly rising house prices a reflection of large demand for housing?

There were many ways to build upwards at the time but London favoured single family houses. Cities like Paris built upwards around that time. Even to this day Paris is more densly populated than New York because almost all buildings in Paris are around 7 stories rather than a very tall core surrounded by a lot of single family dwellings.


Where are all these new residents going to park?

Nowhere? They would use public transit. If public transit didn't exist, they'd become an actual constituency forcing it to happen.

And yeah, sure, developers would have add electrical lines, substation, electrical capacity depending. Jeesh theses objections just seems substituting trees for forest.

Edit: And certainly, the calls for "just do it!" are response to a corrupt collection of interests who use "do it responsibly" to soak up vast amounts of money for doing anything and then throw-up their hands and say "see we tried", which is the way public transit has gone in the last fifty years in this country.


For SF, SOMA residental towers ("Yuppie fishtanks") seems like the way to go:

https://noahpinionblog.blogspot.com/2018/07/yimbyism-explain...


Developing higher-value land uses increases the tax bas available pay for all of those things. SF scaled from zero to where it is now; it can scale further.


Actually it solves lots of those problems too, more affordable housing would make it possible for teachers, waiters, bus drivers, waiters, grocery cashiers to live affordably in the city.

Uber/Lyft and now scooters have already 10x improved transit in SF. Living without a car and even without buses is totally possible now. The cost of Lyft 10 times a week compares favorably with a car, and scooters/bikes are much cheaper. See http://www.rideordrive.org/

Improving caltrain, muni and bart would be awesome, but there's plenty of transit to handle much more housing.

So "moar housing!"


"would make it possible for teachers, waiters, bus drivers, waiters, grocery cashiers to live affordably in the city."

Plus a broader tax base vs relying on Prop 13 property taxes.


That’s no solution. So teachers and waiters can live in the city now—great. What new schools and restaurants will they work in? Where are all the new grocery stores going to be built to cater to all the new residents? How will the traffic grid handle more Lyfts and Ubers? Are you going to build wider roads in SF? You can’t just build taller buildings and dump 50% more people in a city.


There's now a bunch of new building to put schools and restaurants in.

Much of SF is 1 story buildings. You can absolutely convert those to 3-4 story buildings and get 100% more people in SF. The first floor can be restaurants, schools and grocery stores. In this new SF, like in Tokyo, you can get a flat for $600/month.

Think of the Mission, North Beach, Noe Valley, but building that in the Richmond and Sunset. Everyone wants to live there (see the current prices), why not build more if it? Why not build a bunch in Oakland?

People can just switch to scooters and bikes and there is tons of room on the streets. I remember a NY transit authority guy at a conference, he was just amazed at how much wider our streets are. There is tons of room.

Tokyo exists, it is a real big city with low rents and a great quality of life.


Why can't we build taller schools, restaurants, and stores at the same time? Or better yet a tower that is a store on the bottom floor, then offices for a couple floors, then apartments? (or any other arrangement of the above that makes sense for the local situation)?

The reason you think more transit will be needed is because you are assuming that separate business and residential districts are required. However there is no particular reason it must be that way. If you can get people within walking distance of work and a few stores they won't needs as much transit. Transit becomes what you need for rare trips.


What is your point? That it's too difficult and we should just give up and be thankful for what we have?

> You can’t just build taller buildings and dump 50% more people in a city.

Tell that to NY.


The whole point of a city is people aren't dependent on cars/parking. Otherwise, it's not a city.


So Los Angeles isn't a city? What do you call it then?


A continous suburb?


It's gettin' there!


In Palo Alto, California, the people there would consider themselves "progressive." Yet they only will accept below market-rate housing if they can hand-pick the "right" people. This, IMHO, is disgusting, blatant, racism.

https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2018/04/17/supervisors-s...

(And it's another way to pay people off-the-books and under-the table in the form of discounted housing. In theory, the discount is taxable income when it's provided because of employment, but good luck getting _these_ people to pay up.)


Local policies actually make a lot of sense in most places, as most places have unique concerns.

In Madison Wisconsin there were, for a long time, policies that tended to discourage building on the main east-side thoroughfare. Over time, no one really remembered why those policies, some of which one might construe as "inclusionary zoning", were in place. So we jumped on the urban development bandwagon. We were "All In" on it. I mean getting rid of older policies, introducing things like TIF for that very east side corridor, the whole nine yards. Fast forward to today, and there are buildings built down that corridor with giant footprints. And some people even think they are beautiful. So we congratulated ourselves.

Then something strange started to happen. Whenever it rained, that very corridor would flood. Odd? It never did that before? Well, we never built like that down that corridor before. Not to worry. The flooding wasn't really that bad. But it's gotten worse and worse. And only now are people starting to realize why those old guys back before and during the Greatest Generation wanted to discourage building anything critical there. Long story short, we're a city situated on a system of five lakes, we can't just look at what everyone else in the nation does and copy them. We need to follow a plan that makes sense for our geography. We need policies that make sense for us, even if on the surface, those policies appear to hamstring us economically.

I'm sure Madison is not special in this regard. It's likely most cities have some feature endemic to them that would similarly constrain where and how a wise man would build in that municipality. Like us, most cities have probably even forgotten the why of their constraints. I sympathize. But just as a piece of kindly intended advice from a people who have "been there, done that, currently trying to clean up the mess"...

don't look at old policies and say they're "outdated", or "nonsense"...

look at old policies and ask, "OK, what was the reason for this?"


Fair, but the root reason for many of the core zoning codes is that the WW2 and Boomer generations felt that cars were the future and that low density car-oriented development was the only kind of thing they wanted to be allowed near them, mostly for aesthetic reasons and also because they perceived (accurately at the beginning) that “those people,” meaning criminals but mostly just low income people, wouldn’t be able to follow, and thus they’d have their idillic suburban life. So when we examine those root causes it turns out that they’re pretty crap and we don’t need to keep them around.


Yes, it's good to be mindful of Chesterson's Fence [0]. We should understand the reasons for policies before changing them. In many cases, we understand the reasons for exclusionary zoning; they're repulsive, and they should be changed.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Chesterton%27s_fence


In vast swathes of the US, the reason for it was to prevent black people from moving into white neighborhoods. I'd still call that outdated.


As with most things, engineering a blunt policy solution will lead to unintended consequences.

If this proposal goes into effect, by clobbering local zoning codes, anything with sufficient money behind it is going to get built. This typically means projects that optimize for the developer's ability to extract rent from residents: 3 or 4-story apartments with small unit sizes, basic finishes made to aesthetically look high-end, and bare minimum green space or community space. A common approach is to use high-end appliances, a one-time cost, to ask for higher rent. This is the sort of construction that pops up in American suburbia today, where there's sufficient demand, and gets adapted to a more "urban" form with flat roofs and minimal changes.

Despite many of these projects being built, there's a price floor beyond which the rent will not drop, because the developer has to make payments on loans and maintain a profit. Therefore, while housing affordability is sure to improve in some places where it's absurdly high, it won't meaningfully be altered in places whose urban form is predominantly suburban. This is doubly so because the plentiful supply of single-family homes offers an a low-cost way to get started as a landlord.

Developers also have a choice on where to build. If it's cheaper after expenses to assemble a large parcel in Morgan Hill or Tracy or Vacaville, build out the site, and charge those rents, than to do the same in West Portal, one of them isn't getting built.


The right way to do this is to make sure that a small amount of money will be sufficient.

You want to redevelop a one story Sunset place into three stories? Meet the building codes and you are good to go. This would open up development to small contractors and small design/build architects. You wouldn't hire a city fixer + a lawyer + a pr person, you'd just hire an architect and a contractor. Each unit could be built much more cheaply.

Right now you could take a $1 million Sunset house and convert it into three $800,000 flats in a wood frame house. Developers would be DELIGHTED to do that.

The current system adds 5 years and a million dollars to each redevelopment. Developers don't want to build stuff for rich people, they want return on investment. They are as happy making 10% on affordable housing as making 10% on luxury housing.


"the plentiful supply of single-family homes" ... huh? the issue is that there is not a plentiful supply of said homes.


I watched regulations lifted in Moscow since mid-1990s. It mostly resulted in building of large number of apartment high-rises, because a lot of people wanted to be closer to downtown where they work.

The downside was (and in many places still is) an overloaded road network, as mass transit and road capacity did not keep up, despite equally frantic build-up.


> rent will not drop, because the developer has to make payments on loans and maintain a profit

So, you're saying that if the developer has costs of X $/mo month, then in a oversupplied market, rather than take, say 0.8X $/mo in rent and have losses of -0.2X $/mo, they'll refuse to rent at all and take losses of -X $/mo?

Why?


renting for a large landlord is complex.

Often landlords do this today for zoning reasons. There are places that are in theory for rent, but the landlord built just because the zoning required it - they knew very well it would never be rented so they cut corners and pretend to have it for rent while in practice it will never be occupied. They make up for the loss with the other properties that went up at the same time.

Assuming we eliminate that, landlords will still sometimes not rent at all. When you have a lot of properties you reach a point where raising rent and causing someone to leave because they cannot afford the rent nets more money than the smaller rent fully occupied. In addition the non-occupied property is available for rent should someone want it - since tenants move all the time you better always be in the process of getting more.

Last, over the course of the year 10 months at full rent is worth more than 12 months at .8 rent. So landlords are always trying to figure out if it is better to lower the rent and long term make less, or hold out for another month.


> Therefore, while housing affordability is sure to improve in some places where it's absurdly high, it won't meaningfully be altered in places whose urban form is predominantly suburban.

That doesn't make any sense to me. Supply and demand exists in both the cities and the suburbs.


This is right, and this is the problem with solely YIMBY/market urbanist approaches to housing. Developers will all chase tech workers who can pay significantly more money for housing, and the housing market is segmented enough that it doesn't really free up housing at the low end. See this article for more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/in-expensive...

We do need to build housing, but it can't all be "luxury" housing.

This should be familiar to people because it's happening in the commercial space, too. It's the same thing as when storefronts would rather sit empty and waiting for a Chase Bank to come along than accept the lower rents from some other shop. The Chase Bank will pay far more in rent.


When housing supply is constrained and regulations prevent affordability, rich folks are able to outbid everyone else. That's a fact that won't change.

An oversupply on the other hand, would lead to older units being forced to lower prices, but won't happen until NIMBYs get out of the way.


Make providing e.g. 10% of the apartment capacity of a block as affordable / municipal-controlled housing a part of the building contract. Or make redevelopment of a "luxury" block tied to redevelopment of a less luxury block providing affordable housing (still net-positive for the development company, just much less lucrative).

That is, make affordable development a part of the price of luxury development if you must. Just don't stall the development completely.

This works best with large development companies and projects, though.


We have that. It's called "inclusionary zoning", and it's another thing the YIMBYs are trying to kill.


This is exactly what's happening everywhere I look for housing. Apartments that aren't actually nice to live in but look good in photographs.


Interesting...

At first, I thought nominating Carson for head of HUD was a very strange choice. He's a neurosurgeon. Why???

But then... He was Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, so he had some administrative experience.

Then, I realized that Ben Carson has one bit of very relevant life experience that no other HUD director has ever had: He grew up in The Projects.

I thought then that that might lead to something interesting. Seems I may have been right.


One thing to note is that it’s the land itself that appreciates. The housing built on top of it generally doesn’t. That is, structures generally depreciate unless labor and material costs rise significantly.

So, why not cap the profits that can be gained from squatting on land? Or increase taxes on under-utilized land? Then, wouldn’t land owners have incentive to build more housing?


Density-restrictive zoning increases our demand for land.

I, for example, only need about 1000sf of living space. In city where the minimum lot size is 3000sf and maximum FAR is 30%, my demand for land is 3000sf. However, in a city where 12 story buildings are abundant, my demand for land is only about 100sf, including proportionally allocated common area space.

By not allowing dense housing, city zoning codes are making affordability illegal by statute.


Maybe that would help in less developed areas, but I doubt it would work in a place like Boulder, CO. Boulder rent just keeps getting more and more expensive. There are several reasons for this but most of the land is being used already. Changing zoning laws to have more mixed residential, office, and retail would probably help.


It seems like the underlying mechanism is https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/08/ben-carsons-new-argum... , which is a rather different spin.


I looked for an explanation of "exclusionary zoning" in the article, but I guess it just means "zoning."

It's always great when an administration can repurpose unimplemented legislation designed to reduce segregation, and use it to enrich property speculators.




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