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As cities grow in size, the poor 'get nothing at all': study (santafe.edu)
181 points by hhs 5 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 277 comments



For those concerned about the potential of climate change to severely harm our society, income inequality, particularly as it relates to housing, should be front-and-center in our list of things to address.

Why? People need to get to work, so they drive. Two hour commutes in carbon-spewing cars happen because people can't afford to live near their work.

In many cities, people have been pushed further and further away from the city core because of high housing costs. This leads to more and more driving. It's not like driving is a choice, either. It's easy to say "stop driving so much, you're destroying the planet!" But, people have bills to pay, mouths to feed. So they drive (long distances) to work.

Housing inequality, income inequality, transit inequality. These things are a major problem directly related to climate change. By addressing these things head on, we can make the world much safer, in terms of climate change, and much better, in terms of actual quality of life for the majority of people living and/or working in cities.


Just to demonstrate, because I've met people who've never been in this sort of situation, this was my commute for ~2 semesters of college: https://goo.gl/maps/8deDf74vRGDkeovRA

My mom had recently begun using again and I said "enough" and moved in with a relative. ~3 months in I had gotten a job in Hoboken, NJ (https://goo.gl/maps/ruU5Ppz746xv5ZeXA) and would have to drive from my relative's house to my college/job every day and drive back. I couldn't afford the boarding costs for on campus residency especially with the added pain of having to move in/out every semester.

Each day I drove ~80 miles and had to fill up my tank. It was still some how barely cheaper than renting in the area and all I could afford.

This kind of thing really kills you inside. It's truly painful. For me, I would wake up at 5AM each day to drive west to east with the sun in my eyes. Then I would stay at school and work until around midnight where I'd drive back east to west with the sun in my eyes. I was surviving with ~4hr/night of sleep. I wish we lived in a world where no one else had to go through that torture (for lack of a better word).


How was the sun in your eyes during the midnight drive back east to west in NJ? Even during the summer solstice, sunset is around 9pm in NJ.

I get your point though, driving bleary eyed is not only soul sucking, but very dangerous for yourself and others on the road. Not to mention the ecological and time waste issues. Although I would note a 40 mile each way commute is sadly not out of the ordinary for America. Turns out the average commute distance for NJ is 40.9 miles. See stats here: https://www.answerfinancial.com/insurance-center/which-state...


most likely spearte mwf/t th schedules mixing timings or weekdays weekends. 40 miles each way is rookie numbers here in michigan. Due to the large changing in manufacturing and other job shifts since the 90s many people live in one city then commute to another work in flint, detroit, lansing. detroit<-> flint 60+ miles detroit <-> lansing 80+ miles lansing<-> Flint 50+ miles . Decent factory job pays enough to get a mortgage on a house so many are able to afford a house but 2008 the housing crisis also brought recession and factories closed down. Then 2012 on jobs started coming back and many took first thing available but as recovery wasn't in each city uniformly ended up with a plant in lansing largely being run by people living in flint that couldnt afford to move to lansing


Was probably plus it minus a few hours. Still not fun :)


For reference, and to show how much it adds up, that area you commuted in has the longest average commute in the US[1]:

> In the area with the longest average commute (New York-Newark-Jersey City), commuters are spending an average of 13 days, 2 hours, and 26 minutes driving to and from work. That means that 14 vacation days a year are barely covering the time it takes to get to work every day. So in addition to dropping the average wage from $34.71 per hour to $30.15 per hour, in order to get 14 days of hanging with their family on a beach, New York commuters must be willing to spend nearly as much time sitting in a car.

They're using full days in that calculation. The average commute there results in ~40 8-hour work days of driving a year.

[1] https://go.frontier.com/business/commute-calculator


I am sw engineer in the bay area, and I have a 3 hour commute with sun in my eyes, and I am actually paid well! Even getting paid well won't suffice here :). I have thought of moving to a different area, just for avoiding the sun, not the commute, but pandemic threw a wrench in my plans. House prices reached the stratosphere. Few more years I guess


It's often suggested to increase fuel taxes to force people to drive less. I guess you were spending around $400 per month on fuel for this commute. Would you have done anything different if fuel costs were double that? (And let's assume getting a more efficient car wasn't an option)


But this just puts a strain on people in these situations, and they don't need it.

In Paris, there are more and more "anti-car" measures which are currently in effect, but no alternatives. Yes, they're building and extending a bunch of metro lines, which I think is great, but almost none of those are currently operational.

I think that there may be people who will absolutely choose to drive if at all possible, but I believe they are a minority, so maybe let's not concern ourselves with them at first.

But I also believe that most people will take the sensible option, and if transit is cheaper and faster (or at least not terribly slower and inconvenient) they will choose this option.

My point is that all these policies amount to a lot of sticks and no carrots.

If I lived where my parents live, my commute would be close to two hours each way, if (and that's a big if) none of the several trains I'd have to take had any issue. Commuting by car would be around one hour each way. It would cost more because of the taxes on gas, but would allow me both some flexibility on coming and going AND let me get back two hours per day.

And they live in a town with a direct to Paris suburban train stop. Many, many towns in the suburbs don't even have a train stop at all, so you'd have to catch a bus first to then catch a slower train.

Now here's the kicker: most people I know, working in IT, are barely able to afford a livable apartment to raise a one-kid family. Hell, most end up living outside of Paris. So I'm not sure how much you can reasonably expect the wages for low-earners to rise so that they could afford to live in Paris instead of driving there.

My point is that rising gas taxes and, generally, acting directly on the driving itself won't solve the issue, because people driving is itself a consequence of the underlying issue.

I don't know what the solution is, but personally I'd rather look at improving the transit network and incentivizing companies to open offices elsewhere, to ease the density-related problems, such as overcrowded metros. Maybe then people would stop driving around in Paris, because they would have no reason to.


> most people I know, working in IT, are barely able to afford a livable apartment to raise a one-kid family. Hell, most end up living outside of Paris

I really don't see this as a problem. Paris proper has boundaries and is space constrained, making it extremely expensive. Living in the suburbs in the same metropolitan area is perfectly fine. And there are plenty of cities there with good transport links to Paris itself.

> And they live in a town with a direct to Paris suburban train stop. Many, many towns in the suburbs don't even have a train stop at all, so you'd have to catch a bus first to then catch a slower train.

"Many, many" is an exaggeration. Most cities in Ile de France have a train station, and a lot of those that don't and are dense are getting trams, metros lines. Those that do remain affordable, as long as you aren't immediately outside of Paris or westwards.

Driving in Paris is unsustainable. Driving daily 2h because you live in a house in a village of 1k people is unsustainable.

I have colleagues living in small villages that take their car to a train station, and take the train to Paris. It's a decent tradeoff for the people who live in the middle of nowhere.

Discouraging it to the maximum possible


I would have probably either:

1. dropped out and not gotten a job

2. Stayed in an abusive and unsafe environment and ended up on the streets in a few months when my mom was evicted

My first "apartment" was 600/month (1 room in someone else's apartment) and if took me months to save up for to be able to do it with a buffer if I lost my job mainly because how much I was spending on college and gas and misc life stuff.

I have photos because I was so excited to get my "own" place I showed my boss. I should dig them up sometime.


My Dad recently needed a place to live. No matter how far I drew the circle on Zillow in our part of the state, there were no rent houses, for any price. I texted my realtor about it and asked if it was the Airbnb effect. She said “Yes, probably.”

Infuriating.


I would say a much bigger problem is the lack of building, and the lack of new houses.

The population grows about 2% per year. We have not been building nearly enough to keep up. Even if Airbnb is taking 5% of the units in a huge metro area (how?), then that is still just a few years of building that have been missed.

The root of the problem is that we let people hoard land by severely limiting what can be done with a plot of land. By doing this globally over metro areas, we cause a huge shortage of land which drives up land "rents" (rent in the economic sense, not as much in the apartment leasing sense).


I'm pro-YIMBY, but building more will only solve part of the problem. The problem it won't solve is that our winner-take-all economy is winner-take-all for cities, too. Everyone is pouring into the top n metro areas and even the most ambitious building program won't do more than put a small dent in all that demand. A small dent will make a real difference for a lot of people, but it also won't make much of a difference for a lot more.

If we can't figure out a way to get people to live in Cleveland and St. Louis again, we're spitting into the wind.


Obviously, we should just build more world-class metro areas.

Of course, top-down planning a city (as would be needed to "stamp" one out whole) has never worked; but how about we copy-and-paste the zoning plans from cities we already know are functional, and then incentivize all the same major companies that have headquarters in City The First to build secondary HQs in City The Second?

(I'm not sure if I'm joking.)


I'd look at subsidising 'desirable' small businesses for towns. Take a normal country town and prop up a little wine bar, grocery, couple of non-chain restaurants. Attract younger, remote workers and then eventually there'd be enough going on that the small businesses would survive on their own, and more would be naturally created.

Even a coordinated national program like this: https://renewadelaide.com.au/grow/


> Attract younger, remote workers and then eventually there'd be enough going on

I think there may be something to this.

The other day I was riding around the French Pyrenees, and some (bigger) villages had signs along the lines of "fibered village", as in "with optic fiber". Along those were other signs about selling lots, mostly by the town hall.

I was thinking that maybe this could attract remote workers. The environment is beautiful (if you're into mountains), they have clean air, etc. It could be great for a remote worker.

But then it hit me. Say you'd go to one of those villages, with a girlfriend / wife, or you found one there, and wanted to have kids. They'd be able to go to elementary school. But probably starting in junior high, and certainly in high school, they'd have to take the school bus to the "local big town". Which is, basically, a commute.

So I got a feeling of "unfairness": people moving there to escape commutes, but then subjecting their young kinds to the same...


I disagree completely, the big cities are not even trying to build, and they could.

We need to tax land hoarders and use the proceeds to build public housing.

This will be sooooo much easier than trying to do business development in smaller cities. Those cities have already been doing their best to expand the job situation, but top down planning of jobs rarely works. Our top down planning to induce housing shortages is far easier to fix.


This is the main reason, but AirBnB isn't helping. Even when more housing is built, developers build housing that's meant primarily for short term rentals. The margins are high enough, and the obligations low enough, that running an illegal hotel can be much more profitable than finding long term tenants.


I was curious so I checked. US population grows about .5% per year and in the trailing 12 months to date new residential housing stock has increased around 1%.


Does that just mean landlords aren’t putting houses on Zillow? Unless you are suggesting there are literally no houses for rent in your city?

Usually I found Craigslist had a lot more inventory when I was looking for a house to rent.


Regarding home sales, Zillow generally pulls from local MLS databases, so unless it's for-sale-by-owner they tend to have all available homes. For home rentals, it'll be more fragmented.


> Regarding home sales, Zillow generally pulls from local MLS databases, so unless it's for-sale-by-owner they tend to have all available homes. For home rentals, it'll be more fragmented.

Can they even do that? My understanding is the local MLS databases are the closely guarded pet of "Realtors™". I was told that Realtors will always list on the MLS, and may or may not list on Zillow as a separate process, depending on if they think it's necessary.


Either Zillow is scraping data or there’s a data sharing agreement in place with the MLS; my family realtor has never had to individually list on Zillow when listing on Georgia MLS or FMLS.


I'll second the recommendation for Craigslist. Zillow is probably the last place I would look for a house to rent.

Short term rentals may end up being more profitable, but are also seriously more work, and a lot of the smaller landlords don't want that.

Then again, with the eviction moratorium and other regulations that make dealing with problem tenants becoming heavy handed, I dont think I would ever want to have long term renters either, so... good, long term renters get the worst end of the deal, I guess.


I also really like PadMapper


A rental would only be on Zillow if it's listed with a real estate agent on the MLS. Which is pretty rare for most rentals in my experience. They are also usually more expensive.


Well that sounds a little weird - you're saying people aren't renting out houses on platform X because they rent them out on platform Y?

It depends on where you live of course but my wife and I recently house shopped and inventory was super-tight because (a) fewer people were willing to have people in to see the place due to COVID (b) fewer people were moving out of houses and into apartments due to WFH and (c) many people were looking to move from apartments into houses.

There was also a big move out of cities - you could easily rent/buy in NYC but good luck finding something in the suburbs.

All of these factors would affect rental tightness/availability where you are. I'd look into that more, rather than accepting a vague "yes, probably" as an explanation.


> Well that sounds a little weird - you're saying people aren't renting out houses on platform X because they rent them out on platform Y?

No, they are saying they don't rent them out in the long-term residential rental market because renting them out in the short-term vacation/travel rental market yields more income.


Exactly. I did this — we bought a house that we intended to live in, but a work change made it impractical and financially infeasible to offload.

Short term rental was way more profitable than leasing the whole house. Rents are capped by low interest rates and the type of people who want to rent a four bedroom house are people more likely to be a problem in some way.

I did it for 4 years, from July to September. I would rent the furniture for a few months, have a cleaning service paid for the tenants and essentially rent the house for a week for the equivalent of 2-6 months rent.


> the type of people who want to rent a four bedroom house are people more likely to be a problem in some way.

Can you elaborate what you mean here? I am hoping to rent a larger home soon and am curious.


You can just talk to the airbnb owners. I've been pretty successful in finding housing inventory that way.

Or maybe Zillow just doesn't anything listed.


You can rent monthly on Airbnb. If I can get a house for 1200/month on Airbnb vs what used to be available on Craigslist for 800 or 600 a month, is that Airbnb’s fault, or is it just the market rate now and it happens that Airbnb is the platform de jour ?


To be honest, there's no way that using AirBnb can be cheaper than renting the same place directly with the landlord.

AirBnb charges fees of 14% to guests. Those fees are added to the rent.

That is indeed "AirBnb's fault" that they have their own 14% fees on your rent if you're planning to stay there long term.


My conjecture wasn't that AirBnB is cheaper, but that the price of housing is what the market will bear.

Maybe the fact that a landlord that would usually have to find a new tenant though word of mouth or classified ads can now advertise to a much wider audience has the result of making the landlord more money and making housing more expensive.


Housing inequality, income inequality, transit inequality are major problems that have deep effects on our societies and our future as nations.

> For those concerned about the potential of climate change to severely harm our society

IMHO they should heavily focus on the most impacting forces to climate change, which are industrial emissions. Or really, we could try to think of any huge impact environmental crisis, and come to the conclusion we should do something about industrial accountability as they represent more than 90% of the volume in most cases.


Can you cite your source for this?

Transportation, in 2019, was the leading source of emissions, with industry ranked third, behind electricity.

https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/fast-facts-transportation-...


Just going one step above: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emis...

Agriculture and Industry represent 33%, more than the 29% of the total for transportation.

Even drilling down transportation, personal vehicles are a small portion (about a fifth ?) of the total compared to trucking and other business vehicles https://depts.washington.edu/trac/bulkdisk/pdf/VVD_CLASS.pdf

And I'd expect their emissions to be way lower than trucks and heavy duty vehicles.

We could drill down the other categories (electricity, commercial and residential -- btw it's so absurd to merge these two in one block), what we individually consume/burn as private citizen is usually the tip of the iceberg.

Consuming less or different can have an impact, but only if the industries behind also follow through (image for instance you stop eating meat to reduce the agricultural impact, only for the soybean producer to go on a production rampage and destroy soils and areas in ways we wouldn't have predicted). Or from another perspective, we could have significant impact from the producers improving their practices, with little to no consumer behavior change.

Basically nothing will happen without the production side making a significant effort. If what we're looking for is "doing something", pushing harder on producers should be the way to go.


Aren't all these statistics able to be infinitely nitpicked since nobody can agree on which bucket to sort the emissions into?

Example: a car is produced, does the responsibility for the emissions go to the manufacturer or the consumer who buys the vehicle? Now do this for every single part and bucketful of metal ore down the chain of suppliers, manufacturers, shippers etc.

Drawing a line seems difficult and how do you even know whether you double counted at any point.


The vast majority of industrial production, world-wide, goes to middle and upper class consumption, across the board. From cars to cell phones to pharmaceuticals to beef to central heating.

We either get more efficient at making it or consume less.


Not hard.

Manufacturer emissions from production. (Costs just passed on to consumer but that means lower sales and smaller tam until they make lower emission vehicles)

Consumer emissions from use


I wonder what the breakdown is between personal and commercial vehicles.


The link above spells it out. 58% of transportation emissions were from "light duty vehicles", and 24% were from trucks.


Light duty vehicles doesn't necessarily mean that they're personal vehicles.


I think the “they” is different when looking at different aspects of the problem.


It has much less to do with inequality, and much more with zoning patterns in North America (and few other countries). I am not so sure about that, but it may actually be reverse - the richer people may choose to live far away, and drive, in most cities.

If inequality had anything to do with it, you would expect more unequal (or more expensive) cities to be more sprawling - as people are "pushed out" further by higher prices; but that is not the case. Why? Probably because people actually want to live far away, or don't care either way if they can trade off for e.g. more space, so they do (disclaimer: not me until 2020).

Similarly, you would expect more unequal cities around the world to be sprawling, with more driving. Yet, many cities where the central area is unaffordable to locals do quite well with transit. Related to the above, many do have a ton of people who drive, and they may make up in low speed/inefficiency what harm they fail to produce because they don't drive as far. Again, because people, apparently, want to drive as soon as they can afford it (disclaimer: not me).


Many on HN seem to forget that not everyone lives near the city or works in a city, where “city” is defined by an area with enough commercial, residential, and industrial within walking distance of each other to support a car-less lifestyle.

But in fact, only a portion (of the US, at least — 31% [1]) live in urban areas that would allow them to go car-less, even if you take the housing issues out of the equation.

If the rest (69%) even lived right next to work (which many couldn’t, since in many areas, there isn’t housing close to their workplace), they’d still have to commute everywhere else.

[1] https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2018/05/22/demogra...


The term “commute” is typically used for the daily drive to work. You seem to be using it for something else.


> The term “commute” is typically used for the daily drive to work. You seem to be using it for something else.

Maybe in the US where driving is prevalent, but in many other places your "commute" is simply your trip to work. In Toronto, Canada, many people commute via transit (TTC). We have a commuter rail system for the region (GO).


You are of course correct. I was distinguishing it from all the other trips one might take other than the daily trip to work.


No, it’s that commuting is only part of why most people need cars. But a) this only addresses commuting, and b) many people have no housing options that would allow them to eliminate commuting.

My point is that I’ve seen many highly upvoted comments on HN lately (this one included) that seem to think living near work would put a dent in the climate change problem, when the data suggests this isn’t the case.

Many people on HN either live — or if they could afford it, would live — near work allowing them to go car-less, and therefore assume most of the world is like that, when, in fact, most of the world could not go car-less in their current job/residence.


You won't get rid of individual transportation. This just won't happen, even if you triple or quadruple investments in infrastructure. Getting into a city core is actually readily available in most places.

The solution has to be to make individual traffic CO2 neutral.


True, but can we cut it 50%? Can we convert 20% to bicycles, or 10% to walking, or 5% to scooters, or all of the above?

I don't think we'll get rid of all personal transportation, or even all car usage, but it's highly variable from city to city, and I suspect we could convert some of the "worst" cities to be more like the "best".

We should also decarbonize private cars, but we should be pursuing battery of solutions.


> People need to get to work, so they drive.

This is not an immediate conclusion. There exist multiple alternatives to driving, but it's also up to cities to provide them.


The only thing that should be front and center for climate change is the large scale adoption of nuclear energy across the globe. And then, carbon recapture.

Everything else, is a pet project riding on the coat tails of a larger crisis.


I agree nuclear could be part of the solution, but nuclear is a dead horse and we can't just continue to beat it. It won't be revived as long as people don't feel secure about it. Beside the obvious reasons for it's rejection (catastrophic failure modes, WMD proliferation, costs overruns, building delays, waste management, vulnerability to social instability, rising sea levels and freshwater shortage), we have to think about what it means to go full-on nuclear and enable the same kind of consumption growth that put us in this position in the first place. We're just going to create another environmental crisis down the road (which may or may not be related to all those reactors).

We need to find how we can continue to improve our quality of life while reducing our consumption.


It’s kinda funny that people are so afraid of burying a small amount of radioactive material, but are perfectly happy with dumping all the waste from fossil fuels in the air we breathe and the atmosphere we depend on to survive.


> We're just going to create another environmental crisis down the road (which may or may not be related to all those reactors

How? What other environmental crisis do you see happening if we embrace nuclear?

> We need to find how we can continue to improve our quality of life while reducing our consumption.

It seems short-sighted to focus _all_ of our efforts on holding quality of life the same as reduce consumption. I certainly agree that this will be a part of the solution, but by constraining the problem thusly we make it much harder to solve. A robust mix of nuclear, renewables, and efficient consumption is much more likely to work than any of these three options alone.


Of course I'm not saying it should be our one and only focus, but it should be our primary objective.

I don't see into the future better than anyone else, but my guess? The sheer amount of resources we need and the waste we create is drastically reducing biodiversity around the globe, and keystone plant and animal species are on the verge of becoming extinct. This will cause a cascading ecological collapse, including our own food chain.


> The sheer amount of resources we need and the waste we create is drastically reducing biodiversity around the globe, and keystone plant and animal species are on the verge of becoming extinct.

But why? I'm not arguing that our current lifestyle in heavily developed countries is sustainable, but what makes you certain that we can't form sustainable habits? As long as humans have existed on the planet, we've become better at using available resources (though many of us have certainly died trying, as evidenced by the decline/collapse of many pre-Industrial civilizations through environmental damage). What about this moment in time marks the end of our ability to become more efficient?


Can't say I disagree!


If you spend a small amount of time investigating nuclear and the recent failures in construction across the globe, and compare it to the successs of renewables and storage, I think you'd change yourself mind fairly quickly.

Nuclear was a technology that was overhyped in the 20th century but never delivered on its promise. We have far better, cheaper, and more flexible tech now to replace it.


We do not have power storage facilities to run the globe off renewables, theoretically yes we could, but it is sort of depending on the tech improving in certain areas or large scale reservoir projects which themselves will take a decade or likely more to put into operation. Nuclear power is something we could have been running off right now, and something we know is feasible to build within or sooner than the same time spans that full renewable rollout will take.

Not to mention it would allow us to shut down all these ancient ass reactors we got going now which is the equivalent of driving around in a Model-T because we can't be assed to get a newer car.

I love renewables, but we still have a long ways to go in scaling renewables to not only provide global power demands, and we also need to be using ass tons of additional clean power just trying to stabilize the environment and sequester CO2.


> Nuclear power is something we could have been running off right now, and something we know is feasible to build within or sooner than the same time spans that full renewable rollout will take.

If we had built it in the 1980s, maybe we could be running off nuclear now, but the reactors would be reaching end of life.

What we know about nuclear today is that it is not feasible to construct. This is the crucial road block to nuclear. There are lots of places begging for nuclear to be built, but it never works out, and causes tremendous disaster for all involved in construction. The two "success" stories are China and Russia's Rosatom, but it's unlikely that we could have them construct reactors in the US and succeed. For a while it was hoped that South Korea could build for the rest of the world, but it has become clear in recent years that there was corruption at the root of their inspection process.

As for storage, it is getting deployed all the time, mostly in conjunction with new wind and solar installs (called "hybrid" in the field). It is unlikely that we could scale any sort of nuclear construction to catch the coattails of storage now, we are rolling out dozens of GW per year currently, and that will go up by a factor of 10 by 2026, and another factor of 10 by 2031, with an expected 10-30TWh of storage production annually. Nuclear can't scale like that.


> If we had built it in the 1980s, maybe we could be running off nuclear now, but the reactors would be reaching end of life.

And how much less CO2 would have been put into the atmosphere over that time period? Also, if we had scaled up to produce that many nuclear reactors, don't you think we'd be invested in new and better ones coming online? Or at least until solar and wind can solve their storage and transmission issues.


We'd have extended our carbon budget quite a bit. However we must act now with our current best abilities. We do not have time to wait for the the nuclear construction industry to improve productivity to meet our current needs. And for that matter the construction industry has been stagnant in their productivity as a whole since the 1980s, not just the nuclear sector.


> What we know about nuclear today is that it is not feasible to construct.

It's definitely feasible to construct and run, it's just that folks are scared to run nuclear power. France has a _lot_ of nuclear power but only started dialing back after Fukushima scared them.


No, it is not feasible to construct in the modern world. France has been trying, and failing miserably.

I'm begging that anybody who believes that nuclear is possible to construct today, to look at any of the many places where it has been attempted: any of the French EPR or the AP1000s in the US. It has been abandoned by all, except for a few startups working on small modular reactors. These had been avoided in the past because it was thought they could never be as economical as the large reactors that we can't construct today.

And even before that, nuclear was abandoned in the US not because of TMI or Chernobyl, but because it had been a financial and managerial disaster:

https://blowhardwindbag.blogspot.com/2011/04/forbes-article-...

Further, if France was such a success, what are the costs of their build? And why did they stop at only about a third of the planned number of reactors?


The US builds a 700MW reactor every 4 years[1][2], and a 200MW reactor every 2 years[3][4]. The Navy has operated these designs (or very similar ones) for decades without incident, and considering the per-unit cost of the complete ships that feature them, they seem substantially cheaper than most of the civilian construction projects. My last boss had previously worked with some of the Navy's high-level nuclear administration people, and said their program was extremely well-run, partially due to a conservative, risk-adverse, albeit cliquish approach to reactor safety: "Don't ever come to us trying to change anything, we've already paid the blood tax to figure this stuff out, our processes clearly work very well, and we're almost certainly smarter than you and have already considered anything you want to suggest anyway."

I'm not sure why we don't fork the reactor designs with some minor changes for powering urban grid infrastructure....Hmmm, maybe a sneaky rollout would be to establish a bunch of "test reactors" physically on naval bases, but with grid connections to the local cities.....essentially subsidizing the national power grid with US Navy nuclear assets.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A1B_reactor [2]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_R._Ford-class_aircraft_... [3]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S9G_reactor [4]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia-class_submarine


These reactors always eventually come up in discussion, but I think that nobody seems willing to use these sorts of designs due to proliferation concerns. The builders refuse to make any changes, and society refuses to let these reactors out of military hands. I have a feeling that there would need to be very big changes for terrestrial operation, as well. Heat rejection is already a big part of nuclear reactor design and something that is getting harder as the climate changes.


> https://blowhardwindbag.blogspot.com/2011/04/forbes-article-...

The link you post talks about the project mismanagement and bad incentives that tanked nuclear prices. This isn't anything new. The US has been failing to build new infrastructure on time and under budget for decades now and it's a much larger problem than just nuclear plants.

> Further, if France was such a success, what are the costs of their build? And why did they stop at only about a third of the planned number of reactors?

I mean, I don't think there's definitive proof that cost is the reason here. Whataboutism isn't enough to sow doubt, we need a more clear line of reasoning.


I'm glad that you agree that the US has a systemic inability to build all types of infrastructure like nuclear.

But it's a bit unfair to call my questions about the supposed success of France when you are the one who brought up the topic. I have searched for cost numbers on the Mesmer plan a few times and came up dry. Yet I still hear it as evidence that nuclear was cost effective and a good idea, without any numbers or data attached to it. So if it was cost effective, where are the numbers? And why did they stop at a fraction of what they had planned? These are earnest questions, directly on topic, directly about the feasibility of constructing nuclear. But I'm not surprised that nobody has the details, as I've never met a nuclear advocate that has investigated it as much as I have and could provide me with a single new fact. I am very interested in all potential solutions to climate change, but I don't see how nuclear could be one after three history I have learned and the recent track record with construction. Nuclear as climate solution does not have enough basis in fact for me to be able to support it.


renewables are better, cheaper, and more flexible tech; but they also take longer to develop so cannot replace current demand in time to stop GW, and have geological constraints such that they cannot be adopted by all.


There are very very very few nations that could not serve their needs with renewable electricity. The UK was thought to be one of the more challenging countries, but recent offshore wind developments will make cheap power abundant soon.

Japan may have a difficult time, which is why they have been so fond of hydrogen, but I have a feeling that they may find some other solutions. Deep-sea floating turbines are falling in price all the time.


> Japan may have a difficult time, which is why they have been so fond of hydrogen, but I have a feeling that they may find some other solutions. Deep-sea floating turbines are falling in price all the time.

I think we need a bit more than feelings and faith to solve climate change. Nuclear buys us time to work out the issues with renewable energy, as long as it takes. And in certain cases, it just might not. That's the nature of renewable energy, much like oil deposits or rare-earth deposits aren't available everywhere in the world.


If you want to go on more than feelings, then look at the data. Floating wind is falling cost all the time. Nuclear's cost is going up all the time.

"Feelings" are the only reason people think nuclear is possible. Those that have been trying it in the past decade have shown it to not be competitive.

Usually HN is good at thinking like engineers, but for some reason nuclear seems to get very little critical thought, and renewables get very little consideration for their actual reality.

There is not a carbon-free grid model out there that uses nuclear except as a tiny tiny fraction of grid power. Literally none!! Yet somehow comments about needing to build lots of nuclear get treated as serious statements that could hold some water. Nuclear will not be the backbone of any future grid for at least 50 years, and most likely never again in human history.


If you want critical thought, you respond to the point that renewables take longer to develop (the infra not the tech), and that nuclear "buys us time".

> There is not a carbon-free grid model out there that uses nuclear

and in what timescale can these carbon-free models be developed? We probably need a carbon-negative model to reverse existing CO2 damage.

> Nuclear will not be the backbone of any future grid for at least 50 years

France has declared it will wants to cut nuclear to 50% of the grid by 2035, it's current share is 70%. So what does this statement mean?

> Floating wind is falling cost all the time. Nuclear's cost is going up all the time.

The cost of energy production, or the total cost of infra?

Part of the reason nuclear is growing is lack of funding. Turns out, you need to keep building nuclear power stations for people to think a degree in nuclear engineering is a good idea. And you need to keep building them to keep power-plant-building corps in business and innovating/improving efficiency.


Did the Covid era of lockdowns and Zoom day-to-day make a dent?


Agree with most of the observations but... what does climate change have to do with metropolitan inequality?

All other factors being equal, high city populations relative to the countryside should be more resource efficient.


The point is that moving people to far-flung low-density suburbs with >1-hour car commutes (and a need to make all other trips by car) is also very polluting and resource inefficient, compared to locating people where they can commute quickly on foot, bicycle, or public transit.

Better is to build a serious transit network with regular fast access to the city center, with dense neighborhoods near transit stations (3–6 story apartment buildings for at least a couple blocks surrounding each station). Look to Japan for an example of how to do zoning and urban planning at a national scale.


> Look to Japan for an example of how to do zoning and urban planning at a national scale.

Doesn’t Japan have basically everyone live in Tokyo and ignore everywhere else?


Huh? There are several big cities in Japan like Oosaka, Kyouto, and Fukuoka, and they're all zoned similarly to Tokyo.


Also look at NZ how they solved covid, look at thailand how they solved drugs, look at arabs how they solved alcoholism, look at africa how they solved obesity, look at north korea how they solved dissent.

Maybe compare life satisfaction and some other outcomes when looking at places like Japan. I'd never want to live in 10 sq meter apartment and be jammed each morning into train like a sardine...

That's not to say places don't need to solve public transport and bike infra.


You could drop the sarcastic/cynical first half of your comment without losing anything.

It doesn’t seem to me that the claim that Japan has a worse quality of life than the USA is supportable by data: surveys of self-reported satisfaction are notoriously incomparable across cultures. But there are also many differences between these countries besides urban planning and zoning laws (e.g. the USA is much less densely populated, is younger, has more immigrants, has more natural resources, uses much more energy per capita, has much higher GPD per capita, has a shorter life expectancy, has a far larger number of drug addicts, has dramatically more violence, ...).

A cheap 10–15 minute standing rush-hour subway commute is much less objectionable than a 1.5-hour highway traffic-jam commute. I haven’t been to Japan, but the subways in China and various European countries are clean, orderly, quiet/smooth, and have trains every few minutes. They put even the best US subway systems like NYC and Boston to shame.

I know multiple groups of people in San Francisco who live with ~4 unrelated adults in a 1-story 2-bedroom single-family house, either sharing bedrooms or using every room in the house as a makeshift bedroom, and still pay out the nose for the privilege (the only other choice they could afford was living 1+ hours away in a suburban wasteland) who would much prefer to have their own separate 600–800 square foot apartments instead. The Bay Area housing market is such that people get locked into their current place and cannot afford to move if their needs change (e.g. get married, get divorced, have kids, have their kids move out of the house, get a higher-paying job, get a lower-paying job, ...). People who work full time for decades still can’t dream of scraping together a down payment unless a wealthy relative dies and they land a sizable inheritance. Building a couple hundred thousand additional small apartments throughout the Bay Area would relieve a ton of market pressure and drive down the price of housing of all shapes and sizes, including larger condos and houses.


Higher density indeed tends to be more resource efficient. The problem is much of what is called a "big city" in the US is a sprawl of low-density suburbs that, due to their city planning, require more driving to get to anything than, say, if you lived in a small town.


Because some people believe that a major part of solving climate change is having people live in dense cities.


The solution is quite simple too. Make fuel $10/gallon. If that is not sufficient, then $20, or $30. And so on.


This is a fantasy and completely regressive. How do you plan on dealing with the ensuing riots? Housing supply doesn't appear overnight, especially in the US where building, worker safety and environmental standards slow the process down to a crawl. Most of the new urban housing is 4 story wood construction because of the above reason, not nearly the density needed to eliminate cars without massive mixed rezoning efforts that are politically unfeasible or massive mass transit infrastructure investments that would also suffer the same issues as higher density housing developments listed above, also throw into the mix that there is a cultural aversion to mass transit in the US that won't likely get resolved in time to fight climate change effectively.

You will be displacing 10s if not 100s of millions of people with such a policy, you need a place for them to go if you don't want severe civil unrest.


I would implement it with a cash rebate to everyone in America for the average number of gallons used by an American in a year * $10 and call it the "green rebate" or something like that and make it clear that it paid for by a gas/car emissions tax.

The average American would be paying $0.


Australia tried something similar with a carbon tax a few years ago - not for fuel, but for carbon emissions generally. The policy was very well designed and ensured that lower income earners were compensated for any increase in costs to the extent that they had a net benefit, and in the short time it was operating, was successful at reducing emissions.

Unfortunately for us (and the world) this was too complicated for many Australians to understand and the political right exploited that to tell a scary story about a 'new tax', leading to their election and the removal of the scheme.

While economists (and rational thinkers) generally love carbon pricing schemes, they have been pretty unsuccessful politically because people are generally too stupid to understand them and cynical politicians in bed with the fossil fuel industry are happy to play to that.


When would I get the rebate?

Edit: For clarification, if it's the type of rebate typical in the US, that means I get it later and I can't afford the fuel now. If it's a rebate that's done at the time of purchase, then it wouldn't seem to make much difference, on average.


Let's say it's annual (or if they have the capacity, monthly) and paid at the start of the passage of the law, so you get the money first before the gas price increase.

It's not done at time of purchase because it is not a gas subsidy.


This is a good solution, but it needs to come with some significant cash transfers for people most immediately harmed (e.g. via universal basic income), and with a significant public commitment to build affordable walkable neighborhoods with world-class public transit.


Not a "commitment." They need to actually exist, at something like 10,000x the scale they currently have.


This assumes that people have a choice in their daily commutes. Unfortunately the majority do not, if gas went to 30 dollars a gallon many would be forced to sleep in cars/tents closer to the office.

Starbucks won’t cover 400 dollar daily commutes for baristas in downtown SF.


I wonder if there is anything we can do to affect those who do have a choice. I know a lot of people who drive and are perfectly able to take public transport or live closer but they chose to live a far way away and drive because they can afford it.


The only solution IMO is urban planning. If cities and towns are designed for cars, then people will drive. If they are designed for feet or bikes they will use those. If you look at the layout of popular North American towns built prior to the 1800s you'll see very few cars even venturing into town.

Cars are also one of the few greenhouse emissions sources which we have a plausible market driven path to eliminate over the next 2 decades via battery electric vehicles.


The problem is people who have the ability to move closer to work or who have a working PT system still choose to drive because they can afford to because they value not sitting next to a stranger above protecting the environment.

We need good planning but then we also need to factor in the environmental costs of driving to eliminate it.


I own a car, but live on an inner city rail line. I drove 9000 miles in 2 years, which was exclusively done for nature trips on weekends.

In my case driving would increase my commute time by about 20 minutes due to traffic. My city has no appetite for improving driving options or reducing congestion through the addition of new roads.


I don't think that's the right approach. Removing choice is a great way to motivate people to resist your mandates.

Why do so many people want to play dictator these days?


Because driving is unsustainable and destroying the planet. It can not be allowed to continue in its current form so the easiest option would be to push people away from it when they are able to.


Less pushing, more enticing please. If you give people a better option, they will take it.


Better options need money, unfortunately. And barring a complete change in how the US works [1], that money isn’t there at a federal level. That leaves cities with no other option than to pay for a better option on their own — by raising taxes (e.g. congestion pricing, gas taxes, tolled roads), which also has the side effect of disincentivizing driving

[1] the infrastructure bill that’s looking to pass, while it gives much needed funding to public transit, still centers car-centric planning, and nothing paradigm-shifting (e.g. a comprehensive regional high speed rail network, a dedicated bus line on every street, a protected bike lane on every arterial) will likely come from it.


Agreed. The issue was that in the thread so far it seemed to have a "punish the unbelievers who drive" feel to it.

Happy to tax one option to support a better option.

In a social practice sense I'd prefer transparency to see the tax money actually making a better future. But this is often lost or not communicated.


These are both the same thing.

If I say "I will give you $20 to not drive" or "I will take $20 from you if you drive", the only thing that really matters is that there is a $20 price differential between two actions so you will be at a $20 disadvantage to do the current thing regardless of how you word it.

Money and wealth is relative so the actual final amount doesn't matter as much as how much you have compared to the average person.


And if we were all emotionless machines, you'd be right. But we're not, so you're not right.


You've obviously never trained a dog. You use treats, not threats and violence.


7.5% or so of total greenhouse gases isn't destroying the planet, but it's not helping either. EV's going to take this to about 1% this in about 10 years.


The US has ~280 million cars on the road.

The number of electric cars sold in 2020 was ~250k.

The average age of a car in the US is 12 years.

If electric car sales quadruple each year until they reach the total number of cars sold in the US (around 16 million cars per year), it will take at least 18 years to replace all the combustion engine cars on the road.

And this is wildly optimistic, electric cars are too few and too expensive, even as second hard cars, for the general population. I estimate that they'll reach a sort of break-even point with combustion engine cars around 2025 or so. So you can probably add 3-4 more years to those 18 I counted. So at least 20 years to have a mass replacement of existing cars on the road.

And in the rest of the world it's even worse. The rest of the world is poorer, has lower disposable income, cars are around for longer, and electric car sales are ramping up even slower.


The average vehicle on the road is 12 years old. It's going to take a lot longer than 10 years to shift most of the fleet to EVs.


7.5% is significant. And this doesn't even touch the particulate pollution which ruins health, or the ground poisoning which combustion engines cause.

A tax/higher prices on fuel would push people to more efficient methods faster and will put more money in to investments on new technology.


I'd argue installing more solar panels is way more important than EV's. It's way cheaper, offers way better ROI (EV TCO are just barely cheaper than gas, especially without gov incentives) and helps with main problem - power generation. Sure it's boring af, regulated, politicised (Uighur solar) and inconvenienced in every possible matter...


I think both are needed. Nothing on its own will work and we need to be doing everything that we can at the same time right now. The current models are showing if we make every improvement we can right now we are only just barely scraping by. There is no time to do everything sequentially.


Is that 7.5% including all the knock on effects of non dense living? Does it include the effects of flying to Tahiti or Maldives for honeymoons?


Well, it would actually be a good start and maybe push Americans to smaller and more efficient cars. The average price of gasoline is ~$7 in Europe, in poorer countries, and people seem to make do.

But I doubt the average American will give up the quality of life of owning a car that probably weighs have half a ton more than the average European car.


So your solution to include poor people in cities is to have the poor pay more money for gasoline?

Wouldn't the more immediate effect be that the poor stop coming into cities?


If you live in a city you do not need to drive.


This is, sadly, not true for far too many people.

I wish it were so. I desperately wish this were entirely true.


Maybe for some occupations in some cities. No way I could carry all the tools I need with me on a bus that rarely takes me within walking distance to the job site in the cities I live near, if I still lived in one of them.


Sure, for some jobs you will need a car and in that case you bump your prices to match. Since everyone doing this job is hit with the same fee, no one is disadvantaged. While if you work an office job or similar, you can get ahead by not driving and eventually everyone capable of not driving will not drive.

The actual price of fuel does not matter much, only the price you are paying relative to others with the same job title.


It would be nice if I could afford one of those new and expensive electric trucks, though.


It works better for the "poor" people if these taxes/incomes go towards immediate public transit. And work closer to homes (it raises the visible costs of restrictive zoning).

The cost of owning, operating, and insuring a vehicle is a pretty high tax.

Funny thing about public transit too, if you build transit to businesses in walkable communities you don't just help the poor.


All this does is siphon money from people, and increase people's desperation.

It's not like you can just choose to not work anymore. If your job is a long commute away that's money you have to spend no matter what on transport.

There often aren't other options. Most transit in North America sucks inside cities and doesn't serve outlying areas very well at all.

Long commutes are an effect of companies centralizing in big urban areas. They don't care how long it takes their workers to get to the office as long as they don't have to pay for it.

Maybe make companies responsible for their employees gas, insurance, and commute times, you might see satellite offices spring up all over the place in more rural areas so their workforce has smaller commute times.


>Most transit in North America sucks inside cities and doesn't serve outlying areas very well at all.

I've done transit in most of the major cities in Canada to/from work & school, or airports, and most are pretty decent.

I don't know that transit should really serve outlying areas?


If a goal of transit is to reduce emissions from single occupancy vehicles commuting to and from work, then it seems to me that it should service outlying areas because those people are commuting too, and further

But of course it's not really practical.


Yes, imposing costs increases trhe costs of some activities. Unfortunately, there isn't a solution that involves no change in anyone's behavior.

If employees have to pay more on a commute, it will change companies' behavior.


> If employees have to pay more on a commute, it will change companies' behavior.

I don't see why it would, why do you think that?


They need workers, so either they pay workers more to make it worth commuting, or move location to be nearer to workers. Or go remote. People are not going to lose money to go to work.


That would have a particularly large impact on food prices. Increasing the portion of food cost attributable to fuel by between 3x and 10x would hit poorer people particularly hard. It would raise the price of pretty much everything else too, all of which hits people harder the lower they are on the economic ladder.

Maximizing the speed of implementing renewable energy that can power EV's, and scaling EV production to more affordable levels are much less likely to stomp on the poor. And unlike trying to raise gas prices to $30 it's actually realistic from a social/political standpoint, especially since we're already on that path, just not as fast as we could be.

This is not a simple problem, and it's exceedingly rare that a complex problem has such a simple solution as this. Even the renewable/EV combo has inumerable variables behind it that have taken decades to get us to the point we're at now.


> That would have a particularly large impact on food prices. Increasing the portion of food cost attributable to fuel by between 3x and 10x would hit poorer people particularly hard. It would raise the price of pretty much everything else too, all of which hits people harder the lower they are on the economic ladder.

Yes, the purpose would be to reduce consumption of basically all things, since cheap fossil fuels are the basis of manufacturing and transporting almost all things. Hitting people hard would be a necessary effect of reducing carbon emissions, although wealth transfers from the rich to poor via taxation can modulate how much the poor are hit relative to the rich.


> That would have a particularly large impact on food prices. Increasing the portion of food cost attributable to fuel by between 3x and 10x would hit poorer people particularly hard. It would raise the price of pretty much everything else too, all of which hits people harder the lower they are on the economic ladder.

In the short term, but it may incentivize more local production chains in the future. A large part of the reason food is grown in such large, factory farm setting is because transport is a fraction of the cost of the food itself. As you say it's a complex problem and there aren't any simple solutions.


It would return food to local grown again. Making it no longer the cheapest option to ship food from the other side of the planet rather than growing in the same state.


Local isn't available everywhere in the quantities needed to feed large local (city) populations. That might change over a long enough period of time, but waiting for market forces to adjust the food supply to to closest locations available would leave a lot more poor and hungry people in the meantime.

If we're going to tinker with things in that way, it's better to do it on the side of pushing renewables and EV's as fast as possible. Until then, things like raising a gas tax are regressive, falling significantly harder on people least able to bear the extra burden.


Then we shall continue on the road we have been on, consuming enough fossil fuels to affect climate change. Hence the conclusion one comes to is to live it up while we can.


That's a false dichotomy. It's not "raise fuel prices 5x to 10x or fail". We should be working on a constellation of initiatives that move things forward but without leaving significant chunks of people behind.

If the bottom 25% of the economic ladder get stomped on and pushed into poverty (when not already there) how does that help? It will set things back: Because the people getting stomped, going hungry, working 2 jobs and 60hours a week-- they're not going to sit back and suffer in silence as things get worse. The backlash would be enormous and political pressure insurmountable.

We need solutions that account for the people impacted by them or we'll get nowhere. Throwing your hands up and saying Fine, "live is up while we can" because a simple solution doesn't solve a complex problem is defeatist. And stops you-- likely a very smart person-- from contributing to the dialog of how to solve an extraordinarily complex problem and implementing some of those countless big and little things we can do to keep moving forward.


great way to make the poors poorer and make poors pay for a problem that richer folks tend to create. This would effectively create a tax on the poor, as poors are the ones that live further away the pockets of work.


Income/wealth disparities are a separate issue from the problem of excess fossil fuel usage. That problem can be addressed via wealth transfers.


You’re missing the point. Fossil fuel usages is largely paid for by the poor. Gas to go to work, gas to transport food and cheap plastic goods to Walmart, etc. Poor people don’t have a choice in how they shop or how far away they live from their job, yet they are the ones paying the fuel tax whether it be by buying gas directly or by paying higher prices at Walmart.

Raising fuel prices just fucks over the poor, and transfers wealth to the owners of the businesses they shop at who keep the same margin of a bigger pie.


There are two separate problems.

One is excess fossil fuel consumption, causing people to be able to live further away then they should be if the goal is to reduce carbon emissions. It does not matter how rich the person consuming them is, total consumption needs to go down.

A separate problem is a rich person being able to consume far more fossil fuels than a poor person. This is solved by taking from the rich person and giving to the poor person.

There is no “fucking over”. Based on the amount that fossil fuel consumption needs to be reduced, everyone will need to feel pain while cities are rezoned, people’s expectations of how much space they have are changed, and hence, politically, there will never be a solution to fossil fuel usage without the advent of technology that replaces it.


The market didn't find an efficient solution to this problem, so you want to use non-market forces to influence the market and then double down on relying on the market to find an efficient solution again?

How much do we have to sacrifice to the market before we'll admit that maybe we should consider other solutions?


"The market" only cares about things that are factored in to prices. External costs like the environment are currently not factored in so the market will never optimize for them.

If you simply set a carbon tax, overnight the whole market puts a huge effort in to lowering their environmental damage because now that damage has a number next to it and can be optimized for.


As long as the housing stock is what it is, most people need to drive in order to live.

We can and should transition towards walkable and transit-connected apartments, but the problem there isn't a lack of demand.


The housing stock is what it is because of low fossil fuel prices. Most families prefer detached single family homes with two car driveways and quarter acre lots, away from all the homeless and in the most exclusive school districts they can afford.


Do you think this is politically viable, particularly in the US, which has a lot of open space and long commutes? Are you going to apply this tax to rural communities and farmers as well?


Of course not. Reducing carbon emissions and avoiding climate change has never been viable, because it lowers people’s quality of life now for the benefit of people not alive now (or in decades past).

The only viable solution within the timeframe humans had was to reduce fossil fuel consumption in total, from some combination of reducing per capita consumption and reducing population itself.

However, it is a prisoner’s dilemma, and there was never going to be unity in reducing everyone’s consumption and hence quality of life, especially not from the 80% of up and coming people around the world who are looking forward to enjoying life like the upper 20% have been.


What solution is politically viable in the US though? There is serious resistance to almost anything.


> Why? People need to get to work, so they drive. Two hour commutes in carbon-spewing cars happen because people can't afford to live near their work.

The emissions of all consumer cars together is a drop in the bucket compared to other CO2 sources.


Source?

"Light Duty Vehicles", which are presumably cars, make up over half the "transportation" emissions in the US, and transportation is the leading source of emissions.

https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/fast-facts-transportation-...


By your own link all light duty vehicles make up a mere 17% of emissions.

Also if you track down the original report that pie chart is drawn from, you’ll find that is only considering direct fossil fuel combustion. Consider all sources and it drops down to 12%.

ALL consumer cars everywhere, for every purpose, amounts to 12% of emissions. Commuting is a smaller fraction of that. I stand by my claim.


> Consider all sources and it drops down to 12%.

What does this mean? All sources?

How is 17% emissions a small amount? It's as much as our agricultural and commercial emissions combined and 1% more than our residential and commercial emissions combined. It's more than the the emissions of all airline travel. Only industrial and electricity related emissions are more. What other category would you pick to lean up on?


There are other ways CO2 or other greenhouse gasses are emitted besides burning fossil fuels. Examples include outgassing from construction (e.g. concrete), metal refineries, and livestock.


According to [1], the US had net Greenhouse Gas emissions of 6558.3 MMT CO2 Eq, of which transportation CO2 energy emissions took 1817.2 MMT CO2 Eq, of which 58% was due to light-duty vehicles. That means 16% of total emissions are due to light-duty vehicles, not 12% as you say, and only 1% off the 17% listed above.

[1]: https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2021-04/documents/us..., Section 2-3 Trends, Pg 94.


Page ES-7 gives a total amount for transportation, of which light duty vehicles is a percentage given in the pie chart. Multiply out and you get 12%.

I’m on mobile now I’m not interested in delving further because 12% vs 16% doesn’t matter. The vast majority of emissions are not from cars.


So then I pose the question again, which set of emissions would you cut? The only other categories that pollute more is industry or electric generation. Which would you cut and why would you rather cut that than the emissions from cars?


Industry and electric generation. Switch to hydrogen rather than carbon-based industrial processes, and nuclear power.


> He speculates that poorer city dwellers are missing out on the increased social interactions that are credited with driving innovation and wealth creation in large metropolises.

I don't disagree, but it seems a little strange that the article highlights this point rather than the endemic rent-seeking of the urban upper-classes?


It does seem strange to relabel the accelerating trend of converting housing into speculative investment vehicle as "wealth creation" and wondering why the poor are "missing out".


IMO, the eeath creation happens almost by definition from increased efficiency of resource allocation in the society: Thebl free market forces drive more efficient allocation of scarce resources, so the weath is created in a sense, that there is the least amount of waste compared with other alternatives.


In a free market of rational economic actors, no externalities, no liquidity limitations, and an unlimited time horizon this is probably true.

The North American urban real estate market is increasingly dominated by a dwindling number of economic actors who collectively act to restrict housing supply. This is not a system where the free market is functional or would necessarily produce the best results.


> In a free market of rational economic actors Not sure what rationality has to do with this. It is about personal utility which is subjective and at time irrational.

> liquidity ... time horizon

Not sure how is this related? Liquidity in itself is an asset, if you have readily available money vs oney on paper that a big difference, always was and always will be. But how is this related?

> ...limited number of actors...

IMO, there are always so many alternatives, (e.g. moving to a different city, living in suburbs) it is hard to image uncompetitive real estate market, even if all the land in a city was in a private hands of a single "actor" it would still be very competitive market overall. But that's hardly a case, indeed even if the land is in hands of two actors it's enough for a competition here. Or do you suggest there is a cartel? In that case it's a legal issue of failed police force not a free market failure unless you privatize police as well.


Liquidity matters in free markets as it effects the ability of buyers to buy and sellers to sell. In Urban housing markets many individuals do not have the liquidity to buy even if they have the cash flow.

The number of actors matter as moving to different cities typically means changing jobs which may or may not be viable, if alternative cities have the same pricing dynamics at play - then it may not be possible to find a better alternative in price.

As to the reason why this all matters and we aren't content with simply choosing to rent from REIT A or REIT B is that zoning boards have proven unable to cut through A & B's protests against new construction. While A&B may compete with each other they do not compete with any alternative, and all potential customers must acquire housing. As long as the total number of housing units remains below the demand for housing then A&B will benefit.

In practice there are still a number of players who interact with the zoning board - but the net result is still a frustratingly stagnant housing supply.


IMO, this is still a free market modulo the part with the city planning which is not about voluntary exchange of services or goods but a coertion by law. The definition of free market is so much broader than the peculiarities you've mentioned. Couldn't there be a free market before the fiat money existed? In any case, in my original post I was talking about forces of free market, these forces might exist in partially free market where many things are not a free choice but consequence of one or the other type of social coercion. Free market force: all it means is that the specific exchange between the parties was done voluntarily as a manifestation of the parties preferences in face of all other alternatives they have. In this sense the parties came to a conclusion that this action maximizes their utility.

I'm not arguing that free market forces are better than the alternative (you need to define what you mean by better), just saying in terms of resources allocation, free market forces maximize utility in face of other alternatives.

You can argue that this is a prisoner dilemma situation etc... but that's a fallacy as well IMO (can discuss this if more details are desired)


Investing in housing is GOOD for society, because housing is not a scarce resource - the more is invested the more is built. It's precisely those places that have put up the most barriers to investing and building housing that have seen the greatest deterioration in housing affordability:

https://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/RentControl.html

https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/mac.20170388

Beware of the anti-profit bias:

https://digest.bps.org.uk/2017/08/04/we-have-an-ingrained-an...


The [city] government can build housing according to need just as any other infrastructure.

This would however go against a lot of interests, both institutional and citizens with a large mortgage, that depends on high housing prices. So it's rare. But one can see Vienna, Austria, as a good example of where the government takes an active role in building housing and can show a great result in low rents and high availability.


Yes, the state can embark on massive construction of housing. The advantage is it gets around zoning restrictions on building height.

State-funded housing tends to be unimaginative/repetitive in design and lower quality though. The same outcome, of higher density housing, can be achieved by simply repealing zoning restrictions, and if that doesn't do enough, by replacing sales taxes with land taxes, which discourage sprawling land-inefficient housing.

There may be advantages, in political economy, that makes overcoming special interests opposed to densification easier, with the state-led approach though.

As for special interests in general, there are plenty in and close to the state itself that would massively profit from large public projects, so I don't see this as a question of whether or not we support special interests. It's simply a question of which special interests.


Obviously having housing stock is probably good. Housing however IS a scarce resource, especially housing when it comes to being close to things like transit, views, natural amenities, parks, businesses and other amenities - and one of the most important things that doesn't seem like its talked about: neighborhoods of similar social classes.

There are myriad reasons one area does great, and I don't think its entirely due to barriers in investing and building, else those with no barriers would see massive movement towards them. Often times the desirability of living in a place is almost directly inversely related to how little regulation they have.


It's artifically scarce in North America. Houses are being used as investments and are often sitting empty as, for instnace, the owners (or the foreclosing bank) don't want to deal with renters.

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/02/11/empty-homes-canada-...

https://247wallst.com/housing/2019/09/30/there-are-over-17-m...


The percentage of housing sitting empty is quite low, and well within the range for any asset. 100% utilization is not a realistic expectation and would not be a healthy situation. Markets need the flexibility of owners being able to wait before committing a resource to a particular usage.

But there is artificial scarcity in housing, and that's almost solely down to regulatory restrictions that suppress private property rights, whether that's rent control that make it less profitable than it should be to invest in housing, onerous permitting processes for building a new house, or zoning restrictions limiting the density of a new housing development. Economists have chronicled the problems created by these interventions, in detail.


>>Housing however IS a scarce resource, especially housing when it comes to being close to things like transit, views, natural amenities, parks, businesses and other amenities

Obviously density can compromise something like having good views, or the benefit of a relaxed low-density neighbourhood, but almost any other kind of housing scarcity can be addressed through densification.

The study in the aeaweb link above estimates that increased housing restrictions in just three cities in the US; New York, San Francisco and San Jose, caused the US to have 36% less economic growth between 1964 and 2009 than it otherwise would have, by inhibiting population growth in these cities, which all provide settings for higher productivity due to agglomeration effects and being coastal cities with low logistical costs.

A report by the White House's Council of Economic Advisors in 2016 largely came to the same conclusion:

https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/fi...

>>else those with no barriers would see massive movement towards them

We see a massive movement of people from New York and California to Texas:

https://www.northamerican.com/migration-map

It's hard to isolate factors behind this move, but I don't think it's a leap to assume lower housing costs, largely due to fewer restrictions on housing investment and construction, is one of them. In contrast to San Francisco, which is notorious for zoning restrictions and rent control mandates instituted by extreme-left city governments, and unsurprisingly, has the highest rental rates in the world (while not having the highest average income rates), Houston is renowned for its pro-free-market housing policy, and communersately affordable housing:

https://www.sightline.org/2017/09/21/yes-you-can-build-your-...


"Investing in housing is GOOD" but speculation in housing is very bad. Having anyone middle class or lower completely priced out of home ownership because the upper middle class want "a safe investment" or "the real estate market is HOT HOT HOT" is not good for society no matter how you want to spin it.


The secondary market for any asset, whether housing or equity, is what allows the primary market to raise large amounts of capital, so no, speculation is not bad at all. It indirectly leads to more investment in housing construction.


maybe it's strange, or maybe the santa fe institute's funding would be in danger if they published that sort of analysis. i tried to get in idea of what they were about briefly, but it made my eyes cross.


What are the urban upper-classes, and what is the endemic rent-seeking they are engaging in?


Urban upper-classes are landowners, the endemic rent-seeking they are engaging in is via monopoly control of land, which people need for living and working. They are able to extract high proportions of people's income for rent from those who are unable to afford to join the land-owning upper class.


> Urban upper-classes are landowners, the endemic rent-seeking they are engaging in is via monopoly control of land,

Who has monopoly control of land? is there a cartel or corporation of all these shadowly urban upper-classes who own everything?

> which people need for living and working. They are able to extract high proportions of people's income for rent from those who are unable to afford to join the land-owning upper class.

Owning land is not "rent-seeking". Owning highly desirable land is not. Owning a large amount of highly desirable land is not. Renting it out is also not. Investing in appreciating assets of any kind is also not.


Landowners have monopoly control of land. There are ways of defining monopolies that avoid this conclusion, but the effect of a monopoly is precisely the effect of landowners. See, for example, Churchill: http://www.andywightman.com/docs/churchill.pdf

Land is essentially monopolised through regulatory capture (council land use restrictions) and the lack of new production of land (ignoring for now the very minor exceptions of, say, Dubai, Singapore, the Netherlands). There is a lack of viable substitutes of land, and due the necessity of land for human life, the owners of land are able to extract rent far above their marginal cost.

It would be possible for landlords to not engage in rent-seeking, but in practice there are exceedingly few landlords who do not. See, for example, Ricardo's Law of Rent for an introduction as to why land-lording is the classic example of rent-seeking.

Note that by saying "Investing in appreciating assets of any kind is also not." I suspect that you see land as equivalent to other forms of capital, and thus a legitimate form of investment to be pursued without any ethical qualms. However, land is not capital, and is distinct from other forms of investment.


They don't have a monopoly control of "land", the have control of the land they own. And whether or not new land is being produced or land is unique is pretty flimsy. There's vast amounts of land around the globe under varying laws and systems of government and usage. Land use regulation is also not equivalent to regulatory capture. I don't have much time for redefining common terms as a way to argue -- if you want to abolish private ownership of land, just out and say it.

> Land is essentially monopolised through regulatory capture (council land use restrictions) and the lack of new production of land (ignoring for now the very minor exceptions of, say, Dubai, Singapore, the Netherlands). There is a lack of viable substitutes of land, and due the necessity of land for human life, the owners of land are able to extract rent far above their marginal cost.

This is just emotional handwaving. Water is vital for human life and you can't produce more of it ignoring very minor exceptions of chemical reactions. If I pour myself a glass of water I don't gain monopoly control of water.

And Ricardo's Law of Rent does not explain that land-lording is rent-seeking. Millions of people own a second house and rent it out, how are they rent-seeking?

> Note that by saying "Investing in appreciating assets of any kind is also not." I suspect that you see land as equivalent to other forms of capital,

From the point of view of an investor it's pretty equivalent to other assets. Everything is finite. Water, sand, apples, cell phones, gold.

> and thus a legitimate form of investment to be pursued without any ethical qualms. However, land is not capital, and is distinct from other forms of investment.

Everyone wanting to live in the Upper East Side of New York City but not being able afford to rent or own a place there because everyone else wants to live there does not illustrate any ethical problems with land ownership at all. No more than me owning a box of corn flakes when some people starve to death because of poverty.


> They don't have a monopoly control of "land", the have control of the land they own.

The land-owning class as a group have monopoly control of land. As far as I know, there isn't much un-owned land, so the land-owning class owns all the land.

> And whether or not new land is being produced or land is unique is pretty flimsy.

This is one of the definitional factors of a monopoly: "a lack of economic competition to produce the good or service", so I don't think it's flimsy at all. It's also a very commonly noted point by basically every economist that has looked at land, when distinguishing land from capital.

> if you want to abolish private ownership of land, just out and say it.

Not at all!

> This is just emotional handwaving. Water is vital for human life and you can't produce more of it ignoring very minor exceptions of chemical reactions. If I pour myself a glass of water I don't gain monopoly control of water.

As it turns out, if you and, say, 1 million others owned all the water in your country, you would in fact be part of the group that has monopolised control of water. You could then charge whatever you want to those who do not own the water, given they need it for life. This would be rent-seeking, as the amount you charge could far exceed your marginal costs of production. Water is actually a form of economic land, it just happens to be in great abundance and is slippery enough to be difficult to monopolise.

> And Ricardo's Law of Rent does not explain that land-lording is rent-seeking. Millions of people own a second house and rent it out, how are they rent-seeking?

Rent-seeking is the activity by which people try to gain more economic rent; that is, they are trying to gain something without doing anything in return. Those who own a second house and rent it out are actually doing two things: they are hiring out a house, which is not rent, properly speaking. And they are extracting rent for access to the land, which is economic rent. Building a house and maintaining it is a productive use of capital, and hiring it out is not rent-seeking. Owning land and renting out it is, definitionally, rent-seeking (unless one were to only charge as much rent for the land as the costs of keeping the land).

Ricardo's Law of Rent does explain this quite clearly. You can see an introduction here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_rent but this lecture may be more clear: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyv1xYDWAxk


You're just redefining "monopoly" to make some ill defined emotional argument.

> Rent-seeking is the activity by which people try to gain more economic rent; that is, they are trying to gain something without doing anything in return. Those who own a second house and rent it out are actually doing two things: they are hiring out a house, which is not rent, properly speaking. And they are extracting rent for access to the land, which is economic rent. Building a house and maintaining it is a productive use of capital, and hiring it out is not rent-seeking. Owning land and renting out it is, definitionally, rent-seeking (unless one were to only charge as much rent for the land as the costs of keeping the land).

No it isn't. You're doing lots of handwaving about semantics but you still haven't actually explained what rent-seeking activity these people engage in when they hire out their house-and-land to someone else.

>As it turns out, if you and, say, 1 million others owned all the water in your country, you would in fact be part of the group that has monopolised control of water.

Untrue.

> You could then charge whatever you want to those who do not own the water, given they need it for life.

Also false.

> This would be rent-seeking, as the amount you charge could far exceed your marginal costs of production. Water is actually a form of economic land, it just happens to be in great abundance and is slippery enough to be difficult to monopolise.

That is not what rent-seeking means, but at least we have gotten to the point where you agree that ownership of land is not fundamentally different from ownership of other assets in this regard.

> Ricardo's Law of Rent does explain this quite clearly. You can see an introduction here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_rent

It actually doesn't at all.


So 8 million landlords in the US form a monopoly?


Yes. See the above-linked Winston Churchill speech for an articulate summary of why, although there are plenty of other avenues to discover this.


Due to my BG check issues, I am currently quite poor. I can't really afford housing so I sleep outside on land owned by the Post Office.

Why they don't kick me off is something I haven't been able to figure out, but I'm grateful they let me stay so I clean up their parking lot and common area 3-4 times a week.

Trust me...the poor get the barest of scraps already, so of course they get nothing "when cities grow". What I've seen is that a few people with very large hearts and a ton of compassion make regular stops with a big pot of pasta and ice cream and maybe a pack of socks, under ware, and t-shirts.

To be honest, I've always been very much a loner so I don't really make friends with other poor people as most poor do in order to keep up to date on where the free places to eat are and all that kinda stuff.

I really don't want to be poor like this, but I guess it's no one's fault but mine why I'm in this predicament.

What I want more than anything is a job, but at last look I have 7 felonies (6 possession charges and a 2nd degree "Escape" charge that's always kind of fun to explain), but when you run a BG check on me thru some of the very popular and cheap apps out there, due to bugs in their systems and the way I've moved around a lot, it literally looks like I have about 50 felonies because apparently these sites create duplicates that are missing info and then since they don't "match" to the real charges, the database logic inserts them as different charges.

I tried contacting the companies, but they refuse to even look at the issue and I'm sure think I'm a super junkie who has 50 felonies.

I don't really think it's fair to not give me a chance to work because of stuff that's happened 30 to 8 years ago. Don't you guys feel like a totally different person than you were 8 years ago? Like aren't we supposed to forgive people who have been through a lot of pain and suffering and who have learned new ways?

I mean...these possession charges are a life fucking sentence!

It's SUCH a shit grind to go thru 3 to 4 long interviews, and to feel like you did well enough to get hired, and then never get called back about what happened. The last 10 jobs I've applied for I've gone through this same exact thing, and even though I hate being poor like I am more than anything, being the victim of a silent discrimination is worse.


For most employers 7 vs 50 felonies will make no difference, any number that's not zero will disqualify you.

Being upfront about your criminal record (including that it looks worse than it is) and/or explicitly targeting companies that have signed up to Ban the Box and/or the Fair Chance Pledge might help.


A. I hope someone working on such apps reads this and does something about it.

B. I wonder if you can get some kind of gig work income that doesn't involve background checks.

C. I wonder if you might be able to develop some other source of income that doesn't involve background checks. (For example, I looked into panning for gold at one point.)

I'm sorry you are in such a pickle.


Hey man thanks for this...one thing I never want to do is to make a spectacle of myself and my predicament, so I am always really hesitant to bring it up bcuz, yeah, I get it I fucked up my life pretty damn good and people in general have plenty of problems themselves.

Yes I'm looking into perhaps putting together a classroom on one of those pretty killer live educational apps that are available these days. I used to teach guitar 30 years ago and I really enjoyed it, although I'm not sure I'm the best teacher ever.


I'm probably best known for having been homeless for years. I'm pretty open about it.

I wrote the San Diego Homeless Survival Guide while homeless and I still work on developing free online resources, though I still struggle to make ends meet.

Let me know if you want links to some of those resources.

Best of luck.


Have you looked into expungement? I'm not super familiar with how it works and it does vary state to state but you may be able to fix some of the issues via that route. There might be some public legal aid available to help because I have heard the process can be expensive and time-consuming.


Expungement is one of those things..like "the year of the linux desktop" that always get brought up but never can actually happen.

The problem is the way the law is actually written...it 's written for a very specific use case (at least the one in Florida is) for people who committed ONE and ONLY ONE felony in their entire life (I think the Florida statue say that you can't even have another misdemeanor on your record, but perhaps I'm disremembering that).

It was never made to throw a big blanket over a lifetime of impulsive decisions like I have done. Plus, there is the problem of actually purging the perhaps 100s of private BG check database out there that various companies use that do not even advertise to the public.

Man I wish more than anything that I could just be given one chance to "start over"...you would see perhaps the most law abiding, risk adverse person you have ever seen.

I've been thru true hell with all this stuff, and people actually do change when the pain of staying the same crushes the pain of making changes.

In fact, that's the only time they do change if you ask me.


Yes, at 8 to 30 years most of these should be expunged.


So your basically being shadow banned, for unjust reasons, from working. Contrasting with here, you cannot email hn@ycombinator to fix those issues... The Kafkaesque multiplication of felony counts done by those apps must add a layer of insults to the injury.

:(


Yeah...the just/unjust aspect is kinda of hard for me to judge fairly. I did some extremely careless crap in my life, and obviously never considered the pain of the consequences of my actions.

I totally accept that many of not most people who read my BG think I'm getting exactly what I deserve...to never be given the chance to redeem myself or to pull myself out of my shit situation.

I think that's an extremely harsh way to judge someone, and that everyone should be given an opportunity to make a living if they show they have learned from the pain of the past.

Also, considering that hiring is such a crap shoot anyway, (I read somewhere that over half the people hired as programmers today won't be at that job in a year) what is the huge deal with giving someone like me who has been in recovery for 2.5 years a shot to contribute to the bottom line?

I really am a damn good programmer, and I still have an amazing passion for building new systems using modern stacks. I am fortunate as hell that I'm apparently a "natural learner" defined as someone who spends their entire life always chasing new knowledge.


> a life fucking sentence!

reading stories like that i wonder whether in such situations it may be simpler to just start a new life by like moving to a 2nd-3rd rate country where society isn't that cruel/unforgiving wrt. priors (at least not badly violent ones) and where English (plus US passport which alone places one into higher caste out there) and technical skills take you at least into minimally comfortable existence or even much further. Countries like Ukraine and Russia naturally come into my mind, and anecdotally on a trip to Mexico i met a local consulting shop owner who was telling me how hard it is to hire there.


Anecdotally, the State of Alaska sometimes serves that purpose in the US, a place where you can go to escape your past and get a fresh start. It isn’t the easiest life but it is common enough that people there are tolerant of it, because there are so many examples among people they know. It used to be a bit like that in the rural West but I’d say less so now.


(This may not help OP, but in case anyone else was thinking thi.)

Anecdotally, Hawaii is not. A lot of people think they can "start over" there, and it's next to impossible unless you already have a salaried job lined up before you move.

If anyone moves there, I highly recommend getting a local 808 number. People there are very nice, but they still discriminate against outsiders.


That takes money to accomplish, and to get money OP needs a job. Which they can't get.


At one stage wasn't it:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

...


> Like aren't we supposed to forgive people who have been through a lot of pain and suffering and who have learned new ways? I mean...these possession charges are a life fucking sentence!

Its cheaper to lock you up, give you a record; its more lucrative to sell that data - then it is to rehabilitate, reintegrate, and forgive.

I’m sorry you’re in this situation because it is bullshit. I’m not an expert on this, but I believe there are employers who will hire/help people with felony charges and hopefully you can find one near you.


> due to bugs in their systems and the way I've moved around a lot, it literally looks like I have about 50 felonies

I think this should be illegal - it's basically slander.


I ran a small consultancy for about 15 years and came away convinced that is the way to go for folks that can't get work because of a criminal record. Even though we were entrusted with some pretty serious information (we were in infosec), none of our customers except for one large bank and the federal government did any kind of independent background checks or insisted on any specific hiring practices. I think you probably need the facade of a brand instead of just Joe Blow, independent contractor, but most people just trusted it. We did have a few customers insist on E&O insurance, which may present some challenges, but most didn't care about any of that.

This might seem like a million miles away from where you are now, but if the skills you have or can develop are marketable it might be something to look into...if for no other reason than to give you some hope.


You have to know that I've tried, and continue, to try this, but apparently it seems like my addictions are almost certainly tied to my inability to create relationships like the ones needed to get hired like this.

Loner-ism isn't exactly the best trait for landing contract jobs, or for sales in general...just in case you were perhaps wondering.

I had a fair amount of success on the Upwork platform until some real dickweek in New Jersey destoryed my JSS score because I wouldn't violate federal law and allow them to dictate the exact hours I was to work as a 1099 IC.

Worse, I feel, is that Upwork agreed with them (of course because they have the money) about this situation that could not be more plainly written on the IRS website.

I don't know exactly how you landed the contracts you did in order to pay the bills and such, but I don't seem to have any skill with that, so while I really appreciate the brainstorming everyone is doing, people should know that I'll never give up trying to better my life and make a living doing what I love.


That's horrible. I think all of us agree and wish we could help. I would add, don't take it too personally that they don't phone back or explain. That happens at all level of job hunting. It feels offensive and rude, but it happens all the time. Keep trying and good luck.


Thank you very much for your insightful and kind words...they really do inspire me.


Its complete BS that you cant stand on the merits of now. Just so some white men can hold onto political power and insight fear into the masses to get them votes.


I would love to see how Houston fares in this analysis, as AFAIK it’s the only large city in North America that is quite permissive towards residential development, including lower-end development. I suspect that a lot of what’s happening in general is the unavoidable scarcity of _land_ in prime urban locations manifests as a scarcity of _housing_, and development in general, due to the hyper-regulatory environment in most cities. And of course if you make housing scarce everyone is worse off, most of all the poor, but at every point in the income ladder people are paying much more per square foot of space than is necessary or desirable.


Huston is not that different, because it has a lot of other regulations that in effect do the same. (There's just less traditional land use "zoning".)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaU1UH_3B5k

Not just scarcity, but the lack of mixed use development, the lack of high efficiency city logistics (moving people, people's belongings, food/freight/cargo to shops/restaurants and bigger stores) prevent most US cities from being adequately flexible enough to adapt to changing economic patterns. (And to allow innovating new patterns, etc.) Not to mention that most metro areas are a zigzag patchwork of planning jurisdictions, and all of these municipalities are incentivized to push certain stuff away from them.


My understanding is that Houston is facing different issues due to sprawl and transit. Housing is cheap if the commute is bad, but very expensive closer to the job centers.

If that’s true (I’m not from Houston!), then it does seem like zoning reform is probably not enough to solve America’s housing issues.


It's hard to compare to some cities in the north since a lot of what is now considered Houston were actually numerous different towns separated by open fields earlier in the 20th century, and now they've all been swallowed up. But the inner part of Houston has famously (infamously?) had minimal zoning restrictions and the inner 610 loop had quite a bit more affordable housing than comparably-sized cities such as Chicago. Nowadays people get pretty annoyed at large new apartment buildings (even luxury ones) being built in the inner loop, but that's just because Houstonians have been so used to having far more houses in the urban center than other large cities (I'm thinking of walking down shadowed streets in NYC where you don't see the sun because the residential buildings are several stories tall--something uncommon here). But the lack of zoning is making it easier to quickly fill in with denser housing such as 3-story or 4-story townhomes and large new apartment buildings, so I'm curious if it will be incredibly dense in the center a century from now.


I lived there for a while and owned an okay condo in a very central / prime location. 2bd 1ba. It cost $100k at the time (peak recession). I checked recently and saw it last sold in 2021 for $140k. From my later experience living in SF I’d guess that place would go for $800k-1.2M in SF. So, I think Houston is still pretty affordable, even in the urban core, compared to most cities.


It's even crazier to think about that Houston isn't an example of zoning reform – they've never had any zoning to begin with! You can essentially build anything you want, anywhere, of any density. Yes, even skyscrapers in a residential area [1] or an industrial crematorium in the middle of a neighborhood [2] or, most famously, an amusement park-house-hybrid [3].

The problem is just that Texas, as a whole, has a planning philosophy of outwards, not upwards. Things are densifying in job rich areas now that they've just about expanded as far as they can (the city proper 669 square miles, or about twice the 5 boroughs of NYC, twice the geographic size of its sibling city Dallas, and 150+ square miles larger than Los Angeles; none of these sizes include surrounding suburbs, by the way).

All of this is long way to say that you're right – it's not just about zoning. It's equally about ending the grip of car-centric planning and not just allowing, but incentivizing densification and walkability. The fact 2/3rds of Houston is in (increasingly-frequent, due in part to the sprawl itself not allowing anywhere for water to runoff to) flood zones, too, is apparently not incentive enough.

[1] https://s.hdnux.com/photos/51/06/32/10774164/4/1200x0.jpg [2] https://s.hdnux.com/photos/51/07/70/10780179/4/1200x0.jpg [3] https://s.hdnux.com/photos/51/07/64/10779939/4/rawImage.jpg


You might be interested in learning about J. J. Pastoriza, Houston's first Hispanic mayor, and proponent of an ambitious and short-lived land reform movement for the city back in the 1910's

https://twitter.com/larsiusprime/status/1427107150053183505


Hey Larsius, thanks for sharing, that was very interesting! Maybe mistaken identity but I think we might know each other… we’re you in John Fairey’s studio spring ‘03? :)


That would have been sophomore year so yeah... I may very well be the Lars you're looking for.


And for homeowners, that means more equity for them. It's a massive wealth transfer to homeowners


It actually sucks when your house goes up in value, if you don't plan on moving, because everything else nearby has also gone up in value, so you'd be force to leave if you ever sold, and because your property taxes go up (in some places).


If the property taxes are going up that much, then the local government is spending much more. But I have seen places where land values go up, and tax rates actually go down (and/or assessments remain low), since the government expenses do not rise at the same rate.


That would be rare, because rapidly increasing property values are almost always driven by rapidly increased demand. The municipal government has to expand its expenditures to meet this demand, usually ahead of when it receives expanded revenue. Generally speaking, it's much more expensive to grow quickly than slowly.


Extremely true in Houston (and the rest of Texas). Property taxes are big and can change dramatically year to year.


To really understand Houston you would need more data. Chiefly, the rampant influx of illegal aliens driving massive growth, higher rents when construction can't keep up, pressure on unskilled wages, and rapid building of schools a d other infrastructure driving up property taxes. But some truth is not allowed to be voiced in polite society.


Huston has many kinds of regulations on new developments. "Zoning" is just one of them, that Huston has a laxer version of. (Compared to let's say SF/LA.)

The problem is that there's an enormous missing middle (and high) density development regime in the US that would allow cities to adequately track the changes in housing needs.


Weird.


When I was a poor student in Toronto there were lots of rooming houses and cheap hotels; those have all been fire coded, by-lawed and gentrified. Even a basement, single bedroom apartment is pretty much out of reach of somebody making minimum wage, let alone somebody scrapping by working odd jobs and odd hours.

It's not just the size of cities, as a culture we are deliberately exacerbating the impact of wealth disparity.


Canada is especially pernicious. Right now I live in a sort of nothing town on Vancouver Island 3 hours from Victoria or Vancouver and rent is STILL unaffordable if you can even find a place. As bad as it is in the states, I feel like it’s even worse up here.

The upside is that after having lived in both places, I’d still rather hit a rough patch in Canada. The healthcare, policing, and social services are all way more friendly in Canada.


Hey you got Tacofino so there’s that.

No but seriously it’s nuts how expensive the island is and I’m from Toronto


I’m in Comox! I don’t even get Tacofino.

The Canadian government’s, at all levels, unwillingness to do anything but talk about housing without action blows my mind. It’s like they never noticed what happened in the US.


Why would you call it a nothing town? Seems like a really nice place. I envy you for all the nature and the sea.


Its a great town for livability!

I called it a nothing town in reference to real estate. We are hours from major economic areas, have no industry to speak of, aren't constrained in land area, don't have anything unique, etc...

Nevertheless a "cheap" 3 bedroom house is $650k.


It's a fascinating mind trick:

1. Poor people are living in crappy rooms and hotels.

2. We must do something, so we ban those forms of housing.

3. Now poor people are sleeping in the street. We solved the problem!

Extra credit question:

Which problem was actually solved?


This seems suspect.

Almost anywhere you look throughout all of history, in countries with rural areas and urban areas, poor people flock from rural areas to urban areas for the opportunities and wealth that urban environments offer. This is even an entire trope in literature: the hero from a small village makes a name for themselves in the big city.

This study purports to show that "inequality" is worse in cities, but of course it is. The richest person in the small village is not going to have many multiples of wealth than the poorest, because they simply can't due to limited opportunities to build wealth overall. But that doesn't mean the poorest person isn't worse off in the village than the poorest person in the city.

People voting with their feet make it plain that this is not so.


"This is even an entire trope in literature: the hero from a small village makes a name for themselves in the big city."

That trope is a little bit of a trope.

It's one thing for young people from small towns to jump to a nice spot in the bigger city pyramid, but that doesn't speak to the fact that the poor, in cities, are still quite poor and have a low standard of living.

And frankly, nobody from a small town is impressed by someone 'making' it into a middle class lifestyle in the city anyhow.

Part of my family lived in a nice enough home in a small town, everyone knew each other, living was very cheap. Most people were actually technically poor, but how poor can you be if you own your own home, have access to basic resources, and material things, and very full social lives and hobbies, arguably more so than most city people?

The problem is that 'economic standing' is a crude assessment.

Toronto has these vast areas of older, ugly residential high rise buildings, you can hardly walk anywhere, there's maybe a crappy local strip mall nearby. No culture, no local institutions, no way to get away - you're just 'stuck at the bottom' in a pile of ugly concrete. Canadian winters are 'hard' but it's made 'ok' if there's space, places to play, trails and other activities which these areas tend not to have for both material and cultural reasons.

At least in small towns you have community centres, people know who you are, often a local identity, vibrant social networks and access to the outdoors.

All the 'working class' I know in small towns have either boats, RVs/Campers, often cottages while their peers in the city live in concrete jungles.

I feel that cities are far more likely to have fragmented communities, people are more individualist, which also means more opportunity in the technical sense for prosperity, but on the other end of the Bell Curve ... it's also bad.

The cities with less transient populations are probably a little better.

Cost of housing is probably a very fundamental factor.


> At least in small towns you have community centres, people know who you are, often a local identity, vibrant social networks and access to the outdoors.

Other than access to the outdoors I would say the rest of that doesn't apply to almost any small town in the USA - may just be a canadian thing. In the USA we have meth, heroin, and a 2/1 church to local business ratio.


I think that's true for certain regions but not for others.

New England seems to me to have more civil and quaint small towns.


Even 10 or 11 years ago you could find a studio apartment in LA for 600 to 700$.

It wasn't perfect( mine didn't have a kitchen, I learned how to cook pasta via a rice cooker), but considering it gave me a much needed escape from the insanity of my family, might as well of been a mansion.

I was making 10$ an hour back then, at 40 hours a week I'd take home maybe 1300 a month.

Rent was very doable. Now the same apartment is 1100$, minimum wage is 15$ but it's harder to get a 40 hour work week. I strongly believe you should be able to at least move out at 18, 19, etc. The best way to deal with a toxic family is dealing with them less.

But that's largely impossible now.


I compare my time living in New York City in 1994 to now living in Bangkok, Thailand, 2021.

Both very large cities with about 8 million people each.

New York City (5 boroughs) has become almost unaffordable for someone on the mean wage and salary USA personal income, which is $66K USD in 2019. You more or less have to share your apartment.

If I'm renting an apartment in any of the 5 boroughs that is anywhere near decent, I'm probably going to pay over $2,000 p/m.

Even in Bangkok, although rents are lower, salaries are also lower for the people at the bottom, so in the end, it comes down to the same problem. Most office workers making under USD$1,000 per month will be living in substandard accommodation or with family.

I would say, that in cities, food and transportation are still relatively cheap. But rents are driving out a lot of people now. We will see the soft white underbelly of all of this when the rent moratoriums finally end. (Winter is coming!)


> the mean wage and salary USA personal income, which is $66K USD in 2019.

No, the mean wage and salary personal income in 2019 was $51,916.27 (the median was $34,248.45.) [0] Both of those are across the employed population, whole population figures will be lower.

66K is roughly (but not exactly, but maybe a ”real” figure using earlier base year constant dollars) 2019 median household income.

[0] https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/central.html


When I was younger I lived in a few different cities and the usual thing to do was share the rent with others. So yes $1500/mo for an apartment may have been unaffordable, but that's an apartment with 3 rooms so find some people to share it with and you are paying $500/mo each. If you get along with said people there are other benefits too vs living on your own, so it's a win-win.

The problem I see with this In my city today is almost all new developments are smaller, being studios or 1 or 2 bedrooms. As the older housing stock is replaced, it means at sometime in the future it's not going to be possible to share as I did. Most people who have families move to the suburbs when they outgrow their apartment, so there isn't much demand for larger properties amongst people who can afford to buy them.


Why use the median wage nationally, when almost everyone living in NY benefits from higher wages there? Even the jobs which require no skill and no work experience pay $15/hr


Crazily enough, the median household income in New York City isn’t significantly different than the national average. In 2017 it was about 1k lower than the nation, and in 2018 it was 2k higher. The mean income in NYC is of course a fair bit higher than the national average, but in general that higher minimum wage doesn’t mean that people in NYC make much more than anyone else in the US, despite the significant cost of living there.


> Crazily enough, the median household income in New York City isn’t significantly different than the national average. In 2017 it was about 1k lower than the nation, and in 2018 it was 2k higher.

Median household income and median wage (or, alternatively, the former and median personal income, which isn't quite the same thing as median wage, but closely related) are not the same things. Of course, this thread has gone from one person mentioning mean wage and salary income to the response discussing median wage as if it were the same to the response to that discussing median household income as if it was the same.


Exactly. $15/hr with $2k/mo of rent is entirely unaffordable (that would mean $2,400/mo in wages, or 80% of total pay). And that’s less than half the median wage nationally.

That makes the argument that NYC is unaffordable even stronger.


Where does $2k/mo rent come from? I paid less than that while working at a FANG making $200k/yr.


Median wage in ny was 68k according to the US census bureau (2015-2019). OP was talking about a mean instead of a median btw.


> Median wage in ny was 68k according to the US census bureau (2015-2019).

That seems to be what the Census Bureau has for median household income for New York State for that period; I can't find any Census Bureau report for median wage for NYC, and that number doesn't match any Census Bureau reported income & poverty measure for New York City.


Misleading title. The study (based on the abstract as I don't have access) doesn't track anyone in this study; it just compares deciles over time, ignoring movement between these. So 'the poor' may very well be getting something, but then they're not 'the poor' anymore.

In essence, the study rediscovered that division of labor proliferates as economies grow.


There’s a fair quantity of research out there exploring how higher inequality between income brackets tends to come hand in hand with there being less mobility between those income brackets (both in an intergenerational and individual sense). I couldn’t say the extent that is true of cities specifically, but without reading the paper to see exactly the arguments made I wouldn’t out of hand be willing to say the title is misleading.


Can you recommend any particular studies of those you mention about downward mobility?


Right. Furthermore, from the very abstract:

>We show that income in the least wealthy decile (10%) scales close to linearly with city population, while income in the most wealthy decile scale with a significantly superlinear exponent.

Perhaps suboptimal if you believe income inequality is a massive problem, but scaling linearly with population? That's actually better than what I'd expect, and certainly not as tragic as the cherrypicked wording of the headline/news publication seems to imply.

It's another episode of an editor using a result to say literally anything they already wanted to.

Meta point: Nothing against the study itself here, but growing increasingly tired of this sort of truth-twisting nonsense. It seems like it will never end. How can we fix anything if we can't at least agree to not outright lie to each other?


Yup. Not a very convincing analysis.

There was another study that determined that gentrification actually benefited low income, in particular those who owned property (which is not a small number).


I live in Detroit and as our downtown core and few other inner ring neighborhoods have grown exponentially the rest of the city has not changed or lost population. Our mayor is currently challenging the last census, but it’s looking pretty clear that the growth of the now largely white downtown core has been at the expense of the largely black greater city. Obviously anecdotal evidence doesn’t mean much, but my lived experience reflects what this article is saying.


I agree with you that some neighborhoods are being left behind by growth, but what is the alternative?

Leaving aside race, Detroit needs to densify or die - nothing sustainable about supporting services in neighborhoods with one occupied house per block. Duggan has no choice but to chase downtown growth for tax revenue. It's a city with infrastructure built for millions and a population of half a mil.


I’m just not sure that the investments being made downtown will be successful long term. There’s very little high density housing for sale, it’s easier to buy in the loop in Chicago than in downtown Detroit. And at the same time, non visitor amenities are lacking. It’s a weird situation


Very true; downtown feels like disneyland for the suburbs. I really hope it can make the transition into a more coherent city.


How has it been at the expense of the others?


Things like the district Detroit, the Hudson site, going back farther Comerica. These projects all used public funds and over promised, and undelivered.


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