Market Urbanism http://marketurbanism.com Liberalizing cities | From the bottom up Tue, 19 Feb 2019 14:46:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.9 https://i2.wp.com/marketurbanism.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/cropped-Market-Urbanism-icon.png?fit=32%2C32 Market Urbanism http://marketurbanism.com 32 32 3505127 Yimbyism: The Evolution of an Idea http://marketurbanism.com/2019/02/19/yimbyism-the-evolution-of-an-idea/ http://marketurbanism.com/2019/02/19/yimbyism-the-evolution-of-an-idea/#respond Tue, 19 Feb 2019 14:46:01 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=10685 Five years ago everything in California felt like a giant (land use policy) dumpster fire. Fast forward to today we live in a completely different world. Yimby activists have pushed policy, swayed elections, and dramatically shifted the overton window on California housing policy. And through this process of pushing change, Yimbyism itself has evolved as […]

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Five years ago everything in California felt like a giant (land use policy) dumpster fire. Fast forward to today we live in a completely different world. Yimby activists have pushed policy, swayed elections, and dramatically shifted the overton window on California housing policy. And through this process of pushing change, Yimbyism itself has evolved as well.

Learning by Listening 

Yimbys started out with a straightforward diagnosis of the housing crisis in California. They said, “…housing prices are high because there’s not enough housing and if we want lower prices, we need more housing”. And they were, of course, completely right…at least with regards to the specific problem-space defined by supply, demand, and the long run.

San Francisco, the birthplace of Yimby activism

As Yimby’s started coalition building, though, they began recognizing related, but fundamentally different concerns. For anti-displacement activists, the problem was not defined by long-run aggregate prices. It was instead all about the immediate plight of economically vulnerable communities. Increasing supply was not an attractive proposal because of the long time horizons (years, decades) and ambiguous benefit for their specific constituencies. 

Yimbyism as Practical Politics

Leaders in the Yimby movement could have thrown up their hands and walked away. But they didn’t. Instead they listened and developed a yes and approach. The Yimby platform still embraces the idea that, long run, we need to build more housing, but it now also supports measures to protect those who’ll fall off the housing ladder tomorrow without a helping hand today.

Scott Weiner’s SB50 is a great example of this attitude in action. If passed, the bill will reduce restrictions on housing construction across the state. It targets transit and job rich areas and builds in eviction protections to guard against displacement. At a high level, it sets up the playing field so that renters in a four story apartment next to BART don’t get evicted to make way for twelve stories of condos. But it still incentivizes homeowners next to the station (or, awesomely, just in Cupertino) to cash out by selling to a developer who’ll put in a triplex.

The strategic direction California Yimbys have taken, as exemplified by SB 50, makes all the sense in the world. Even if you take issue with the policy specifics, you have to admit it makes for great politics. This is politically viable legislation that opens the door to building more housing where we need it most.

Making a Big Tent Bigger

My co-contributor Nolan Gray has written about the growing bi-partisan nature of Yimbyism. And, in noting the tension between left and right oriented activists within the movement, has called out the challenge this represents for future coalition building.

If I’m reading him correctly, Nolan is noting that there’ll be work here, not necessarily making a prediction about future failure or success. I’ll stick my neck out, though, and say that the Yimbys will overcome the challenges posed by ideological tension. My general read is that the real action is still at the state level and that there’s limited need for inter-state coordination. There are still things to be gained from sharing best practices and lessons learned, but Yimby’s separated by state lines are operationally independent. Also, Yimby leaders have historically valued cooperation on practical politics over fights on questions of ideological purity. It’s been a healthy impulse in the past and I believe it will continue to serve Yimby activists well in the future.

I see the last five years of Yimby activism as one of the great policy success stories of our lifetime. I have every expectation that we’ll see the unwinding of a century’s worth of terrible policy in California and elsewhere across the country. And even the initial progress to date should give us hope that institutional inertia is not absolute and that positive change is everywhere still a possibility. 

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What Should YIMBYs Learn From 2018? http://marketurbanism.com/2019/02/04/what-should-yimbys-learn-from-2018/ http://marketurbanism.com/2019/02/04/what-should-yimbys-learn-from-2018/#respond Mon, 04 Feb 2019 14:00:30 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=10662 Believe it or not, the YIMBY movement won a lot in 2018. It kicked off with January’s high of California State Senator Scott Wiener’s introduction of SB 827, which would have permitted multifamily development near transit across the state, but fell to a low after its eventual defeat in committee, invariably followed by a flurry […]

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Believe it or not, the YIMBY movement won a lot in 2018. It kicked off with January’s high of California State Senator Scott Wiener’s introduction of SB 827, which would have permitted multifamily development near transit across the state, but fell to a low after its eventual defeat in committee, invariably followed by a flurry of think pieces about how the pro-development movement had “failed.” At the time, I made the case for optimism over on Citylab, but that didn’t stop the summer lull from becoming a period of soul searching within the movement.

And then, a strange thing happened: YIMBYs started winning, and winning big. In August, presidential-hopeful Senator Cory Booker released a plan to preempt exclusionary zoning using Community Development Block Grant funds, quickly followed by a similar plan from Senator Elizabeth Warren in September. Also in August, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson unexpectedly outed himself as a YIMBY. Then, in December, things really got crazy: two major North American cities, Minneapolis and Edmonton, completely eliminated single-family zoning. States like Oregon soon started talking about doing the same.

In the same month, California kicked into overdrive: San Francisco—ground zero for the YIMBY movement—scrapped minimum parking requirements altogether. State Senator Wiener introduced a newer, sharper version of SB 827. And rolling into 2019, elected officials at every level of California government—from the state’s new Democratic governor to San Diego’s Republican mayor—are singing from the YIMBY hymn sheet.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad year for a movement that’s only five years old. But what really made 2018 such an unexpected success for YIMBYs?

Focus on Citywide Reform Over Individual Rezonings

Showing up and saying “Yes!” to individual projects that are requesting a rezoning, variance, or special permit is bread-and-butter YIMBY activism. And while YIMBYs should still show up in support of especially good local projects like homeless shelters or fully-affordable buildings, the real battle is at the city-wide level. YIMBYs in 2018 were so successful, in part, because they focused on two types of policy reforms: text amendments and comprehensive plan updates.

Unlike a rezoning or special permit, which only facilitates a single project, a good text amendment permanently changes the zoning for an entire class of developments, potentially making thousands of new developments possible. This is what happened when San Francisco eliminated parking requirements. Without minimum parking requirements, an unknowable number of new projects may now pencil out.

The same is true of comprehensive plan updates, which, in many states, will force changes in the zoning ordinance through a mechanism called a “consistency requirement.” That means that if a comprehensive plan calls for a policy—for example, that all residential districts must allow at least triplexes—then the zoning ordinance must change to accommodate this. This is essentially what happened in Minneapolis, thanks to the activism of the the YIMBY groups.

Why focus on text amendments and comprehensive plans over individual applications? First, because in most cities, the former can mostly fly under the radar. Since everyone is bearing some of the burden, nobody has a special incentive to show up and NIMBY. Second, citywide reforms will simply facilitate far, far more new development than any individual application, for roughly the same amount of activist resources. If YIMBYs are going to solve the housing affordability crisis and end exclusionary zoning, cities are going to need to build a lot of units everywhere, and doing that requires citywide reforms.

State Legislatures Are Your Friend

In 2019, YIMBYs should continue to encourage state legislative efforts that will ease up on burdensome land-use regulations and phase out exclusionary zoning. As with citywide reforms, successful statewide reforms could open up hundreds of thousands of new development opportunities.

An effective state preemption can create a lot of new units. New Jersey, for instance, has required that exclusionary municipalities build their fair share of new units since the Mt. Laurel decisions in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In March, a court ordered that at least 155,000 new units be permitted in the next decade alone. More recently, California legislators enacted sweeping ADU reform, effectively eliminating single-family zoning and sparking the development of thousands of new units in unused garages and attics.

State preemption makes sense for many of the same reason that citywide reform makes sense: It eliminates the need for a costly, city-by-city reform campaign, and it could open up many hundreds of thousands of development opportunities. But state preemption goes even further in opening up NIMBY suburbs that will never build more housing without outside intervention. This is key, because the YIMBY cause is also about desegregating our metropolitan areas and helping working people afford to live in the areas with quality schools and plenty of job opportunities.

YIMBY Is Bipartisan, Whether You Like It Or Not

The YIMBY movement is overwhelmingly composed of Democrats. That makes sense: most people who live—or want to live—in cities are Democrats. But an unexpected lesson of 2018 is that there’s a surprising appetite for YIMBY ideas among Republicans as well. The politics of leveraging this interest may be one of the trickiest political challenges the YIMBY movement will face going forward.

Consider three 2018 developments: First, in the committee vote on whether or not to advance SB 827, two of the committee’s three present Republicans voted in favor of the bill, while all but two Democrats—including Senator Wiener—voted against. Second, one of the only big-city mayors to come out forcefully as a YIMBY thus far has been San Diego Republican Kevin Faulconer. Third, HUD Secretary Carson—arguably the person with the most power over U.S. housing policy—has lately come out as a YIMBY.

For Republicans, the underlying motivation may be more property rights and deregulation than racial justice and environmentalism. But whatever their motivations, it’s clear that more and more Republicans are open to saying “Yes!” to new housing development.

There are two ways YIMBYs could react to this new GOP interest. To avoid alienating leftist YIMBYs, they could safeguard their left flank and eschew any cooperation with this budding Republican YIMBY offshoot. Or they could leverage this political capital to expand into high-cost red states like Utah and Idaho, build stronger coalitions in high-cost swing states like Colorado, and advance YIMBY policy in an indefinitely divided Congress.

The right mix in 2019 will likely often be a bit of both, depending the level of government and politics in play. Threading this needle won’t be easy, but it’s an essential next step in the maturation of the YIMBY movement.

 

For future content and discussion, follow me on Twitter at @mnolangray.

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New York State’s Property Tax Cap http://marketurbanism.com/2019/01/31/new-york-states-property-tax-cap/ http://marketurbanism.com/2019/01/31/new-york-states-property-tax-cap/#respond Thu, 31 Jan 2019 20:57:01 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=10652 One reason for California’s high housing costs might be Proposition 13.  This law, passed by referendum in the 1970s, may discourage housing production in two significant ways. First, under Proposition 13, all housing- even vacant land- is taxed at its original purchase price rather than its current value.  By artificially capping taxes on vacant land, […]

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One reason for California’s high housing costs might be Proposition 13.  This law, passed by referendum in the 1970s, may discourage housing production in two significant ways.

First, under Proposition 13, all housing- even vacant land- is taxed at its original purchase price rather than its current value.  By artificially capping taxes on vacant land, this part of Proposition 13 ensures that a landowner does not suffer as much from keeping land vacant as it would under another tax system.

Second, by reducing local property taxes, Proposition 13 forced municipalities to rely on other sources of revenue, such as sales taxes.  Because retail shops bring in more sales tax revenue than residential uses, this law gave California towns an incentive to favor the former. *

New York’s Gov. Cuomo has recently proposed a tax cut that buys popularity for state lawmakers on the backs of municipalities.  In 2011, the state passed a law to limit local governments’ property tax increases to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.  This cap was originally temporary, but Cuomo now proposes to make it permanent.   A bill implementing Cuomo’s proposal was recently passed by the State Senate, but has yet to be voted on by the State Assembly.   Historically, the cap has not included high-cost New York City, but that may change.  If the cap does include New York City, will it have the same results as Proposition 13?

Probably not, for two reasons.  First, the tax cap, unlike Proposition 13, does not artificially favor property purchased long ago, and thus does not discourage people from selling their property.  Second, New York State has to consent to sales tax increases, so municipalities don’t have as much of an incentive as their California counterparts to favor land uses that bring in lots of retail revenue.  On the other hand, new retail shops will increase sales tax revenue even if a town does not increase rates.

Having said that, I oppose property tax caps for a reason unrelated to housing costs.  It seems to me that one level of government should not be buying votes with another’s taxes.  That is, if the state wants to cut taxes, it should do so in a way that cuts state spending, rather than mandating that a lower level of government cut taxes and spending.  Otherwise, one level of government gets the credit for tax cuts and another gets the blame for service cuts- a way of doing things that takes advantages of voters’ ignorance.

*In addition, California relies heavily on impact fees on developers, which increase the cost of housing.  But impact fees are less common in New York suburbs due to their uncertain status under New York law.

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Any Green New Deal Must Tackle Zoning Reform http://marketurbanism.com/2019/01/24/any-green-new-deal-must-tackle-zoning-reform/ Thu, 24 Jan 2019 15:00:18 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=10635 With the Democrats scrambling to come up with a legislative agenda after their November takeover of the House of Representatives, an old idea is making a comeback: a “Green New Deal.” Once the flagship issue of the Green Party, an environmental stimulus package is now a cause de celebre among the Democratic Party’s progressive wing. […]

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With the Democrats scrambling to come up with a legislative agenda after their November takeover of the House of Representatives, an old idea is making a comeback: a “Green New Deal.” Once the flagship issue of the Green Party, an environmental stimulus package is now a cause de celebre among the Democratic Party’s progressive wing.

While it looks like the party leadership isn’t too receptive to the idea, newly-elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has spearheaded legislation designed to create a “Select Committee for a Green New Deal.” The mandate of the proposed committee is ambitious, possibly to a fault. At times utopian in flavor, the committee would pursue everything from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to labor law enforcement and universal health care.

A recent plan from the progressive think tank Data for Progress is more disciplined, remaining focused on environmental issues, with clearer numerical targets for transitioning to renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet in all the talk about a Green New Deal, there’s a conspicuous omission that could fatally undermine efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: little to no focus is placed on the way we plan urban land use. This is especially strange considering the outsized role that the way we live and travel plays in raising or lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), transportation and electricity account for more than half of the US’ greenhouse gas emissions. As David Owen points out in his book “Green Metropolis,” city dwellers drive less, consume less electricity, and throw out less trash than their rural and suburban peers. This means that if proponents of the Green New Deal are serious about reducing carbon emissions, they will have to help more people move to cities.

One possible reason for this oversight is that urban planning in America isn’t a federal issue: it’s technically handled by states and administered by local governments. But when local urban planning is undermining basic civil liberties or degrading the environment, the federal government can and should step in.

Think of urban planning like education: most people agree that running schools should mostly be a local issue. Yet most people would also agree that federal interventions to desegregate local schools—against the wishes of local governments—were merited. More federal oversight over local land-use planning is wise for similar reasons: policies that enforce segregation and harm the environment don’t deserve federal deference.

So how should a federally-implemented Green New Deal approach land use? For starters, it could take on rules that only serve to reinforce car dependence and drive up the cost of urban housing. For example, take minimum parking requirements, which force developers to build more parking spaces than they otherwise would. In practice, these rules lead to greater dependence on personal automobiles and rising costs for housing in urban neighborhoods where land is scarce, which forces more people out of the city. The combined effect is higher greenhouse gas emissions.

Or take single-family zoning. These zones permit only detached single-family homes, prohibiting denser and more affordable housing types such as townhomes, duplexes, and apartments. Historically a tool of racial and economic segregation, single-family zoning today largely serves to force people into low-density, energy-hungry, auto-dependent neighborhoods. Encouraging cities to scrap these out-of-date policies—like Minneapolis did late last year—as a condition for any federal Green New Deal dollars could go a long way toward reducing carbon emissions.

Whatever your feelings on minimum parking requirements and single-family zoning, the least a Green New Deal could do is take on explicitly anti-environmental local rules. For example, a Green New Deal might require an end to local solar panel and wind turbine prohibitions as a condition for federal deductions and tax credits that mostly help the upper class, such as the mortgage interest deduction or the state and local tax credit. This type of preemption is already common at the state level and would help more people bypass regulatory barriers and transition to renewable energy.

While dismantling harmful local rules should be the priority, a Green New Deal could also help support proactive local environmental planning. Grants to cities interested in rebuilding their zoning ordinance or comprehensive plan to allow for walkable, mixed-use development patterns would do more than any federal infrastructure program to facilitate sustainable development. Getting deeper into the weeds, the federal government could also lend technical assistance to regional planning agencies like Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), as FEMA often does, to ensure that local planning offices are well-equipped to handle issues like wetlands and coastal management, incentivize efficient building standards, and maintain urban sewer and stormwater systems.

A Green New Deal that pours money into green infrastructure will ultimately fail if most Americans still can’t afford to live in a walkable neighborhood or install a solar panel on their roof. And merely ramping up federal environmental enforcement can only go so far while neglecting local governments, the front lines of building, flood, and sewerage regulation. If the Green New Deal can find its way into the busy Democratic agency in 2019, let’s hope it doesn’t forget about cities.

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Market Urbanism MUsings December 7th 2018 http://marketurbanism.com/2018/12/07/market-urbanism-musings-december-5th-2018/ Fri, 07 Dec 2018 20:56:25 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=10523 1. Recently at Market Urbanism: Two Cheers for PHIMBY by Michael Lewyn One alternative to market urbanism that has received a decent amount of press coverage is the PHIMBY (Public Housing In My Back Yard) movement.  PHIMBYs (or at least the most extreme PHIMBYs) believe that market-rate housing fails to reduce housing costs and may even […]

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1. Recently at Market Urbanism:

Two Cheers for PHIMBY by Michael Lewyn

One alternative to market urbanism that has received a decent amount of press coverage is the PHIMBY (Public Housing In My Back Yard) movement.  PHIMBYs (or at least the most extreme PHIMBYs) believe that market-rate housing fails to reduce housing costs and may even lead to gentrification and displacement.  Their alternative is to build massive amounts of public housing.

New and Noteworthy: Randy Shaw’s Generation Priced Out by Michael Lewyn

In Generation Priced Out, housing activist Randy Shaw writes a book about the rent crisis for non-experts.  Shaw’s point of view is that of a left-wing YIMBY: that is, he favors allowing lots of new market-rate housing, but also favors a variety of less market-oriented policies to prevent displacement of low-income renters (such as rent control, and more generally policies that make it difficult to evict tenants)

“Order without Design: How Markets Shape Cities” Out Today by Nolan Gray

Alain Bertaud’s long awaited book, Order Without Design: How Markets Shape Cities, is out today. Bertaud is a senior research scholar at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management and former principle urban planner at the World Bank.

“Order Without Design”, a new guide to urban planning by Anthony Ling

This book is an attack on current city planning and rebuilding. This is how Jane Jacobs opened her 1961 classic “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”. It wouldn’t be an inappropriate opener for Alain Bertaud’s upcoming “Order Without Design”.

2. Also by Market Urbanists:

Nolan Gray‘s viral tweet critiquing local control of land use:

Emily Hamilton at the Washington Post: “Amazon’s arrival requires smarter housing in Arlington

Alain Bertaud and Nobel Prize winner Paul Romer discuss Alain’s new book.


3. At the Market Urbanism Facebook Group:

Matt Robare at New UrbsHyperlocal Zoning Can Reset London—and American Politics

Randy Shaw wroteWill Cities Learn from the Ghost Ship Tragedy?

Matt Robare wrote: What’s next for the MBTA?

Roger Valdez at FREOPExpanding Housing Supply is a Civil Rights Issue

Tom Burroughs states: “One reason I dislike the land tax idea is that it plays on the idea that we only really own land at the sufferance of the state.”

Via Joe Wolf: Developer’s plan for riverfront would change St. Paul skyline

Via Carl Webb: Cities Can Save $17 Trillion by Preventing Urban Sprawl

Via Bruce Powell Majors: How Local Housing Regulations Smother the U.S. Economy

Via Michael Hamilton: The US Housing Boom is Coming to an End, Starting in Dallas

Via Brian David: Pay Toilets Are Illegal in Much of the U.S. They Shouldn’t Be.

Via Fred Foldvary: America’s Urban Land is Worth a Staggering Amount

Via Anthony Ling: A Fifth of China’s Homes Are Empty. That’s 50 Million Apartments

Via Len Conly: Car Culture Cements Suburban Unsustainability

Via Carl Webb: Capitalism Can’t Give us Affordable Housing

Via Michael Burns: Exclusive: Airbnb will start designing houses in 2019

Via Mark Frazier: What’s Really Happening to Retail?

Via Joe Wolf: Uber is Headed for a Crash

Via Adam Zielinski: Don’t Blame California’s Poop Crisis on Capitalism

Via Roger ValdezSeattle is flirting with disaster” with mandatory affordable housing

4. Stephen Smith‘s tweet of the week:

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“Order Without Design”, a new guide to urban planning http://marketurbanism.com/2018/12/05/order-without-design-a-new-guide-to-urban-planning/ Wed, 05 Dec 2018 10:33:27 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=10542 This book is an attack on current city planning and rebuilding. This is how Jane Jacobs opened her 1961 classic “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”. It wouldn’t be an inappropriate opener for Alain Bertaud’s upcoming “Order Without Design”. While Jacobs was an observer of how cities work and a contributor to new […]

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This book is an attack on current city planning and rebuilding. This is how Jane Jacobs opened her 1961 classic “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”. It wouldn’t be an inappropriate opener for Alain Bertaud’s upcoming “Order Without Design”.

While Jacobs was an observer of how cities work and a contributor to new concepts in urban economics, Bertaud goes a step further. His book brings economic logic and quantitative analysis to guide urban planning decision-making, colored by a hands-on, 55-year career as a global urban planner. His conclusion? The urban planning practice is oblivious to the economic effects of their decisions, and eventually creates unintended consequences to urban development. His goal with this book is to bring economics as an important tool to the urban planning profession, and to bring economists closer to the practical challenge of working with cities.

Maybe you have not heard about Alain Bertaud before: at the time I am writing this article, he has only a few articles published online, no Wikipedia page or Twitter account, and some lectures on YouTube – and nothing close to a TED talk. The reason is that instead of working on becoming a public figure, Bertaud was actually doing work on the ground, helping cities in all continents tackle their urban development problems. His tremendous experience makes this book that delves into urban economics surprisingly exhilarating. As an example, Bertaud shows a 1970 photo from when he was tracing new streets in Yemen using a Land Rover and the help of two local assistants who look 12 years old at most, a depiction of a real-life Indiana Jones of urban planning.

In this book, mainstream urban planning “buzzwords” such as Transit-Oriented Development, Inclusionary Zoning, Smart Growth and Urban Growth Boundaries are challenged with economic analysis, grounded on empirical observations on how cities work in real life, despite what planners aim to create. Frequently mentioning about the unavoidable effects of supply and demand, Bertaud reminds us that command economies such as the USSR or China have failed many years ago and embraced markets for the allocation of resources, but for some reason that has been ignored by the urban planning field. “Planning future land use while ignoring the predictable land value based on location makes no more sense than trying to ignore gravity when designing an airplane” is one of his many claims in this direction.

According to Bertaud, markets are efficient in the production and allocation of private buildings such as housing and commercial real estate. From regulating minimum building standards to “masterplans” for urban growth, the attempt to “design” a city is not only futile but also have the worst consequences for the poor. Scrap masterplans that are only revised every 10 years with old databases: urban planners should become city managers that track urban KPIs on a daily basis, such as prices and quantities of housing, population density and speed of different modes of transportation. The role of planners should then “be limited to fixing streets rights-of-way and designing transport systems that serve the shape and densities created by markets.”

As authors such as Sanford Ikeda and Nolan Gray have pointed out, “Death and Life” and the work of Jane Jacobs was mostly a description of the emergent order of cities, and maybe a prelude to Bertaud’s new book. Unfortunately, current urban planners have interpreted “Death and Life” as a design manual: for example, Jacobs said that she viewed mixed income buildings as contributors to urban life, so we ended up with regulations mandating or incentivizing mixed income buildings. Thanks to her work, many planners today stopped designing strict zoning between commercial and residential or advocating for rent control, but adopted “lighter” but still pervasive regulations on “mixed use” or “inclusionary zoning”. “Order Without Design” makes the point of the emergent order of cities clearer and more defensible, and I hope that in the next fifty years it is able to be as relevant as “Death and Life” was from its release until today.

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“Order without Design: How Markets Shape Cities” Out Today http://marketurbanism.com/2018/12/04/order-without-design-how-markets-shape-cities-out-today/ Tue, 04 Dec 2018 17:15:18 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=10532 Alain Bertaud’s long awaited book, Order Without Design: How Markets Shape Cities, is out today. Bertaud is a senior research scholar at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management and former principle urban planner at the World Bank. Working through a pre-release copy over the past few weeks, I can confidently say that the book is an instant […]

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Alain Bertaud’s long awaited book, Order Without Design: How Markets Shape Cities, is out today. Bertaud is a senior research scholar at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management and former principle urban planner at the World Bank.

Working through a pre-release copy over the past few weeks, I can confidently say that the book is an instant classic of the urban planning genre, and will be of significant special interest to market urbanists in particular. Rare among writers in this space, Bertaud brings an architect’s eye, an economist’s mind, and a planner’s experience to contemporary urban issues, producing a text that is theoretically enriching and practically useful.

Alain and Marie-Agnes—his wife and research partner—have lived in worked in over a half-dozen cities all over the world, from Sana’a to Paris to San Salvador to Bangkok. For the reader, this means that Bertaud can speak from experience, supplementing data and theory with entertaining, real world examples and war stories.

Order your copy today!

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New and Noteworthy: Randy Shaw’s Generation Priced Out http://marketurbanism.com/2018/11/20/new-and-noteworthy-randy-shaws-generation-priced-out/ Tue, 20 Nov 2018 19:05:52 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=10500 In Generation Priced Out, housing activist Randy Shaw writes a book about the rent crisis for non-experts.  Shaw’s point of view is that of a left-wing YIMBY: that is, he favors allowing lots of new market-rate housing, but also favors a variety of less market-oriented policies to prevent displacement of low-income renters (such as rent […]

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In Generation Priced Out, housing activist Randy Shaw writes a book about the rent crisis for non-experts.  Shaw’s point of view is that of a left-wing YIMBY: that is, he favors allowing lots of new market-rate housing, but also favors a variety of less market-oriented policies to prevent displacement of low-income renters (such as rent control, and more generally policies that make it difficult to evict tenants).

What I liked most about this breezy, easy-to-read book is that it rebuts a wide variety of anti-housing arguments. For example, NIMBYs sometimes argue that new housing displaces affordable older housing. But Shaw shows that NIMBY homeowners oppose apartment buildings even when this is not the case; apartments built on parking lots and vacant lots are often controversial. For example, in Venice, California, NIMBYs opposed “building 136 supportive housing units for low-income people on an unsightly city-owned parking lot.”

NIMBYs may argue that new housing will always be for the rich. But Shaw cites numerous examples of NIMBYs opposing public housing for the poor as well as market-rate housing for the middle and upper classes.

NIMBYs also claim that they seek to protect their communities should be protected against skyscrapers or other unusually large buildings. But Shaw shows that NIMBYs have fought even the smallest apartment buildings. For example, in Berkeley, NIMBYs persuaded the city to reject a developer’s plan to add only three houses to a lot.

On the other hand, market urbanists may disagree with Shaw’s advocacy of a wide variety of policies that he refers to as “tenant protections” such as rent control, inclusionary zoning, increased code enforcement, and generally making it difficult to evict tenants.   All of these policies make it more difficult and/or expensive to be a landlord, thus creating costs that may either be passed on to tenants or discourage entry into the housing market.

In addition, I wish Shaw had included a little more data.  He does cite a useful statistic here and there,* but I wish he had included some sort of table comparing high-cost cities’ levels of housing construction to those of cheaper cities.

*My favorite: the San Francisco area added over 500,000 new jobs during the 2010s but only 76,000 housing units.

The post New and Noteworthy: Randy Shaw’s Generation Priced Out appeared first on Market Urbanism.

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