1. Another empirical paper claiming that anti-density zoning increases racial segregation:
Previous research on segregation stresses things like urban form and racial preferences as primary causes. The author finds that an institutional force is more important: local land regulation. Using two datasets of land regulations for the largest U.S. metropolitan areas, the results indicate that anti-density regulations are responsible for large portions of the levels and changes in segregation from 1990 to 2000. A hypothetical switch in zoning regimes from the most exclusionary to the most liberal would reduce the equilibrium gap between the most and least segregated Metropolitan Statistical Areas by at least 35% for the ordinary least squares estimates.
2. Wendell Cox, in a discussion about the relatively dispersed downtowns of the biggest mainland Chinese cities, notes that development along Beijing’s ring roads “resemble[s] more the post-World War II corridor form of Central Avenue in Phoenix than Manhattan, Seattle or Pittsburgh.” Interesting that the urban system that Cox makes a living defending is so popular in communist mainland cities, whereas the market-oriented Chinese cities of Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong follow the more traditional dense downtown design.
3. The NYT reports that the mayor’s office runs a non-profit that organizes farmers markets in rich neighborhoods that already have good food availability, while throwing up barriers and red tape that prevent private groups from starting their own in poor neighborhoods.
4. One company wants to start building prefab skyscrapers, which they claim are quicker and cheaper than traditional construction, although apparently current building codes don’t allow them to build such structures more than six stories tall. In New York City, Forest City Ratner wants to build “the world’s tallest prefabricated steel structure, a 34-story tower that would fulfill his obligation to start building affordable housing at the site,” though the building unions have opposed prefab structures “for obvious reasons,” as they put it. I’m torn on prefab stuff – on the one hand, developers seem to want to build it. But on the other, I wonder if it’s just an unfortunate side effect of our overregulated urban markets. In other words, if developers didn’t have to contend with high zoning-induced land prices and union-inflated building costs, would they still want to build prefab structures? (Although Adam tells me that aesthetically, modern prefab buildings don’t differ much from their traditional counterparts, and the picture in the first link doesn’t look half bad.) Either way, banning prefab seems like the wrong way to go – if anything, the regulations that inhibit traditional construction should be loosened so that the market can decide.