Every day at The Overhead Wire we collect news about cities and send the links to our email list. At the end of the week we take some of the most popular stories and post them to Greater Greater Washington, a group blog similar to streets.mn that focuses on urban issues in the DC region. They are national links, sometimes entertaining and sometimes absurd, but hopefully useful.
Europe’s Modern Metropolis: Rotterdam, Netherlands, was almost completely leveled in World War II. From the rebuilding effort came a city unlike London or its sibling Amsterdam. Full of concrete, steel, and glass, it emerged as its own quirky modern city. Beyond its unique architecture, you can expect barley ice cream, cube homes, or the Natural History Museum’s odd exhibit on “freakish” animal deaths. After all, the postwar effort intended to not simply rebuild Rotterdam as it was, but to create a new modern metropolis from scratch. (William O’Connor | Daily Beast)
Start of the Home Improvement TV Revolution: The PBS home improvement show This Old House first premiered in 1979, remodeling an old Dorchester, Boston Victorian home over 13 half-hour episodes. 40 years and several Emmy nominations later, it is credited with creating the expansive home renovation genre and “do-it-yourself television.” Marella Gayla breaks down how an experimental show went from a story of humble guys in flannel to the narrative of gentrification that the glossy, homebuyer-focused genre became today. (Marella Gayla | Curbed)
One App for All Transport: Instead of navigating multiple apps to unlock bikeshare, hail a car, or buy a train ticket, the Jelbi app will let you do it all in one place. The app will launch this summer in Berlin, which has eight different bikeshare companies in operation, each requiring its own app. The platform for the app is also in use by some private companies, including Lyft, which recently started offering transit, bikeshare, and scooter sharing information in its own app. The app’s developers hope to work with other cities worldwide. (Adele Peters | Fast Company)
Oregon’s Ambitious Density Push: State Senate President Peter Courtney proposed a bill requiring cities to allow greater density around transit, outdoing a bill proposed in December to make Oregon the first state to do away with single-family zoning. The bill would require Portland-area cities to allow 75 housing units per acre within a quarter mile of frequent transit, and 45 units per acre within a half mile of a light-rail station. Under current zoning, single-family homes near transit mean eight or nine housing units near transit, or up to 18 with accessory dwelling units. (Rachel Monahan | Willamette Week)
Why Voters Are Wary of Building Housing: In a Los Angeles Times survey of 1,200 Southern Californians, only 13 percent blamed the housing crisis on “too little homebuilding.” Rather, respondents cited lack of affordable housing funding or of rent control. Housing experts are troubled by what voters ignore about supply and demand. Rick Jacobus explains the segmented submarkets of housing and top-down housing policy influencing public opinion. He posits that policy should not only support new development, but also should change who benefits from it. Otherwise, voters may continue to vilify all new housing as exclusive luxuries or bastions of gentrification, despite the need to build more. (Rick Jacobus | Shelterforce)
Quote of the Week
“I think [job polarization] speaks to our politics. Cities are different places than they used to be. They’re much more educated now, they’re much higher-wage, and they’re younger. They were distinctive before in the set of occupations they might have, and now they’re distinctive in extreme levels of education, high levels of wages, being relatively youthful, and being extremely diverse. You can see how this creates a growing urban, non-urban divide in voting patterns.”
David Autor on the topic of economic polarization in MIT News.
This week on the podcast Sean Northup of the Indianapolis MPO discusses plans for bus rapid transit and transit funding efforts through the state.
I met with a person in NYC a handful of years back on a trip there. We shared some common interests online and got together to meet and shake hands. He told me about his dad who had been living in the same apartment for something like 20+ years or more. The reason was the city or state had instituted rent control at some point and the rent he was paying was basically fixed or went up a nominal percent each year. He kept living there not because he was in love with the place, although it was in a nice location. He was there because it would have been impossible for him to move and find something in the same price range. That said, when he moves out, the rent charged for that unit would reset back to a market rate and the cycle starts over with the new tenant. Not to mention the landlord who wasn’t able to charge market rates to keep up with taxes or maintenance increases may have to make up for some lost revenue with the new renter.
It’s weird loop that when done poorly or when totally ignoring market rates creates this loop of renters and landlords who are locked in.
That Shelterforce article is quite possibly the best article I’ve read about market-based solutions to housing price and supply. It should be required reading for people who write for streets.mn, as evidenced by the fact that the summary offered here totally misses the point.
The overall argument of the Shelterforce article is that the segmented nature of the housing market means that pro-development policies that do not also incentivize the development of middle and low-cost housing will not affect overall housing prices or availability. Instead, the best-case scenario of unrestricted pro-development policies is that upper tier housing prices will decline, while the prices and volume of “affordable” housing will be unaffected. So the solution is not building new housing, it’s building the right kind of housing: housing in the
If only this much nuance were reflected on streets.mn.
“while the prices and volume of “affordable” housing will be unaffected”
That’s preferable to the status quo, where existing naturally affordable housing has a significant increase in price as owners flip those units upmarket amidst a shortage of housing.