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 D.C. region. They are national links, sometimes entertaining and sometimes absurd, but hopefully useful.
Germany-Wide Rent Control Proposed: Berlin’s urban development minister recently proposed capping monthly rates at just under 8 euros per square meter (82 cents per square foot) depending on when the building was built. But Sahra Wagenknect, leader of the Left Party, wants to take it further and implement the scheme nationally, citing real estate companies increasing rents and the displacement of urban residents. Other parties have mixed views of the proposal such as the Free Democrats who support laissez-faire approaches to housing costs. Berlin’s own mayor has distanced himself from the rent control proposal, though the city did implement a five-year freeze on rents in June. (Deutsche Welle)
NYC Rail Tunnels Claim Ability to Cut $1.4B in Costs: In an effort to appeal to the Trump administration, rail planners claim they can reduce the $11.3B price tag of the Gateway Project between New York and New Jersey by $1.4B. The project would rely on $10B in US grants and loans from the Federal Transit Administration if it moves forward. In response to Trump officials saying that states should not rely on loans, the new cost proposal includes a $1.3B contribution from Amtrak, almost double its prior commitment. Planners anticipate breaking ground in 2021 if key federal approvals are awarded. (Elise Young | Bloomberg)
Surge of Investors Buying Starter Homes Causes Concern: Last year, investors purchased one-fifth of all single-family starter homes on the market, double the number they bought 20 years ago. According to the 2017 American Community Survey, investors own and rent about 18.2 million one-unit homes which house 42% of the nation’s 43 million renter households. While there is a concern that investors take home ownership away from individuals and families, there are also many investors that seek homes in need of renovation and repair to then resell, thereby actually increasing housing supply. However, other, typically bigger, investors are using technological advances like algorithms and data access to buy out homes before first-time buyers potentially making the housing market tighter for first time buyers. (Ellen Seidman & Sheryl Pardo | Urban Institute)
Staggering Statistics of Aviation Emissions: If the aviation industry was a country, it would rank among the world’s top 10 emitters of carbon dioxide. Since 2005 alone, aviation emissions have risen 70% and are forecast to increase between 300% and 700% by 2050. Most air travelers are relatively wealthy, with only 18% of the world population having ever flown, and only 3% of the world flies in any given year. In 2017, this roughly equated to 230 million people but 4 billion passengers. Some proposed solutions include flight rationing, which would allow someone “flight kilometers” each year that can be used for shorter flights or saved up for longer ones. Others include electrifying airplanes, developing more high-speed rail, and even bringing back the zeppelin. (John Grant & Keith Baker | Inverse)
Can We Survive Extreme Heat?: Since the 1960s, the number of heat waves in major American cities have tripled. While water crises, hurricanes, and other consequences of climate change cause social, political, and economic conflict, perhaps the most direct cause of death in climate crisis is exposure to extreme heat. The human body is typically at an internal state of 98.6°F, but as the climate more frequently exceeds that, our basic metabolism will struggle to adapt and loss of water through sweat will more easily lead to dehydration and death. In cities like Phoenix, the effects of global warming on the general populace can be mitigated by limiting suburban sprawl, revising building codes to improve energy efficiency, and creating greener spaces, but the level of investment needed for reasonable change would exceed billions of dollars. (Jeff Goodell | Rolling Stone)
Quote of the Week
“But few know that Olmsted was also involved with the renovation of Union Square Park, two miles to the south. Smaller and more traditional in its design, this park was a democratic landscape in a different sense – a modern plaza for public meetings.”
Joanna Merwood-Salisbury in The Conversation discussing New York’s Union Square and how it has shaped free speech.
This week on the podcast, Andrew Owen of the Accessibility Observatory at the University of Minnesota joins us to chat about how to measure access as a metric.