National Links: Housing from California to Berlin

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 that focuses on urban issues in the D.C. region. They are national links, sometimes entertaining and sometimes absurd, but hopefully useful.

The post-pandemic latte index: Sales of lattes at Starbucks and sandwiches at Pret have been increasing in the financial centers of New York and London, indicating workers in these areas are starting to come back to the office. With more companies in the financial industry requiring workers to return, coffee and lunch spots will be popular indicators of how much post-pandemic activity compares to the before times. (Thomas Buckley and Jeremy Scott Diamond | Bloomberg Businessweek)

Perhaps redlining took a different path: Researchers digging deep into histories of housing discrimination are finding that the Homeowners Loan Corporation (HOLC) maps often associated with redlining were likely not the guidelines on which the FHA and other private lenders based racist lending practices. In looking at 16,000 loans in three cities, researchers found HOLC refinanced for black homeowners more than other entities in the short time it existed and the maps it created were likely not used by the FHA for its already racist practices. (Jake Blumgart | Governing)

WHO sets higher air quality standards: After five years of research and 500 peer reviewed studies, the World Health Organization (WHO) has slashed air pollution guidelines for nitrogen dioxide produced by diesel engines 75%. For particulate matter or PM 2.5, the number has gone from 10 to 5 micrograms per cubic meter. A 100 Air Quality Index score (Orange unhealthy) is 35 micrograms per cubic meter, 7 times above the new guidelines. By sticking to these guidelines, deaths from air pollution could be reduced by 80%. (Damian Carrington | The Guardian)

California Governor Newsom signs zoning reform bills: California Senate Bills 9 and 10 were signed into law by the California governor last week. The two bills would allow duplexes and subdivisions on a single parcel as well as the ability for local governments to upzone a parcel to ten units without going through arduous environmental approvals. It is hoped the new bills will be part of the solution to the state’s housing crisis as 2/3rds of all residences in California are single family homes. (Jon Healey and Matthew Ballinger | Los Angeles Times)

Berlin purchases private housing: Berlin has purchased almost 15,000 apartments from two private companies to increase it’s housing stock ownership to 1/5th of total rental units in the city. A federal court ruled in April that a rent cap was unconstitutional, so the city is seeking other ways towards affordability. Berliners will be heading to the polls Monday to vote for new local and national governments. A non binding referendum will also give guidance on whether the city should expropriate more property from landlords. (Associated Press)

Quote of the Week

“As trees become data points, they are all too readily cast as easy fixes for profound problems. Trees as tools of carbon capture, tall timber as an instrument for sustainable construction, green barriers as sound buffers along roadways: sylvan solutions to systemic snafus. The media scholar Jennifer Gabrys argues that such approaches are efforts to frame (and tame) hard problems — wicked problems — in computational terms.”

Shannon Mattern in her Places Journal article “Tree Thinking”.

This week on the podcast, new Rail~Volution CEO Tamar Shapiro joins the show.

Jeff Wood

About Jeff Wood

Jeff Wood is an urban planner focused on transportation and land use issues living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jeff blogs at The Overhead Wire and tweets @theoverheadwire. He also shares news links daily from around the country on issues related to cities at The Direct Transfer