National Links: Spongy Cities and Unions for Housing

Every day, The Overhead Wire collects news about cities and sends the links to their email list. At the end of the week they 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 and international links, sometimes entertaining or absurd but often useful.

Los Angeles is pretty spongy: Over the past several years, Los Angeles has been trying to create more opportunities to collect rainwater to replace declining snow pack numbers. A recent three-day storm from an atmospheric river brought 9 inches of rain to Los Angeles. Water managers were excited to hear that they were able to collect 8.6 billion gallons, enough to supply water to 100,000 households for a year. (Matt Simon | Wired Magazine)

The great home compression: As housing gets more expensive, people are looking for new ways to make homeownership a reality and developers are putting out new products — including much smaller houses with much smaller prices. In suburbs outside of cities such as Bend, Oregon and San Antonio, Texas, new homes under 600 square feet are being sold in some instances for prices under $150,000. (Conor Dougherty | New York Times)

Exclusionary zoning or highway funding: The Federation of American Scientists has issued a housing ideas challenge for tackling the housing crisis. One idea is that federal highway funding could be conditioned on the adoption of zoning reform, similar to what happened with Louisiana where the drinking age was raised to 21 to save funding. The idea is that withholding of highway funds could occur in Metropolitan Statistical Areas with median incomes above the national average where more than 30% of the population are rent burdened. (Sam Maloney & Rohit Swain | Federation of American Scientists)

Canada to stop building new roads?: Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change, suggested that no more transportation money would go to large road projects across the country. Instead, he said, the money would be better spent on active transportation and fighting climate change. The comments sparked a debate over road funding from opposition parties and a continuation of the car-oriented culture wars. (John Paul Tasker | CBC News)

U.S. unions target the housing crisis: Organized labor in the United States now sees housing costs as one of the biggest issues its members face as workers deal with the shortage of affordable housing. But the problem isn’t just housing; it’s the long-distance commuting that finding affordable housing creates for union members. In a number of union actions around the country, striking workers are demanding housing fixes in addition to specific labor-related wage and benefits requests. (Steven Greenhouse | The Guardian)

This week on the podcast, we’re joined by Elaine Clegg, CEO of Valley Regional Transit in Boise, Idaho.  We chat about how the Boise bus system is changing, the impact of fast regional growth, energy infrastructure and favorite transportation board games.

Quote of the Week

“The young people said they had never seen this before. When it started, they were so grateful and as word spread, more people would move to Nagareyama because we had these pick-up and drop-off stations. It’s not just the parents, but the grandparents who often take care of the children also felt it was a great system. The location at Otakanomori station is convenient if the daycare is far away, and it makes such a big difference for those coming back from Tokyo or for parents with multiple children.”

— Yoshiharu Izaki, the mayor of Nagareyama, a Tokyo suburb discussing in Bloomberg CityLab a childcare focus that has led to one of the highest birth rates in the country

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