MLewyn's blog

One reason why NYC is so expensive

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of renter-occupied housing units in New York increased by only 1.8 percent, while the number of households increased by 2.9 percent.  I would imagine that if you add that to the increased demand arising from the post-recession difficulty of financing a home, you should have expected zooming rents, which is of course exactly what New York has.

DeBlasio's Unimpressive Housing Plan: No Substitute For The Free Market

New York's new mayor, Bill DeBlasio, has just proposed to spend $8 billion in taxpayers' money to create 80,000 new housing units.  80,000 is certainly better than nothing.

On the other hand, New York has 3 million occupied housing units today, so even if the DeBlasio plan works, the city's housing supply will increase by a grand total of 2.7 percent over the next decade- barely enough to keep up with population.

The Infrastructure Argument Against Infill

One common (if vague) argument against upzoning and infill development is that infrastructure in place X (wherever the proposed development is) will somehow be overwhelmed by more important.  When I see this argument I want to ask:

1.  What infastructure are you talking about?

2.  How is it currently inadequate in place X?

3.  If you don't want more people to live and work in place X where do you want them to live and work instead? 

Are Wider Streets More Congested?

In a recent Planetizen blog post, Brett Toderian had an interesting insight: "When vehicles are moving, they take up much more space. The faster they move, the more separation distance and space between vehicles is needed."  This makes intuitive sense to me: when I am driving on a 20 mph street, I am willing to drive only a few feet behind other cars, while when driving 60 mph I don't feel comfortable getting so close to the car in front of me. 

Yes, Upzone The Nice Areas Too

An interesting and provocative blog post by Chicago planner Pete Saunders argued that urbanites should not be pressing too hard for upzoning well-off urban neighborhoods because "maybe they ought to consider more of the city to live in.

Two Cheers For Negative Thinking

I recently read an article suggesting that Cleveland's problems were in part due to "negative thinking"- some fuzzy "vibe of negativity" that discourages people from moving to Cleveland.  I am skeptical of this claim for two reasons.

Suburbia Not Always Cheaper

A story from a coworker of mine: Mr. X (the coworker) and his family move from Queens to Long Island to take advantage of the allegedly better public schools.  As a  result, they are able to save money by pulling their children out of Catholic school.  Were they better off?  Apparently not.  Mr. X explains that what they saved in tuition was more than balanced over time by the cost of having to have a car for every adult, and later for every teenager.

Auto-Oriented Transit in Israel

Tonight I saw lawyer Kevin Dwarka speak on smart growth in Israel, focusing on the weaknesses of Israel's railway system.  Although Israel's major cities have rail service, that nation's major rail stations are a classic example of auto-oriented transit: stations surrounded by huge parkiing lots instead of housing and shopping.  

The "Cheap Cars" Myth

One sprawl lobby argument I have occasionally is heard: "So what if people have to drive to reach jobs in sprawling areas? Used cars are so cheap that even poor people can afford them!"

Always Room For More

One common argument against infill: "but there isn't room for any more people!"  (or, alternatively, "we can't have more people without turning into a skyscraper monoculture!"

Manhattan is far from a skyscraper monoculture- even in midtown there are lots of 2-6 story buildings of all types.  And yet our housing density is 70,000 people per square mile- more than four times that of San Francisco, more than seven times that of Washington.

In other words, at Manhattan densities San Francisco could accommodate more than 3 million people.