What Happens When an Irresistible Force Meets an Immovable Hipster?

28 03 2015

New York City

Megan McArdle, in Bloomberg

Gentrification Is an Irresistible Force

Ah, gentrification. What’s not to hate? Except for sit-down restaurants, dog parks, charming pubs, bike lanes … and there goes the neighborhood. Yesterday, we talked about the inherent irony of gentrification: the fact that gentrification is simultaneously driven and abhorred by nice young progressives who just want to live in a walkable neighborhood. We also discussed why so many of the ideas proposed to stop it — from inclusionary zoning to tougher rent control — have so far proven powerless against the March of the Affluent.

It’s true that “young progressives” are driving it.  The hatred is only for show.  That also explains why the “ideas proposed to stop it” are “powerless.”  That is by design.

I’m hearing a lot these days about scatter-site housing as a potential fix for gentrification.

Scatter site housing helps gentrification, because they scatter the scatter site housing in older suburbs (think: Ferguson) in order to shovel ghetto blacks out of the cities.

There are two additional wrinkles we need to consider. First, what does your tax base do when they hear that their neighborhood has been slated for 2,000 low-income housing units by the year 2020? Let’s say you have managed … er, somehow … to make it impossible for these community groups to sue, and you have studiously ignored their angry letters and phone calls to the city council. What do these people do? There’s a risk that the answer is “move,” in which case the tax base collapses again. Now you have lots of affordable housing, and all the problems that cities complained about before people started complaining about gentrification.

Or, there’s another option.  The media will bitch about the racism of old white people in older suburbs so they can’t materialize the political will to stop “affordable housing” there, so that ghetto blacks can continue to be shoveled out of central cities to make them safe for young progressives.

In a more realistic world, what happens when you announce your sweeping plans is that political support for that “affordable housing” line item in the budget starts to collapse. More than half the households in the District of Columbia now make more than $50,000. DC is a liberal city, and people of all income levels are willing to spend money on various forms of housing subsidy. But if you require them to spend that tax money, and also live next to a housing project, many of those people will cease to support the construction of any new housing projects.

Here’s another case where there’s another option.  The “affordable housing” within the gentrified cities full of young progressives turns out to be “affordable” if you’re politically connected, such as the “side families” of important politicians.  It’s not “affordable” for Shaniqua and her eight kids by seven felons.

This is a really important point. We are not debating whether DC, or San Francisco, or New York City, can create any affordable housing units. They certainly can, and in fact, they are. What we are discussing is whether these cities can create enough affordable housing units to prevent gentrification.

Who actually thinks gentrification should be stopped?  Not anybody that matters.

And now, finally, we arrive at the market-based approach that is well-favored among the cognoscenti: forget building “affordable housing,” and just build “housing”. Lots and lots of it. Slash the red tape, alter the zoning code to let people build more high-rises near public transit, and tell the community groups to go to hell when they protest. There are two good books on this you should read: The Rent is Too Damn High, by Matt Yglesias, and The Gated City, by Ryan Avent. Both authors are brilliant, erudite, and completely right. They are also probably not going to change the minds of tens of thousands of angry homeowners who don’t want high-rises built in their neighborhoods.

The people who live in single family houses whose values are increasing aren’t in any mood to make it easier to people to live close to them.

And what’s this obsession with high rise residential buildings?  I wouldn’t want to live on a high numbered floor anywhere — Who wants to spend a lot of time just to be able to get down to ground level, and then a lot of time to go back up?  Then there’s the matter of California, where the big one could hit anytime.

And so here we are: The government simply has relatively little power to create more affordable housing in the face of massively increasing demand for homes in desirable cities like Washington, New York and San Francisco.

And a lot of people read that and think, “that’s a feature, not a bug.”  Affordable housing is for Prince Georges County, parts of Westchester County, the Inland Empire, the Tri-Valley, South Suburban Cook County, and of course Ferguson.

Six to Fourteen

2 03 2015

Santa Ana, California

Joel Kotkin, writing in the Orange County Register:

Misunderstanding the millennials

So, this is about how we’ve got the millennials all wrong.

Paragraph six:

This, not surprisingly, is not what you read about regularly in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Young reporters, virtually all of whom live in dense, expensive places like New York or Washington, instinctually believe the world they know first-hand, the one in which they and their friends reside, epitomizes their generation. Most Americans, however, are not young, highly educated or likely to ever be Manhattan or Brooklyn residents. Indeed, only 20 percent of millennials live in urban core districts; nearly 90 percent of millennial growth in major metropolitan areas from 2000-10 occurred in the suburbs and exurbs.

Paragraph fourteen:

Of course, some close-in suburban areas – think Bethesda, Md., Newton, Mass., Beverly Hills, South Pasadena or Palo Alto – have done well, but are also prohibitively expensive. Overall, though, the inner-ring suburbs – as we saw with events last year in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo. – now often exhibit many of the very negative characteristics associated with cities. In fact, inner-ring suburbs have experienced the largest outmigration in metropolitan America – even as downtowns have grown – while the fastest-growing areas are once again those on the periphery.

These two paragraphs are related.  Think it through.

I hope Kotkin is right, and all these Tumblr SJWs that Common Filth makes fun of are just a tiny fringe.

Weakening the World

8 07 2014


Hide the wife and kids and bar the door.  Because Grover Norquist is thinking again.

He thinks big cities can turn red if Republicans get in front of the Uber/Lyft issues on the side of the disruptive innovations.

Just like big cities turned red because Republicans got out in front of the charter school question in favor of them.

Really, though, if you want to turn big cities red, you’d swap out their current predominant demographics for white families, and make it easy and affordable for white people to start families.  But ole Grover’s wee little brain infected with the egalitarian-libertarian virus will reject that out of hand.

Spare Me San Francisco

28 06 2014

San Francisco

Yeah, I’m all for affordable housing for the sake of affordable family formation.

However, I don’t think it’s necessary for a city to have the residential architectural character of Pyongyang, North Korea in order to achieve it.


How ’bout some immigration control?

Sorry, a writer named Reihan Salam isn’t having any of that.

Five, six, seven, eight…

Home Sweet Ted

19 10 2013


Libkooks post Ted Cruz’s home address thinking they could storm the premises just like the Razatards did Kris Kobach earlier this year.

Just one problem.

Cruz’s home address:


This would be The Royalton, just a tad west of downtown Houston.  If the unit number given is the one he lives in, (and for security purposes, he might officially be giving out the wrong one), and if unit numbers in this building are indicative of the floor they can be found on, he lives on the 19th floor of this 33-floor building.  Cheapest buy ATM is $455K, cheapest lease is $2,800.

Good luck getting past ground floor security, libkooks.

What’s curious to me is that a conservative Republican politician who is elected to a statewide office and therefore can live anywhere in the state lives in an urban condo.  I knew he lived in Houston, so I would have figured him for a large house on a cul-de-sac in The Woodlands or somewhere in Houston’s outer suburbs or exurbs.

Is this indicative of a cultural change, that conservative Republicans want to live in cities?

I know where I would be living right now if money was no object and the current owner had no objection.

White Kiddie Deserts

3 08 2013

Joel Kotkin writes about the lack of (white) children in many major core cities in City Journal.  It ends this way:

What families need is more affordable urban neighborhoods with decent schools, safe streets, adequate parks—and more housing space. As New York University’s Shlomo Angel points out, virtually all major cities worldwide are growing outward more than inward—and becoming less dense in the process—because density drives families away from urban cores and toward less dense peripheries. The lesson is clear: if cities want families, they should promote a mixture of density options.

The solution is not to wage war on suburbia, as urbanists have been doing for years. Following the notions that Jane Jacobs advanced a half-century ago, contemporary urbanists argue that high density creates a stronger sense of community. (Jacobs once opined that raising children in the suburbs had to be difficult, somehow overlooking how families were flocking to those suburbs.) But that contention isn’t self-evident. The University of California’s Jan Breuckner and Ann Largey conducted 15,000 interviews across the country and found that for every 10 percent drop in population density, the likelihood of someone’s talking to his neighbor once a week went up 10 percent, regardless of race, income, education, marital status, or age.

In California, particularly, state and local officials push policies that favor the development of apartments over single-family houses and town houses. But by trying to cram people into higher-density space, planners inadvertently help push up prices for the existing stock of family-friendly homes. Such policies have already been practiced for decades in the United Kingdom, making even provincial cities increasingly unaffordable, as British social commentator James Heartfield notes. London itself is among the least affordable cities in the world. Even middle-class residents have been known to live in garages, converted bathrooms, and garden sheds.

A city that continues to be high-density and high-cost hasn’t necessarily signed its own death warrant. Manhattan, parts of Brooklyn, and much of San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, and other amenity-rich cities—what Tulane University geographer Richard Campanella calls “kiddie deserts”—continue to flourish. But other cities, such as Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo, can’t attract the same interest from young hipsters and the rich and are consequently less capable of withstanding the effects of family flight to the suburbs. Even in the most affluent cities, the dearth of families reinforces public policies incompatible with children, argues the Austrian demographer Wolfgang Lutz. For example, fewer middle-class families means less political pressure to reform education or support for tougher law enforcement.

Ultimately, everything boils down to what purpose a city should serve. History has shown that rapid declines in childbearing—whether in ancient Rome, seventeenth-century Venice, or modern-day Tokyo—correlate with an erosion of cultural and economic vitality. The post-family city appeals only to a certain segment of the population, one that, however affluent, cannot ensure a prosperous future on its own. If cities want to nurture the next generation of urbanites and keep more of their younger adults, they will have to find a way to welcome back families, which have sustained cities for millennia and given the urban experience much of its humanity.

For some people, this is a feature, not a bug.

Where There Is Madness

30 07 2013

San Francisco

There is usually a method.

Stanley Kurtz does a long follow up in NRO about his book of last year about Obama’s war on suburban whitopias.

Let’s pick it up in about the middle:

In the face of heated public protest, on July 18, two local agencies in metropolitan San Francisco approved “Plan Bay Area,” a region-wide blueprint designed to control development in the nine-county, 101-town region around San Francisco for the next 30 years. The creation of a region-wide development plan–although it flies in the face of America’s core democratic commitment to local control–is mandated by California’s SB 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008. The ostensible purpose of this law is to combat global warming through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. That is supposedly why California’s legislature empowered regional planning commissions to override local governments and press development away from suburbs into densely-packed urban areas. In fact, the reduction of greenhouse gases (which Plan Bay Area does little to secure) largely serves as a pretext for undercutting the political and economic independence of California suburbs.

Essentially, Plan Bay Area attempts to block the development of any new suburbs, forcing all population growth over the next three decades into the existing “urban footprint” of the region. The plan presses 70-80 percent of all new housing and 66 percent of all business expansion into 150 or so “priority development areas” (PDAs), select neighborhoods near subway stations and other public transportation facilities. This scheme will turn up to a quarter of the region’s existing neighborhoods–many now dotted with San Francisco’s famously picturesque, Victorian-style single-family homes–into mini-Manhattans jammed with high-rises and tiny apartments. The densest PDAs will be many times denser than Manhattan. (See the powerful ten-minute audio-visual assault on Plan Bay Area at the 45-55 minute mark of this debate.)

In effect, by preventing the development of new suburbs, and reducing traditional single-family home development in existing suburbs, Plan Bay Area will squeeze 30 years worth of in-migrating population into a few small urban enclaves, and force most new businesses into the same tight quarters. The result will be a steep increase in the Bay Area’s already out-of-control housing prices. This will hit the poor and middle class the hardest. While some poor and minority families will receive tiny subsidized apartments in the high-rise PDAs, many others will find themselves displaced by the new development, or priced out of the local housing market altogether.

A regional plan that blocks traditional suburban development, densifies cities, and urbanizes suburbs on this scale is virtually unprecedented. That’s why the Obama administration awarded the agencies behind Plan Bay Area its second-highest “Sustainable Communities Grant” in 2012. Indeed, the terms of the administration’s grant reinforce the pressure for density. The official rationale behind the federal award is “encouraging connections” between jobs, housing, and transportation.

That sounds like a directive to locate new residents–poor and minorities included–in existing prosperous communities. In fact, HUD’s new emphasis on “connecting” jobs housing and transportation does more. In practice, bland bureaucratic language about blending jobs, housing, and transportation pressures localities to create Manhattan-style “priority development areas.” The San Francisco case reveals the administration’s broader intentions. Soon HUD and other agencies will begin to press localities directly, rather than through the medium of California’s new regionalist scheme. Replicating Plan Bay Area nationwide is the Obama administration’s goal.

The Enactment of Plan Bay Area was wildly controversial among those who managed to learn about it, yet went largely unnoticed in the region as a whole. One of the chief complaints of the plan’s opponents was the relative lack of publicity accorded a decision with such transformative implications. Critics called for a public vote, and complained that the bureaucrats in charge hadn’t been elected.

Another theme of critics was that “the fix” seemed to be in from the start. Input was largely ignored, opponents claimed, and public forums offered only the illusion of consultation. Although it’s gone largely unreported, that accusation is far truer than even the opponents of Plan Bay Area realize.

Kurtz is a bit off base here.  This has nothing to do with diversifying the Bay Area.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.  What “Plan Bay Area” will accomplish (by design, IMHO) is to make the world safe for liberal white-Asian SWPLs and YAY BLUE TEAM.  This plan directly combats the two biggest threats to SWPLs, one political one criminal.  The political threat it eliminates is that as housing gets more expensive, the less likely it will be that white people can engage in affordable family formation, and the fewer white traditional nuclear families the Bay Area will have, therefore the fewer Republican votes will be found in Bay Area ballot boxes.  The criminal threat it eliminates is that as housing gets more expensive, the less the black-Hispanic undertow can afford to live there, and since they’re not there, crime will largely be absent.  Bay Area SWPLs don’t need the black-Hispanic undertows to help Democrats win elections, because the SWPLs so dominate the political scene of the Bay Area that Democrats win everything anyway, and like I just said, they’ve driven out traditional nuclear white families (aka Republicans) for the expensive housing they promote.  It also eliminates a potential future political threat to SWPLs by keeping the Patterson’s First Axiom kind of diversity (blacks and Hispanics) out of the Bay Area.  If nothing drives people away from racial egalitarianism like a good dose of blacks and Hispanics, but there are no blacks or Hispanics around, people will never be driven away from racial egalitarianism and therefore never sour on Democrats.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,048 other followers