09/17/2019

News

As the Planet Warms, Who Should Get to Drive?

One major goal outlined by the resolution: overhauling the country’s transportation systems, so that electric vehicles, public transit, and high-speed rail can replace every combustion-engine vehicle. In many ways, that’s a summation of every eco-conscious urbanist’s dreams. Transportation produces the largest share of U.S. greenhouse gases, so everything should be done to reduce the globe-cooking […]

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Will Norway’s Electric-Vehicle Boom Outlast Its Incentives?

No other country on Earth has bet as big on electric vehicles as Norway, and it’s finally paying off. Half of all new cars sold to Norwegians are either fully electric or hybrid, making the country of 5.3 million the biggest per-capita market for EVs. Norway’s EV success is owed to both the carrot and […]

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Inside the Bill That Set the ‘Strongest Clean Energy Requirement in the Nation’

Washington, D.C. is positioning itself on the climate policy fast track. The District of Columbia city council voted unanimously last week to approve an expansive climate bill requiring utility providers to generate 100 percent of their energy supply from renewable sources by 2032. If D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signs the legislation as expected, the provisions […]

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Some Rural Areas Are Better for Economic Mobility

When it comes to economic mobility, the image that comes to mind is one of savvy, ambitious kids from the cities and suburbs of large superstar metro areas like New York, Boston, and San Francisco getting ahead, while children from more isolated, rural areas fall further and further behind. But this narrative is not borne […]

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Why Affordable Housing Isn’t More Affordable

The low-slung apartment buildings that line the streets of Houston, Fort Worth, and other Lone Star cities are some of the cheapest affordable housing projects to build anywhere. Two-story jobbers in Texas cost a whole lot less to build with housing tax credits than affordable mid-rises in California or New England. Where land prices are […]

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How America Killed Transit

One hundred years ago, the United States had a public transportation system that was the envy of the world. Today, outside a few major urban centers, it is barely on life support. Even in New York City, subway ridership is well below its 1946 peak. Annual per capita transit trips in the U.S. plummeted from […]

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Can Silicon Valley Disrupt How We Build?

From the end of the Second World War until a few years ago, when it cooled off, productivity surged across the U.S. economy, giving rise to what’s often called the “productivity miracle.” From manufacturing to agriculture to retail, industry after industry became cheaper, faster, more mechanized, and more efficient. But the same can’t be said […]

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What You Have to Earn to Rent a Modest 2-Bedroom, Mapped

For most Americans, access to decent, affordable rental housing remains cruelly beyond reach. Only in 22 counties in the United States is a one-bedroom home affordable to someone working 40 hours per week at federal minimum wage. That’s from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) report, which outlines the mismatch between wages and rent […]

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The American Housing Crisis Might Be Our Next Big Political Issue

Franzini is joined in this quest by a curious cast of fellow travelers who are committed to raising the political profile of the American housing dilemma. As home prices creep up everywhere from established tech hubs to traditionally inexpensive cities like Boise and Nashville—and as homelessness reaches epidemic proportions on the West Coast—a number of […]

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Where Commuting Is the Worst

In 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau found that it took the average commuter more than 26 minutes to get to work. That figure might sound less than much—26 minutes is about enough time to finish a podcast, after all, and some historians argue that a roughly half-hour commute has been optimal since caveman days. But […]

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Why New York City Stopped Building Subways

In the first decades of the 20th century, New York City experienced an unprecedented infrastructure boom. Iconic bridges, opulent railway terminals, and much of what was then the world’s largest underground and rapid transit network were constructed in just 20 years. Indeed, that subway system grew from a single line in 1904 to a network […]

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Is Housing Inequality the Main Driver of Economic Inequality?

Economic inequality is one of the most significant issues facing cities and entire nations today. But a mounting body of research suggests that housing inequality may well be the biggest contributor to our economic divides. Thomas Piketty’s influential book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, put economic inequality—and specifically, wealth inequality—front and center in the global […]

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The Extreme Geographic Inequality of High-Tech Venture Capital

The Bay Area—that is, San Francisco and Silicon Valley—currently accounts for nearly 45 percent of total venture capital investment in the entire United States. And the Acela Corridor, spanning Boston, New York, and Washington, comprises another third. Together, these two geographic regions attract nearly three-quarters of America’s venture capital investment. And, just the five leading […]

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Why Is ‘Affordable’ Housing So Expensive to Build?

It’s a problem that isn’t going away: the so-called “affordable” housing we’re building in many cities—by which we mean publicly subsidized housing that’s dedicated to low- and moderate-income households—is so expensive to build that we’ll never be able to build enough of it to make a dent in the housing affordability problem

. . . . More broadly, the case has been made that much publicly subsidized affordable housing costs much more to build than market rate housing. Private developers are able to build new multi-family housing at far lower costs. One local builder has constructed new one-bedroom apartments in Portland at cost of less than $100,000 a unit, albeit with fewer amenities and in less central locations than most publicly supported projects. In Portland, local private developer Rob Justus has proposed to build 300 apartments and sell them to the city for $100,000 each on a turn-key basis to be operated as affordable housing. Another possible cost savings measure: off-site construction. The University of California, Berkeley’s Terner Center has a report that explores the possibility for pre-fabricated, off-site construction to reduce construction costs.

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Oregon May Strip Portland of Its NIMBY Powers

People can’t afford to be poor in Portland, Oregon. Nearly half of the households that rent in the Portland metro area pay too much. Almost one-quarter (24.3 percent) of these households are severely cost burdened, meaning half of their household income goes to keeping a roof over their heads. The median income of Portland metro homeowners is nearly twice that of renters: $81,900 versus $41,600, per a new Harvard report on housing. Oregon has decided to do something to boost affordable housing in the state. A new law before the legislature has opened unexpected fault lines in the already fractured political debate over housing costs. The bill represents something of a mixed blessing for affordability boosters: it’s designed to remove barriers to new construction, but at the cost of local authority.

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