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Our Word is Our Weapon

Daily links 09/21/2013


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Daily links 09/17/2013


  • “But is the political will still there? Bad and inadequate housing was described in the 1966 Labour manifesto as “the greatest social evil in Britain today”. In the Conservative manifesto of the same year, it was promised that a Conservative Government would make use of “every new method that works to get the houses up and keep the prices down”.”

    tags: housing politics bookref

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Daily links 09/11/2013


  • “The trouble with this very British property obsession is that it damages the structure of the economy. As house prices rise, the wealth effect encourages homeowners to spend more, which inflates the size of the non-tradeable sector. Workers are sucked out of the tradeable sector as the demand for labour in the non-tradeable sector increases. The difficulty is that innovation and technological growth are lower in the non-tradeable area than in the tradeable sector. So, in effect, housing bubbles encourage deindustrialisation and reduce the growth potential of the economy.”

    tags: housing bookref macroeconomics

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Daily links 09/08/2013


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Daily links 08/20/2013


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Daily links 08/07/2013


  • “But the sense of crisis is felt much less keenly locally. More of the public disagree than agree that there is a housing crisis locally (49 per cent against 45 per cent) although this varies geographically - for example, there is a stronger sense of a local crisis in southern England, especially in London. And while most Britons do not think there is enough affordable housing available to buy or rent where they live, 45 per cent disagree (21 per cent strongly) that new homes need to be built there. In fact, 36 per cent of those who think there is insufficient affordable housing disagree that new homes need to be built.”

    tags: housing planning land bookref

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Daily links 08/01/2013


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Daily links 07/30/2013


  • “Of course, in a free society, people who want to own homes and have the means should be able to purchase them, just as they would any other luxury item. But our governments do not need to subsidise that purchase. Increasing home ownership does not increase housing, least of all for the poor. Increasing home ownership in the US and Britain beyond what the free market would generate does, however, distort capital allocation, put a large share of household savings at unnecessary risk, impede mobility, and creates a powerful lobby for government transfers to the wealthy. And it creates housing bubbles to devastating effect.”

    tags: housing economics inequality

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Daily links 07/26/2013


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Daily links 07/25/2013


  • “In 1930, Keynes forecast (pdf) that by 2030 real incomes per capita would be four to eight times their 1930 level. A point may soon be reached, he said, when our absolute needs are satisfied, “in the sense that we prefer to devote our further energies to non-economic purposes.” He thought the working week would drop to just 15 hours.

    This forecast has been half right: real incomes are now 4.5 times 1930’s level. But it has been half wrong; the average working week is twice Keynes’s forecast. Why?

    One reason, of several, is that housing costs have risen. In 1930, these comprised just 9.5% of consumer spending. Today, they comprise 25.8%*. Our absolute need to live somewhere is keeping our noses to the grindstone.”

    tags: history housing inequality bookref

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Daily links 07/24/2013


  • “After controlling for age it was found that, over the period of study, individuals from lower income households were less likely to move ward and less likely to move large distances, and there are similar seperate independent effects restricting mobility for those experiencing a decrease in household income during the period. The main conclusion is that an understanding of the process of socio-economic constraint should be central to theoretical and empirical studies of geographic mobility.”

    tags: housing mobility inequality geography

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Daily links 07/19/2013


  • “Next we have to ask why all these streets are one-way. Quite simply, the area gets very congested, and to avoid motors trying to rat-run their way around the pinch-points and creating increased road danger followed by total gridlock, it’s been necessary to close off the side-streets one by one precisely to make the main roads impossible to avoid. Because the planners didn’t consider the effect on cyclists, who don’t create congestion or significant road danger, bike-riders are caught in the same fine-meshed net as other traffic and forced onto roads that don’t have any provision for cycling, and furthermore are designed in a way that presents the maximum possible danger to vulnerable road users as a side order.”

    tags: cycling london transport

  • “The importance of having the right grandparents stems from the rise in real house prices. If your elderly relatives are property owners, you can reasonably hope to benefit from a huge leg-up just when you are thinking of settling down because your parents are likely to pass the money down a generation. Education, hard work and getting a good job are less important than having the right ancestors.
    We have got into this mess in Britain though valuing scrubby farmland over the happiness and social mobility of our children and fuelling an irrational objection to homebuilding that stifles creativity, opportunity and dynamism.
    After almost a century of gradual social progress and narrowing of wealth and opportunity gaps, Britain is slowly recreating a rentier society, where a family’s property ownership matters more than anything else.”

    tags: housing inequality land planning bookref

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Daily links 07/18/2013


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Daily links 07/16/2013


  • “Expansion of the railroad network may have affected all counties directly or indirectly – an econometric challenge that arises in many empirical settings. However, the total impact on each county is captured by changes in that county’s “market access,” a reduced-form expression derived from general equilibrium trade theory. We measure counties’ market access by constructing a network database of railroads and waterways and calculating lowest-cost county-to-county freight routes. As the railroad network expanded from 1870 to 1890, changes in market access were capitalized into county agricultural land values with an estimated elasticity of 1.1. County-level declines in market access associated with removing all railroads in 1890 are estimated to decrease the total value of US agricultural land by 64%. Feasible extensions to internal waterways or improvements in country roads would have mitigated 13% or 20% of the losses from removing railroads.”

    tags: transport land economics bookref

  • Because housing prices influence migration, the elasticity of housing supply also has an important impact on local labor markets. Specifically, an increase in labor demand will translate into less employment growth and higher wages in places where it is relatively difficult to build new houses….I find that housing supply regulations have a significant effect on local labor market dynamics. Whereas a 1 percent
    increase in labor demand generally leads to a 1 percent increase in the long-run level of employment, the employment response is less than 0.8 percent in places where the housing supply is highly constrained. “

    tags: housing planning bookref

  • “These are not particularly new problems but our political system tends to deal with them incrementally in a way that has led to this dysfunctional situation. Any radical change will inevitably create painful disruption and so needs to be implemented over a long period. It’s unlikely to happen in our world of partisan politics but a consensus, evidence based, long term approach is needed that recognises the impossibility of everyone living in the most attractive neighbourhoods and which uses all the tools, from property taxation to infrastructure investment through regional and welfare policy to housing and planning delivery, to reduce the cost to the state of what is probably the largest market failure, after climate change, we have to deal with.”

    tags: housing london planning bookref

  • The value people attach to proximity to public transport, particularly close to town, shows just how important accessibility is and therefore just how wasteful and congesting it is to build housing in accessible areas. If you don’t build housing where people want to live you massively increase journey times.

    tags: housing london planning transport bookref

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Daily links 07/15/2013


  • “What a sad excuse for regional planning (or the lack of it).  Realistic alternatives which may be much more sustainable are not looked at simply because there is no institutional set up to push them forward, what loses then – the Green Belt, with development focussed not on public transport but the densest concentration of motorways in the UK, where commuters may be forced to use a toll road to get to work.”

    tags: housing land planning bookref

  • “thanks to a more autonomous local government than the UK has ever seen, the local authority are able to manage the development as if they were a private developer. Public funds for the city’s infrastructure are raised through sale of plots of land from a highly flexible masterplan. However in order to secure for future residents of the city the highest standards of urban living, plots are not auctioned to the private developer with the highest offer, but given to those developers who offer highest quality concept.

    The aim is to set international standards for conceptual and architectural quality, and as such once an option is secured, the developer must then launch an architectural design competition in tandem with the city to invite the best possible solutions to realising the developer’s proposal.”

    tags: housing germany bookref

  • “The endowment effect predicts that people value losses more than gains. I examine whether the effect sheds light on courts’ takings decisions. My findings include the following: (1) regulations that emphasize losses rather than gains are more likely to survive judicial review; (2) endowments can include comprehensive plans, development plans, permits, etc; (3) both governments and landowners can acquire endowments to sway courts in their favor; (4) occupying land creates a strong endowment; and (5) implementing plans helps to cement endowments. I suggest research that examines more cases, hypotheses that emerge from my analyses, and characteristics of the effect related to land.”

    tags: housing land journals bookref

  • tags: london transport environment

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Daily links 07/14/2013


  • “My father, who lived to 94, often said that the 80s had been one of the most enjoyable decades of his life. He felt, as I begin to feel, not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective. One has had a long experience of life, not only one’s own life, but others’, too. One has seen triumphs and tragedies, booms and busts, revolutions and wars, great achievements and deep ambiguities, too. One has seen grand theories rise, only to be toppled by stubborn facts. One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty. At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.”

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Daily links 06/10/2013


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Daily links 06/03/2013


  • “Plotting both regression lines gives a fuller picture of the data, and comparing their slopes provides a simple graphical assessment of the correlation coefficient. Plotting the orthogonal regression line (red) provides additional information because it makes no assumptions about the dependence or independence of the variables; as such, it appears to more accurately describe the trend in the data compared to either of the ordinary least squares regression lines.”

    tags: Statistics

  • “With upzoning, high demand for Somerville living would lead to new construction and higher density even as average dwelling size rises. But if larger structures can’t be built, then higher demand and higher incomes are going to lead to falling density as multifamily structures are converted to single-family ones.”

    That’s exactly what’s happened and is happening to the most expensive parts of London, where ‘deconversion’ of multiple dwellings into one is increasingly common. Housing demand is income-elastic, so as incomes rise people will demand bigger homes, and if we don’t build them you just get falling population densities in areas of high demand.

    tags: housing

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Daily links 05/29/2013


  • “This tells us that there is indeed some inequality aversion; people will pay money to reduce inequality. But this is only part of the story. Folk are also concerned with their individual relative status. So they’ll pay money to hold down people who are slightly worse off than themselves, and to bring those slightly above them down a peg or two…

    For a Marxist, this is depressing stuff. But it should also concern any liberal or democrat.It suggests that people might support policies that hurt other poor people - for example, welfare cuts or immigration controls - even if they themselves are harmed by such policies. In this sense, people’s preferences aren’t necessarily the same as their narrow material interests.”

    tags: inequality redistribution psychology

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Daily links 05/20/2013


  • “”The idea is that in large urban centers, the density and intensity of social interaction is such that it’s really a hotbed for linguistic innovation,” says Josef Fruehwald, a Ph.D. candidate who’s been working with Labov. “Despite the broad idea that mass media is what’s spreading language change – that we’re all becoming more similar – what really matters is face-to-face interaction with peers.”

    (This does, by the way, also mean that suburbs are decidedly not hotbeds of linguistic innovation. “If your house is set back 40 feet,” Labov says, “you’d need a pretty good excuse to come say hello to your neighbor.”) 
    “The big question of why language changes lies beyond everything we do,” Labov says. “So we attack it by breaking it down into small steps.” They’ve already learned that women in Philadelphia (and in other communities) are the leaders of language change. And now they know exactly what that change sounds like and where it’s going. The ultimate question, though, is what this evolution reveals about about how people relate to and communicate with their neighbors, be it next door, across town, or even farther away.”

    tags: language

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