"Unaffordable cities: this criminal lack of housing is a global scandal
A basic lack of homes is taking a terrible urban toll – affordability is social justice. Our only choice is to build, build, build
Alec Steffen. February 10, 2014
The first time I heard the story, I have to admit, I didn’t believe it. A friend was apartment hunting and – despite being employed, personable and trustworthy – was having a difficult time finding a place. After a few weeks, she was invited to a “pre-showing”, where landlords show the apartment to a select group of prospective tenants before having an open house.
The apartment was perfect, if expensive: think hardwood floors, lots of light, high ceilings. She was smitten. As she was strolling through what she thought might become her new home, however, a man in hip clothes walked up to the landlord and said, “I’ll give you a year’s rent, in advance”. Needless to say, she did not get the unit.
As I say, I was sceptical. Then I heard basically the same story again, from a completely different source, about a completely different apartment. Then I heard a version of it about a flat in London, another about a competitor bribing a rental agent in New York, and another about the strategy of the pre-listing offer, where deep-pocketed tenants make generous bids to the owners of buildings where workers are making major repairs, to secure places that may soon be available before other tenants can even see them.”
Photo: San Francisco’s Chinatown - one of the most densely populated parts of the city. Photograph: Michael Layefsky/Flickr Vision
"London Dreams Much Bigger Than New York on Housing
STEPHEN J. SMITH | NEXT CITY Jan 27, 2014
On Sunday morning, London Mayor Boris Johnson’s housing policy came in for a bit of criticism from New York’s architectural establishment on Twitter. Michael Kimmelman, architecture-turned-urbanism critic at the New York Times, tweeted that Johnson is “kowtowing to developers, cutting promised affordable housing,” and then linked to a Guardian blog post about Johnson’s more aggressive use of his power to override local opposition to housing schemes.
Architect/urbanist/author John Massengale echoed Kimmelman’s concern, adding, “10 to 1 he’s been listening to our own Mayor Mike,” referring to no-longer-mayor Michael Bloomberg and his alleged coziness with developers.
How do the housing goals of Johnson, a conservative, stack up against those of New York’s great white progressive hope, newly inaugurated Mayor Bill de Blasio? Both cities are struggling with how to ease their widening affordability problems and how to grow productive urban centers in an equitable way. They’re also similar in size, desirability and economic strength, making for an easy comparison.
By any measure, Johnson has a much more expansive housing plan for London than de Blasio does for New York.”
"Housing Demolition and the Right to Place
by Tony Roshan Samara
There is no small irony in the fact that the most notable achievement of affordable housing policy in the United States over the past two decades has been the systematic demolition of affordable housing stock. To understand this upside-down world of housing politics, at least as it collides with the lives of the urban poor, we have to understand the moral panic that has developed around the concept of concentrated poverty. Over time, this panic has hardened into a consensus among the urban policy elite. For its members, most if not all social ills associated with cities and poverty stem from too many poor people being gathered in one place.”
Photo: Cochran Gardens in St. Louis, demolished 2008. Source: Wikimedia Commons
The Atlantic Cities:
“De Blasio’s ‘Vision Zero’ Plan Could Set a New Standard for Traffic Safety
SARAH GOODYEAR. JAN 16, 2014
In his remarks on Wednesday, de Blasio put traffic safety in the spotlight. “I said on Inauguration Day that we were here to make changes, and I meant it,” he said. “This is an example of where we will act immediately.”
The mayor pointed out that last year, the city hit a record low of 333 homicides, but that nearly as many people – 286, by last count – died in traffic. “It is shocking to see how those two numbers correspond,” he said. He noted that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of injury-related death among New Yorkers younger than 14, and the second-leading cause of injury-related deaths among New York’s seniors.
The mayor’s approach calls for an unprecedented coordination among the NYPD, the city’s Department of Transportation, its Department of Health, and the Taxi Commission. De Blasio said he wants to see detailed plans from the leaders of those agencies by February 15.”
The New York Times:
"The Flood Next Time
Justin Gillis. JAN. 13, 2014.
The little white shack at the water’s edge in Lower Manhattan is unobtrusive — so much so that the tourists strolling the promenade at Battery Park the other day did not give it a second glance.
Up close, though, the roof of the shed behind a Coast Guard building bristled with antennas and other gear. Though not much bigger than a closet, this facility is helping scientists confront one of the great environmental mysteries of the age.
The equipment inside is linked to probes in the water that keep track of the ebb and flow of the tides in New York Harbor, its readings beamed up to a satellite every six minutes.
While the gear today is of the latest type, some kind of tide gauge has been operating at the Battery since the 1850s, by a government office originally founded by Thomas Jefferson. That long data record has become invaluable to scientists grappling with this question: How much has the ocean already risen, and how much more will it go up?
Scientists have spent decades examining all the factors that can influence the rise of the seas, and their research is finally leading to answers. And the more the scientists learn, the more they perceive an enormous risk for the United States.”
Photo: Stephen Gill, an oceanographer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, at the Battery tide gauge in Manhattan. Tides have been measured there since the 1850s. Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times
The Atlantic Cities:
"5 Principles for Building Greener, Healthier Cities
Kaid Benfield. Jan 13, 2014
I like to consider “people habitat” – the realm of places that humans build and inhabit – as having an ecology of its own, roughly analogous to that of natural wildlife habitat. Nature works best when it is in balance and, like the natural environment when operating at its best, the built environment created by us humans should achieve harmony among its various parts and with the larger world upon which it depends. But, while the ecology of the natural world – at least as usually studied – concerns itself primarily with the interdependence and health of non-human species, the ecology of people habitat concerns itself also with our relationships as humans to each other, and with the health of communities that support those relationships and allow us to flourish alongside and within nature.
I believe we humans have an opportunity and a duty to make our habitat work both for us as people and for the sustainable health of the planet writ large. Indeed, if our solutions do not work for people, they will never work for the planet.”
Photo: Flick user Payton Chung.
The Wall Street Journal:
"City’s Affordable Housing Units Dwindle
De Blasio Faces Challenge in Creating Low-Income Apartments
Laura Kausisto. Jan 9, 2014
The Bloomberg administration marshaled billions of dollars to create and preserve affordable housing, but a new report said the city lost 40% of apartments for low-income residents over the last decade.
The study by the Community Service Society, a nonprofit advocacy group for low-income New Yorkers, underscores the challenges faced by new Mayor Bill de Blasio. He has promised to create 50,000 units of affordable housing, a number that may barely match the loss of rent-stabilized housing and cheap apartments in increasingly desirable areas of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.”
The Architect’s Newspaper:
"REVIEW> IMAGINE THERE’S NO COUNTRIES
James Way dissects Vishaan Chakrabarti’s book, A Country of Cities
Jan 6, 2013
Seemingly everywhere, all the time, Vishaan Chakrabarti delivers a timely, or well-coordinated, rally cry to vanquish exurbs and even suburbs in pursuit of the hyperdensification of urban centers as the route to a more sustainable future—environmentally, economically, and socially. In his new book, Chakrabarti supports this argument with 250 pages of well-written, though slightly redundant, prose and clear illustrations. Redundancy here is not a bad thing because many of his basic claims seem to have gone unheeded for decades to disastrous and steadily worsening outcomes.
Part info graphic, part manifesto, and part plea, A Country of Cities grows from a series of articles Chakrabarti began writing in 2009 for Urban Omnibus, the Architectural League of New York’s website dedicated to urbanism. Collected here the missives lose none of their impact, relevance, or timeliness in urging for a densification of American cities.”
Image: Metropolis Books
The Atlantic Cities:
“EDITORIAL> TIPPING POINT
Sam Lubell on the potential and future of Los Angeles.
Over the course of its history Los Angeles has abandoned so many of its wildly ambitious dreams only to see them replaced by a.) nothing or b.) something far less innovative. Trust me, I know. This provided exquisite fodder for the exhibition I co-curated, Never Built: Los Angeles, but not for our city.
Once again we’re staring at some thrillingly visionary schemes for the metropolis, devised by some of its most creative people. This wave, if completed, could begin to re-connect the dark fissures—from freeways to concrete channels—that were driven into the heart of the city over the last century.”
Photo: RENDERING OF THE CORPS’ PLAN TO RESTORE THE LA RIVER. COURTESY U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS
The Architect’s Newspaper:
"EDITORIAL> CONTESTING THE BLOOMBERG LEGACY
William Menking on the mayor’s efforts to improve Manhattan parks and gentrified areas of Brooklyn and Queens.
Now that Michael Bloomberg’s third and final term is about to end journalists and editors are rolling out scores of articles on his legacy and the future of Gotham. There is little question that during his mayoralty New York changed physically more than it had in many years and architects and designers were more influential than anytime since John Lindsay. The degree to which Bloomberg’s department heads like David Burney, Amanda Burden, and Janette Sadik-Khan made design an important aspect of physical growth and change is probably unprecedented in any American city at least since Robert Moses dominated development in New York. A major narrative in most of these articles is the uneven development that occurred during the period as most of these physical changes and improvements were concentrated in affluent Manhattan and the Brooklyn and Queens waterfronts—facing Manhattan. It is clear that most of the achievements of the period—like the High Line, the new parklets created on odd bits of left over streetscape along Broadway, designated bike lanes, and even bike sharing—were heavily weighted towards improving Manhattan and gentrified areas of Brooklyn and Queens. If one looks to areas like Brownsville, Crotona, or the Southeast Bronx, it is hard to find the Bloomberg initiatives having made little or any improvements to the streetscapes.
But not mentioned in these articles is the degree to which this administration marginalized (though this began under Rudolph Giuliani) the City Planning Commission, once a major player in development decisions and ensuring equity in planning. This neglect of official planning during the period may explain some of the more obvious blunders of the period, including the mayor’s half-baked, developer-focused 2030 plan; the ill-fated (but happily defeated) West Side Stadium proposal; and the disappointing high-rise development now taking place along the Brooklyn waterfront.”
Photo: THE OCCUPIERS OF MANHATTAN’S ZUCCOTTI PARK WERE CLOSELY MONITORED AND SLOWLY PUSHED OUT BY THE BLOOMBERG ADMINISTRATION.