OK, I will admit it.

I posted on this topic (See “Sub-Prime Lending and the Slums of Tomorrow” 21 Feb 2008) and committed a sin of which I have accused others. I posted without reading the Leinberger article in Atlantic “The Next Slum?”

Since Jim Bacon’s original post went into the archives, I downloaded the article and read it with some care. Jim is to be commended for taking Deena Fulchum’s tip and putting up a good post on what Leinberger had to say. There is more to be said, however.

Back to the core problem of Vocabulary.

The very first sentence indicates this is something new and beyond what our friends Bill Lucy and Dave Phillips have been documenting.

Further it is now showing up in the weekly listings of foreclosures here in the R=30 Miles to R=60 Miles Radius Band around the Centroid of the National Capital Subregion.

What Lienberger finds goes to the question that Groveton raised in the recent post on the Affordable and Accessible Housing Crisis about “wrong sized house in the wrong location.”

Leinberger makes a number of points that will skewer those 12 ½ Percenters who chafe at the idea that there is a difference between functional and dysfunctional settlement patterns and that the dysfunctional ones would be eliminated by a fair allocation of location-variable costs.

Leinberger leaves out a lot, after all it is a short article. For example who was the sponsor of Futurama at the 1939 Worlds Fair? (Hint: it was the Enterprise for whom it was said in the 50s that what was good for the Enterprise was good for the US of A.)

What about the impact of Frank Lloyd Wright in the illusion of the benefits of scatteration that still resonates with 12 ½ Percenters?

The list of other things to say is long but the points Leinberger makes are well worth reading and digesting.

Sorry I did not do it before the posting.


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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    You might be interested in Glaeser’s new data. He measures the energy usage of households in and around several major cities.

    His data shows that those that live away from the center use more power than those in the center.

    However he points out that beyond about ten miles from the center there is no more difference in energy usage. I imagine that from your point of view, you could say that this shows that only the center has any energy savings, and that’s why maximum colocation is good.

    He goes on to say that not all cities are created equal. It isn’t ONLY the settlement pattern that makes a difference. Cities in the muggy south use more AC, Cities in the northest use more fuel oil, etc.

    He concludes that if carbon is worth $43 a ton then a home in Houston produces more than $500 more pollution damage per year than a home in San Francisco.

    But, he points out that the greenest cities have much stronger building restrictions, and are much more expensive to live in. As a result, they are not growing as fast as the “brown” cities.

    The study is based only on household energy usage. It does not consider usage of energy at work, or communal energy usage such as outdoor lighting, elevators and escalators, garage lighting, Light and ventilation for subway stations, and all the other city usage.


  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross


  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I am struck by reports that the government is ALLOWING rent-control apartments to be converted to CONDOs.

    What this sounds like .. is that all taxpayers are subsidizing urban settlement patterns via rent control.

    Why do we have rent control if urban areas are more efficient as settlement patterns?

    Why is a government policy that allows the free-market conversion of apartments to condos?

    Isn’t rent control a big-time location-specific subsidy?

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Isn’t rent control a big-time location-specific subsidy?

    For the landlord, or the tenant?


  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Slum: A heavily populated urban area characterized by substandard housing and squalor. Often used in the plural.

  6. Lyle Solla-Yates Avatar
    Lyle Solla-Yates

    Yes, rent control is definitely intended as a location subsidy to renters, so that they can afford to live near employment opportunities.
    The problem, which I think RH was pointing out, is that this is an increasingly heavy burden on building owners who choose to rent out apartments. Rent control therefore has the unfortunate effect of driving up demand for housing and discouraging availability of rental housing.

    Because of this problem, I see rent control as a temporary solution at best. More effective long term solutions will require either actual government subsidized housing, which is expensive and wasteful, and/or some creative shifts in the land markets, also called Fundamental Change.

    What especially strikes me about phasing out dysfunctional settlement patterns is that if it’s done right, the functional settlement that replaces it will be more profitable, more environmentally sound, and better for people’s lives. This isn’t much of a sacrifice.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    If it is done right, is the hard part.

    It is going to have to be done by consensus, and that consensus will meant that a lot of disparate agendas and special interests will have to be melded.

    The risk is that you wind up with a horse designed by a committee, when we and Jane Jacobs know that nature can design a better horse just through natural selection and competition.

    A functional settlement might be more profitable and environmentally sound, but it will most likely be more expensive, too.
    Which is what Glaeser points out.

    Unless the environmentally sound part is clearly worth more than it costs people won’t sacrifice any thing for it. If that home in Houston causes $500 a year more in polution damage, but a cleaner home in San Francisco costs $200,000 more, then guess waht will happen? Especially if Sanfrancisco is growing slower and fewer jobs are available.


  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    ….”More effective long term solutions will require either actual government subsidized housing, which is expensive and wasteful, and/or some creative shifts in the land markets, also called Fundamental Change.”

    that’s quite a range…

    I have to wonder.. sometimes about the sustainability of urban scale settlement patterns…. as currently operating……

    … if those places need nanny’s, doormen, pizza shops, teachers, policemen, bus drivers, etc, etc… to provide services ..

    where can those folks live?

    where can they find decent, safe, affordable market-priced housing?

    How sustainable is a place like that -if it requires subsidized or rent-controlled housing for a substantial portion of the residents?

    What kind of Fundamental Change would be necessary to produce an urban settlement pattern where the market provides affordable housing for all occupations – that are need to sustain the settlement?

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    It’s called Urban Dispersion. More places, scaled to a size people can actually function in. One such size might be defined by a reasonable range for electric vehicles.


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