UP Links 11 July 2013

+ Kari Kohn

Josh Barro on Why Rent is So High in NYC (ht to Jon) 

Take a look at this zoning map of the East Village, a popular neighborhood in Manhattan. Most of the neighborhood consists of R7A and R8B zones. These allow for a Floor-Area Ratio (FAR) of 4.0: four square feet of building area for every square foot of lot area. And accordingly, most of the housing stock in the neighborhood is closely-packed buildings of four or five stories.

If the neighborhood were instead mapped for R10 zoning, like parts of the Upper East Side, building FARs could go up to 10.0. That would allow for 2.5 times as much building space on the same amount of land. A larger supply of apartments in the East Village would mean lower rents, especially if zoning were relaxed all over the city.

Driverless Cars and Cities

Harvard University researchers note that as much as one-third of the land in some cities is devoted to parking spots. Some city planners expect that the cost of homes will fall as more space will become available in cities. If parking on city streets is reduced and other vehicles on roadways become smaller, homes and offices will take up that space. Today’s big-box stores and shopping malls require immense areas for parking, but without those needs, they could move further into cities.

The Atlantic on the Secret to Finland’s Success

One advantage Finland did have, however, was enlightened policies towards gender. The country focused on beefing up child and maternal care in large part because women were at the core of Finland’s independence and nation-building efforts at the turn of the 20th century. Finnish women were the second in the world to get the vote in 1906, and they were heavily represented in the country’s first parliament.…”You have a state system that was built on issues concerning Finnish citizens, both men and women, rather than women’s rights,” she said. “Government was created in this equal footing for men and women.”

Next City on Naming All the Streets in Ghana

But the missing street names and house numbers cause deeper problems than inconveniencing visitors unfamiliar with the local distribution of mango trees. “When you go to the bank and open an account, the bank wants to know where you’re staying. You have to draw them a map so they can go to that place and verify that’s where you’re staying,” said Ben Boateng, Kumasi’s town planning officer. “Or imagine if there’s an emergency and you try to call the fire services to tell them there is a fire. You have to keep describing and describing and describing.”

All that describing may soon come to an end. Last year the government launched a national initiative that aims to name every street and number every parcel in the entire country of 24 million people, and do it in 18 months. The effort is supported by a number of grants fromUSAID, the World Bank and others.

Matt Yglesias on the Potential for Changing Rules to Benefit Low-income Workers in DC 

So you have to think about what kind of measures would create working class job opportunities. We’re not realistically going to start sprouting factories, but given the high price of land in the city we could easily sprout skyscrapers if the rules were changed. In the short-term, that’s construction jobs. In the longer-term, it’s more jobs staffing the buildings and the much larger quantity of ground-floor retail that a higher-density downtown would support. A particularly job-heavy kind of downtown structure would be more hotels. DC has a lot of great free tourist attractions thanks to our status as national capital, but it’s a very expensive hotel market which deters visitors or pushing them into remote places. The city should also knock off the liquor licens moratoriums and instead act to streamline the permitting process to get new bars and restaurants off the ground. We could go even further by upzoning in residential neighborhoods which would create even more construction jobs and reduce the cost of living.

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