in Urban Change

The Point of Data

In 1968 the Citizen’s Housing and Planning Council of New York (CHPC) produced a little sixteen-page booklet on the housing problem with a five-room apartment on the cover. The presentation’s genius is how the five rooms (image here) represent housing development production problems. They were labeled 1) construction, 2) taxes, 3) land, 4) money, and 5) operating costs, and then pointed out of these five, lowering the cost of money produced the only substantial impact on rent. A post on the subject of housing and CHPC is in the Malfunctions series is here.

The Furman Center has produced one of the most comprehensive lists of all the ways government and the private sector are attempting to produce affordable housing. As it stands now, the resource to look at first is in the digital library — here. It is great for the Housing Geek Squad, but the site would do well to break it down into CHPCs five rooms for the ordinary person with interest, perhaps a seat on a CDC neighborhood board.

If you took a quick look at it, what happened to you is called MEGO for my-eyes-glaze-over. I am known for always one thing regarding data: no one is as smart as all of us, so a little MEGO is OK. There are a lot of people working very hard to produce housing. Simplicity is offered in the self-assessment strategy section (here). There is a short version and a longer one if the “short” sell moves your needle.

Policy Map

In addition to producing enough detail for a nuclear scientist, the Policy Map (here) will take the user to regional MSAs throughout the United States for a regional context and a housing report. The thing to do with a lot of information is to enjoy knowing it is there so that if a question is posed, places like this often provide suitable answers. The image above represents the edgelessness of urbanization and the location of where it has the greater density. Were it to develop a real edge; housing production might have a chance.

The counties of the NY metropolitan area, like that of New York State, produce a GDP similar to Canada. The report outlines the fine detail of housing affordability and how it will not survive economically if every dollar earned is taken for rent by the shelter owners. The formula used now is to produce the minimum proportion required to house low- and moderate-households fully.

Another excellent, low-BS source comes from the Independent Budget Office on a wide range of problems confronting New York City residents.

If you look at the snapshot, you will see how the proportions of affordability production are developed for public distribution. It is not the minimum required by any reasonable standard. However, it is an effort of value embroiled among manly other metro areas in the United States dealing with the failure of a robust national housing policy.

All Analysis Leads to One Big Question

When will a growing proportion of new and rehabilitated housing be financed through direct grants for construction and long-term operation?

Within the second decade of the 21st c., the need for a fully-funded public production role in housing will be more than apparent to policy-makers. It will be a necessity. A plan to prepare for this will be required. The public will have to come to terms with several facts.

First, there is a reasonable amount of affordable housing, but a vast portion of it is in the wrong place, poorly built, and in several regions throughout the nation that present significant environmental dangers associated with climate change.

Second, as it plays out in the general bigotry of people, racism has produced a series of geographic aberrations such as the concentration of poverty, massive disinvestment in public housing, once considered transitional, but today traps for the elderly and people of color.

Third, the “us vs. them” problem. Diversity works in dense urban areas – people of mixed economic backgrounds can easily share an apartment building, the subway, services, and shopping. Diversity in areas of low density is far more seriously ghettoized. Public investment in housing can work to pay the green premium and retain affordability in dense metro areas. It will have a much greater problem making the same investment in locations without a transit-based strategy linking small metro-locations.

However, there are other issues as the political choices stand for Americans in this decade. The three listed above are essentially non-negotiable. Listen again. The song is fun to hear.

Personal growth is the main stimulant of culture and a balancing agent against the excesses of power. When this growth is offered to all people, and we are slowly coming to realize the stimulants are here, and it is now, the next fight for freedom will be to sustain our ability to share what we know, but the very first place to test for truth will be right outside your front door and where you can walk from there.

A broad new set of factors to the urban scale expresses a numerical value such as a price level of something compared to something else. When used to index urban “livability” across the rapidly changing structure of cities, the index will aid policymakers to rate the sensibilities of ordinary working people about those who seek to profit from their labor, skill, insight, and productivity.

Two ranking styles are popular; the first puts a high value on economic and financial services supporting trade in material resources and political and cultural matters. The second index lists environmental pleasures such as the climate, interesting scenes, and the general absence of discord. This yields objective criteria and a means to implement a measured response to a specific human need or general desire regardless of wealth or station.

A city’s economic value is a mathematical matter, and only recently have specific environmental conditions been added as costs associated with aesthetic perspectives. The former is a mathematical value associated with sustainable or viable, resilient or vibrant, secure or stable. Aesthetic measures associated with sociocultural conditions such as truth and beauty or governance services such as law are also. The mathematics of index ratings on all of these things center on weight, whether weighted equally or in a framework for preferences. The demand for policies that measure and react in short, precise cycles has begun.

Without a doubt, these conditions of value continue to produce a dense urban form for people, and yet it remains an abstraction of consumption. The new flurry of numbers means one new thing, “they know” and “we know they know,” so now what? The driving factor for these new index factors will involve three-quarters of the earth’s population who will have an urban life of some description by the year 2050. The demand for an urban life has created this 3:1 ratio of “attraction,” leading to self-fulfilling urban development that continues without check. Those who remain outside the urban region are the most important to sustaining that realm and keeping its ability to be wild, safe.

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