Tag Archives: Affordable Housing

Links: The end of the world, schools, teens having less sex, school structure, housing, drug policy, Pre-K For All, and more!

* “The Ends of the World is page-turner about mass extinction.” Note: “The evidence suggests that every single time, mass extinction was the result of runaway alterations in the planet’s atmospheric composition.” I read and loved it.

* “GM and Cruise announce first mass-production self-driving car.” Wow.

* Why do U.S. schools still start way too early? “Tradition and inertia” seem to be the real answers. But starting middle and high schools later in the day is as close as we’re likely to come to a free lunch in education.

* École 42, a free, teacher-less university in France, is schooling thousands of future-proof programmers. Cool.

* “How Local Housing Regulations Smother the U.S. Economy;” nothing here that regular readers don’t know, but the venue is of interest.

* In Defense of Amy Wax’s Defense of Bourgeois Values.

* “Americans Losing Faith in College Degrees, Poll Finds: Men, young adults and rural residents increasingly say college isn’t worth the cost.” Isaac sent this one to me, and I wrote back to say that in some cases. . . they’re probably right. There are a lot of people (and not just men) who likely don’t belong in college and go because it’s “the next thing” after high school. Which is a great way to spend a lot of money, not necessarily learn very much, and then be 22 with five figures of debt. I’ve taught a lot of college classes and wrote about that experience here.

* “Pile it high: Singapore’s prefab tower revolution.” It’s possible to dramatically lower the cost of construction itself.

* “Bored? Underworked? You’re an ideal candidate for a company struggling to find new staff.”

* Leather grown using biotechnology is about to hit the catwalk. Good news is underrated.

* Why Koreans shun the suburbs.

* “Cheaper, Lighter, Quieter: The Electrification of Flight Is at Hand.” Maybe, but we’re still waiting for the flying cars and paperless offices we’ve seen prophesied for decades. For another take, see Why electric airplanes within 10 years are more than a fantasy: Startups plan to make hybrid airplanes, and eventually purely electric ones.”

* Relatedly: As electric motors improve, more things are being electrified.

* “Top medical experts say we should decriminalize all drugs and maybe go even further.” It seems the current approach is ineffective at best and is more likely to be actively harmful, so a new method is in order. Or, rather, a new-old method, because drug laws didn’t come into being until the late 19th Century.

* “The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids: Today’s young children are working more, but they’re learning less.” Should be a familiar story to our NYC Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) clients.

* “Is your state road system broke? Then hit up. . . the Prius drivers!” An example of misguided policy and failing to think about the bigger picture.

* “Is there a Rawlsian argument for redistribution as a form of social insurance?” A brilliant post, do read the whole thing, and note that I have thought this before, albeit phrased differently: “In fact what I observe is people taking the status quo, and its current political debates, as a benchmark of sorts, and choosing sides, yet without outlining the ‘stopping principles’ for their own recommendations.” And I have succumbed to this as well!

* “How to Win a War on Drugs: Portugal treats addiction as a disease, not a crime.” Seems obvious to most people, except for a few elected or appointed officials who are stuck in the 1980s “War on Drugs” fiasco.

* “A 400-year story of progress: How America became the world’s biggest economy.” The important news that’s likely to stay news.

* “How sky-high housing costs make California the poorest state.” Many of you who live in CA already know as much. The point about land and housing costs links to our post, “L.A. digs a hole more slowly than economics fills it back in: The Proposition HHH Facilities Program RFP.”

* “L.A. County now has 58,000 homeless people. So why are there thousands fewer shelter beds than in 2009?

* “Don’t buy the idea teens are having less sex until you take a closer look at the data.” Does “sex” include “oral sex?” The answer changes the way the data are interpreted.

* “De Blasio Expands Affordable Housing, but Results Aren’t Always Visible.” Unfortunately, “The vast majority of the newly created affordable housing units in New York City are existing apartments, not new construction.” This just exacerbates the “haves” and “have-nots” problem in the city. The only affordable housing is lots of housing. Until we get lots of new units built, the cost of existing units will rise.

* “How the University of New Hampshire spun blowing a frugal librarian’s donation on a stupid football scoreboard.” It does seem too nicely symbolic of modern universities.

Links: Material goods, durable goods, housing goods, old people and innovation, publishing, and more!

* “Trying to Solve the L.E.D. Quandary:” How can one build a business selling items that last for decades?

* Mr. Money Moustache: “So I Bought an Electric Car…

* “Non-materialistic millennials and the Great Stagnation,” or, how the smartphone in particular has replaced a lot of “stuff.” In 2007 Paul Graham wrote “Stuff,” which seems even truer today. Oddly, though, average dwelling size in the U.S. keeps increasing. Part of the reason involves parochial zoning that distorts markets, however. Seattle, for example, in effect banned popular, affordable micro-housing developments.

* “The High Cost of Residential Parking: Every time a new building includes space for cars, it passes those costs on to tenants.” A timely reminder for affordable housing advocates.

* Too many old people may explain stagnant economies and innovation, at least according to one analysis.

* “Reading Jane Jacobs Anew,” an excellent piece and don’t be discouraged by the title.

* “Comprehensive new data challenges the cultural consensus on public housing. For all their flaws, housing projects can have remarkable positive effects on the children who grow up in them.” Don’t believe the consensus on public housing.

* “The Publishing Gamble That Changed America: The Late Barney Rosset on Fighting for Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” and the fight against censorship in general (still ongoing in a few quarters).

* How an enormously clever landlord gets rid of rent-controlled tenants in NYC, or, yet another example of rent control’s perverse outcomes. There is a comic novel in here, though.

* “The Unintended Consequences of Law: How did the entire state of California price itself out of the market for entry-level home buyers?”

* “Teams don’t write grants: individual writers do, one word at a time.”

* Parking Lots Are an Incredible Waste of Space. Here’s How to End Them.

* “Will the United States become a nation of renters?” I find the relentless focus on property ownership bizarre, given all the drawbacks it entails, and indeed most of the people who seem to think it a good idea cannot even articulate the (many) drawbacks.

* “Canada’s cities call for $12.7-billion federal fix for housing crisis;” bizarrely, the word “supply” never appears in the article, yet supply limits are likely making the rent too damn high.

February Links: Writing, NIMBYs, Nonprofits-as-startups, Affordable Housing, Baltimore, Washington DC, Washington Monument Syndrome, Porn Star Study and more!

* In Writing, First Do No Harm.

* “The emergence of “YIMBY” [Yes In My Backyard] organizations in American cities would be a welcome counterpoint to the prevailing tides of NIMBYism that often dominate local government. But it is worth saying that broader institutional reforms are what’s really needed.”

* Nonprofit Startups Are Just Like Their Counterparts, according to Paul Graham. We’ve never seen a nonprofit really behave like a startup. Maybe Watsi, the nonprofit featured in the article, will be different.

* Who pays for healthcare also explains why prices are so high. In my view we also spend too much time debating insurance coverage and too little time discussing access to care and how that can be improved.

* “Home craft project: replacing broken laptop screen.” Why haven’t we seen job-skills training programs focused on computer and electronic repair? This may be more viable than Project NUTRIA, but it doesn’t involve small animals.

* From Shlomo Angel’s Planet of Cities:

Like many other observers, such as John Turner (1967) in Latin America, I found that wherever the urban poor could obtain affordable access to minimally serviced land, they could build their own homes and create vibrant communities with little if any support from the government. When free of government harassment and the threat of eviction, their houses would quickly improve over time with their investment of their savings and sweat equity. People could house themselves at the required scale and create many millions of decent homes, while leaving very few people homeless, something that all governments (save that of modern-day Singapore, an outlier on every possible scale) have consistently failed to do. Admitted, the expanding settlements of the poor did not conform to building codes, land subdivision regulations, land use and zoning requirements, or even property rights regimes. (52)

In many jurisdictions, governments nominally devoted to affordable housing prevent its creation. Key words in the above paragraph—”could obtain affordable access to minimally serviced land”—aren’t going to apply to downtown Seattle, or even the downtown Seattle periphery—but the basic idea is an important one. So is the recognition that land use controls in places like New York, Boston, and San Francisco decrease affordability more than any set of programs could increase it. And then there’s Detroit, but that’s another story.

* Baltimore is headed toward bankruptcy. Maybe they need an Outer Harbor to go with the Inner Harbor. Sort of an inni-outti approach to economic development.

* How Washington works: “Many 2011 federal budget cuts had little real-world effect,” and many of the nominal cuts turned out not to be real, by reasonable definitions of “real.”

* “The Dissertation Can No Longer Be Defended,” which makes points that should be obvious to damn near everybody involved in the humanities section of academia.

* “A warning to college profs from a high school teacher,” which is actually about the stakes of student testing.

* New York Times “journalist” John Broder lies in Tesla Motors Model S review, gets called out for it.

Deep Inside: A Study of 10,000 Porn Stars;” highly data-driven and should be safe for work.

* “In early childhood education, ‘Quality really matters;’” that’s one reason Head Start doesn’t work particularly well as education right now. But it works okay as day care and pretty well as a jobs program.

* New York real estate: a study in price escalation.

* The Deadly Opposition to Genetically Modified Food;” this is reminiscent of vaccine scares: people have to die before pseudoscience is really attacked.

* “Taking Apprenticeships Seriously,” which we should have started doing a long time ago. College is not the magic answer to every social and economic quandary, as anyone who has taught at a non-elite college should know.

* Government, illustrated: “the cutback is in accord with what Charles Peters of The Washington Monthly used to call the “fireman first” principle. That is, if bureaucrats are told to take $x million out of their budget, they’ll fight back by making cuts where an $x million loss will be most instantly obvious to the public. Like closing the local firehouse — or canceling an air show.” This is also sometimes referred to as the Washington Monument Syndrome. Isaac has seen this in action personally when he was a redevelopment bureaucrat for cities in Southern California.

April Links: Education and Jobs, The Rent is Too Damn High, Health Care in Its Many Forms, Food Deserts, and More

* Chicago’s plan to match education with jobs; this is long over-due.

* Is charity a major source of deadweight loss? Notice the linked column: “Increasing evidence shows that donors [to charity] often tolerate high administrative costs, fail to monitor charities and do not insist on measurable results — the opposite of how they act when they invest in the stock market.”

* What an awesome office! Uncomfortable chairs, though.

* Affordable housing and hilarious cognitive dissonance.

* Good legal news: Fifth Amendment Right Against Self Incrimination Protects Against Being Forced to Decrypt Hard Drive Contents.

* “Shame Is Not the Solution” for improving teachers. On the other hand, I suspect some of the districts who want to make teaching evaluations and test scores public are doing so out of desperation, or because they can’t build the kind of sophisticated evaluation systems Gates mentions. (For another discussion of this issue, see LA Times Ranks Teachers from Marginal Revolution.)

* The Rent Is Too Damn High Now Available for Preorder.

* The Social Conservative Subterranean Fantasy World Is Exposed, and It’s Frightening.

* The real reason health insurers won’t cover people with pre-existing conditions.

* The Secret to Seattle’s Booming Downtown.

* Let’s hope the MPAA ratings board dies; sample: “[. . .] while the MPAA board pretends to be a source of neutral and non-ideological advice to parents, it all too often reveals itself to be a velvet-glove censorship agency, seemingly devoted to reactionary and defensive cultural standards.”

* Sounds like fun: “With its sex-obsessed young heroine, ‘Turn Me On, Dammit!’ goes where few movies have gone,” and like the rare movie that actually goes where other movies haven’t.

* Why Don’t You Do Something Other Than Sit at Your Computer? (Side question: “Is your computer depressing you?”)

* The idea of the “food desert” is fading. I’m not sure it was ever real, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it in your proposals.

* $1B of TSA Nude Body Scanners Made Worthless By Blog — How Anyone Can Get Anything Past The Scanners. Wow.

* A short, accurate description of the long-term problems in Europe. This is also, on some level, about how people form groups and act in those groups. (“Americans in Massachusetts and Americans in Mississippi do feel themselves part of the same country, sharing language and culture. Germans and Spaniards do not feel the same.”) See further Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind.

* “Most men won’t be allowed to admit this, but the new HBO show [Girls] is a disastrous celebration of entitlement and helplessness.”

* Why you should read Before the Lights Go Out.

* Testing the Teachers, and how do we know what we’re actually getting out of college?

November Links: Myths, Housing, and More

* The New Republic has an article based on a Brookings Institute piece that deconstructs the small-town USA mythology regularly propagated in proposals:

But the idea that we are a nation of small towns is fundamentally incorrect. The real America isn’t found in cities or suburbs or small towns, but in the metropolitan areas or “metros” that bring all these places into economic and social union.

Think of this as a prelude to an eventual post on the subject of grantwriter as mythmaker. And if you’re interested in myth as a broader subject, see Joseph Campbell’s Myths to Live By. He’s the same guy who wrote Hero With a Thousand Faces, the book that, most famously, provided the outline for Star Wars.

* The New Yorker asks, “Why do so many evangelical teen-agers become pregnant?” Like some of the data discussed in our post on the Community-Based Abstinence Education Program, the article has problems of its own, including drawing conclusions that might be based on faulty data, but it nonetheless illustrates many of the issues at stake.

* The reason we can’t build affordable housing is chiefly structural, according to an article that also gives a recent history of industrial housing design:

What’s driving the high cost of houses today is not increased construction costs or higher profits (the Levitts made $1,000 on the sale of each house), but the cost of serviced land, which is much greater than in 1951. There are two reasons for this increase. The first is Proposition 13, the 1978 California ballot initiative that required local governments to reduce property taxes and limit future increases, and sparked similar taxpayer- driven initiatives in other states. Henceforth, municipalities were unable to finance the up- front costs of infrastructure in new communities, as they had previously done, and instead required developers to pay for roads and sewers, and often for parks and other public amenities as well. These costs were passed on to home buyers, drastically increasing the selling price of a house.

The other reason that serviced lots cost more is that there are fewer of them than the market demands. This is a result of widespread resistance to growth, the infamous not-in-my-backyard phenomenon, which is strongest in the Northeast, California, and the Northwest. Communities in growing metropolitan areas contend with increased urbanization, encroachment on open space, more neighbors, more traffic, and more school- age children.

Compare this to Virginia Postrel’s A Tale of Two Town Homes.

* We’ve written before about modern problems with bureaucrats. Such problems are hardly new: in the preface to The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne writes:

Suffice it here to say, that a Custom-House officer, of long continuance, can hardly be a very praiseworthy or respectable personage, for many reasons; one of them, the tenure by which he holds his situation, and another, the very nature of his business, which—though, I trust, an honest one—is of such a sort that he does not share in the united effort of mankind.

The oddest thing about the novel is how modern it seems in the subjects it treats and the way it portrays the subjectivity of its characters. The writing marks it from the 19th century, but in many other ways it is not.

* Mackerel Economics in Prison Leads to Appreciation for Oily Fillets from the Wall Street Journal has been making the blog rounds for good reason: it’s hilarious (“Elsewhere in the West, prisoners use PowerBars or cans of tuna, says Ed Bales, a consultant who advises people who are headed to prison.”) and insightful (using the specific example of prisons to demonstrate larger truths about the necessity of currency in virtually any non-hunter-gatherer culture). And how long have there been consultants who advise future prisoners?

* Speaking of the Wall Street Journal, it also published Giving Till It Works about “capitalistic philanthropy.” We’ve mentioned the issue with regard to Creative Capitalism, discussed tangent issues in Why Do People Give? And Other Unanswerable Questions, and brought up incentive problems in Foundations and the Future.

* Why is Mt. Denali in Alaska technically named McKinley by the federal government? I never thought I would care about the answer, either, but it sheds a great deal of light on politics, bureaucrats, history, culture, randomness, and infighting, as described by the Agitator.

* The New York Times reports on school reform efforts without discussing the enormous costs of some reforms, or the inherent scaling problems most such programs have had—just because a program with a small, extremely dedicated core of individuals manages to, for example, raise student achievement, that doesn’t mean that a larger program with less dedicated and less qualified staff do. Those two persistent issues have bedeviled attempts at reform, and there is no obvious way around them. Nonetheless, it’s still a positive sign that the issues are being more seriously discussed.

* Speaking of the New York Times, schools, and language, this could have come from a proposal:

The Equity Project Charter School (TEP) will open in September 2009 in Manhattan’s Washington Heights community, and it will aim to enroll middle school students at risk of academic failure. Students with the lowest test scores will be given admissions priority. In order to recruit the country’s top teachers to work with these at-risk students, the school’s founding principal will cut administrative costs and put a higher percentage of the school’s public funding into teacher salaries.

Notice the euphemistic “at risk of academic failure,” the choice to use the “most-in-need” model rather than the “most-likely-to-be-helped” model,” and the term “at-risk students” used again in the second sentence.