By: David A. Smith
There’s never a straight man in Monty Python — even if one character appears relatively sane, that illusion will shortly be upended.
Too much bull?
Similarly, voters in England who might reject the Monster Raving Loony Party could have hoped that among the remainder – Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats – there might be found at least one Sensible Party, could have been forgiven for concluding that the entire nation had gone completely gaga:
And it could be the first result of the evening …
At least, so it clearly seemed from an examination of their respective housing phantasms, as I explored in Speaking on behalf of the NIMBY party: Part 1, Hugely popular but widely blamed:
The shorter the election cycle, the dumber the political vaporware, and as the United Kingdom barrels down toward the most confusing and hard-to-predict election for many decades, the buffoonery is rising to a silly crescendo.
“The truth is he [Miliband] is weak and despicable.”
“When did he [Cameron] lose his nerve? These are pathetic, feeble excuses.”
The parties all agree that Britain has a huge housing problem, it’s the other parties’ fault, and it’s too late to do anything with their suddenly-discovered brilliant ideas until after they are elected. To illustrate three divergent perspective, here are three equally opinionated (“we’ll report the right opinions, then give you the facts to support them”) stories:
Opinionated sources used in this post
(font colored in rough approximation of party affiliation)
Financial Times (February 12, 2015; by Jim Pickard and Kate Allen, tory blue)
BBC (April 14, 2015; by Robert Peston, Lib Dem orange)
Financial Times (April 26, 2015; by Judith Evans and James Pickford, Labour red)
Spoiler alert: None of these proposals show any awareness of the UK’s housing ecosystem.
Distorted as little as possible
Nor did the silliness stop with the Tories, as I showed in the ensuing Part 2, a genuinely stupid idea, Part 3, The fundamental problem is one of supply, Part 4, Not motivated by electoral considerations?, and Part 5, A lack of understanding of the economics:
Meanwhile, so-called “rogue landlords” whose properties fall below basic standards would face tax relief cuts.
Mr Miliband defended the policy on Sunday with reference to Ireland, where rents can be reviewed only once a year and cannot exceed the market rate.
After a six-month probationary period, Irish landlords cannot end a tenancy, except for certain specified reasons, until four years have passed.
“In 2004 they introduced this system and it has worked. There are more people renting in the private sector in Ireland than there were 11 years ago. This is the right policy,” Mr Miliband said.
I’m too busy trying to forget my own election
Silliness, to be sure, is not solely the province of the English – nor is blinkered philistine pig-ignorance (to quote John Cleese as an architect) restricted to the English upper classes.
“Um, are you proposing to slaughter our tenants?”
[Puzzled pause] “Does that … not fit in with your plans?”
In fact, such shortsightedness flourishes in tony Marin County, as George Lucas found repeatedly over more than a decade before he used the dark side of zoning, as chronicled in May the (work) force be with you: Part 1, Resurrected a defunct homeowners’ associations, Part 2, Facing death by delay, and Part 3, Fearful bigots oppose extraordinary gift:
As established in yesterday’s Part 2, George Lucas’s ‘neighbors’ (term used in its geographical sense, not in any sense of sociability) had thwarted his original plans to develop a sophisticated and jobs-creating film studio on his property, and then exhausted his second possibility, affordable housing using the available programmatic series, and they thought they had won –
– only to be outfoxed by Mr. Lucas using the dark side of his wealth, and proposing (gasp!) to use his own money entirely and to build only what he needed no further permission to build (double gasp!).
Let’s apply the reverse-incumbency principle:
What if Marin already had 224 apartments of workforce family housing and elderly housing, located on land owned by Mr. Lucas, and Mr. Lucas declined to renew the at-will arrangement, and instead proposed that PEP Housing do as Mr. Jobs’ neighbors wanted him to do, cart up the buildings and relocate them elsewhere, so that he could restore those 52 acres to their natural, pre-development state?
The neighbors would crucify him.
Give us back our workforce housing
Although NIMBYism may beat in the hearts of all of us, it erupts visibly most often in the strongest markets, which can afford to spray development repellant about liberally (as it were), versus towns whose economy is noisily wheezing, like bankrupt Stockton, CA, will do anything to bring in new investment, as covered in Folly or catalyst? Part 1, “I bought strong locks”, Part 2, “With bankruptcy being over”, and Part 3, “Something Downtown Stockton can be proud of”:
As we saw yesterday, arresting Stockton’s economic decline became possible only with bankruptcy and its slashing of liabilities, which made the city once again creditworthy and which also enabled it to rejoin the community of municipal entities reinvesting in their downtowns. But to correct that neglect, and reanimate the hollow urban core, requires the first property re-entering the market to be financially and visually reinforced, so that both bankers and neighbors would be swiftly convinced it would work:
“It won’t be an old hotel converted to (single-room occupancy). It’s going to be something downtown Stockton can be proud of. It’s a catalyst.”
Change is being catalyzed in downtown Stockton, as reported three weeks later in the Stockton Record (March 30, 2015; Kelly green font):
Raymond Cavazos, left, and Samuel Mora put up fencing as work begins for construction and renovation at the site of what will be the Cal Weber 40 affordable housing development at California Street and Weber Avenue in downtown Stockton.
Construction is work, and that means jobs.
Because Stockton went into bankruptcy (and has now just emerged), that city’s future is headed upward, unlike that of the pre-bankruptcy Windy City, where we may have seen the fall of Chicago’s first domino:
Scarcely had I finished posting Chicago’s pre-obituary (A tale of two cities, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, and Part 12) than the first domino fell, as reported in the Chicago Tribune (May 8, 2015), with its echo event four days later Chicago Tribune (May 12, 2015; brick red font):
The Illinois Supreme Court’s decision to toss out the state’s pension reform law dealt a triple blow to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s difficult task of shoring up Chicago’s shaky finances.
It’s not a triple blow, it’s a single blow with three consequences:
Moody’s said Chicago’s rating could be cut if Illinois courts find pension reform laws enacted to shore up the state’s financially ailing pension system and for two of Chicago’s retirement systems are unconstitutional.
‘Could be,’ in this context, is a euphemism for ‘your darned right it would be.’
No uncertainty here Heisenberg, just principle: “You’re God-damned right we’re cutting the rating”
Four days later, the rating was cut.
With jobs come people, with people come cars, and with cars comes the pricing of street-sleeping vehicles, which means that once Out of the parking, endlessly circling: Part 1, It’s yours for a couple of days, Part 2, An hour to find a space, and Part 3, Going through all the drama:
Out of the parking endlessly circling,
I sing the auto electric
As we humans are easily enslaved by our metal overlords, we gradually internalize our masters’ needs – their room for living space, their restless urge to roam, and their need for curbside access, as reported unsympathetically in the Boston Globe (January 20, 2015):
Jenny Wahoske, a 35-year-old executive assistant who shares a car with her partner, has to be strategic to snag a parking space near her South End condo.
Banned in Boston?
Finally, during May I posted four more parts of the mega-post Ten years a blogger, covering my discoveries and tentative findings about housing’s impact on and because of evolution in technology, cities, land, jobs, in Ten years a blogger: Part 11, Evolving building technology, Part 12, Housing and cities, Part 13, Housing and urban land uses, and Part 14, Housing and mobility:
All this thinking about spontaneous communities and how cities grow culminated in a rationally angry post about Zaatari, the instant unloved city (July, 2013), which became a course of research leading to a book, available for free download, that curated the state of Zaatari, even as Syria collapsed into a microcosm of the warlord state of barbarity.
The essential role of housing as continuous nutrient for and renewal of cities are unearthed in this Top-25 post (April 21, 2011) Economic nitrogen fixing: Part 1, import and recycle nutrients …