We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Why Dallas houses are sanely priced while LA (and London) houses are not

My friend Patrick Crozier often writes about the harmful impact of planning restrictions on the housing market. If he has not already read this posting by Virginia Postrel, and this article of hers that she links to, he should.

A key paragraph in the article, which she recycles at her blog if only to ensure that it may continue to be read after the article as a whole has disappeared behind some Old Media Wall, goes thus:

Dallas and Los Angeles represent two distinct models for successful American cities, which both reflect and reinforce different cultural and political attitudes. One model fosters a family-oriented, middle-class lifestyle – the proverbial home-centered “balanced life.” The other rewards highly productive, work-driven people with a yen for stimulating public activities, for arts venues, world-class universities, luxury shopping, restaurants that aren’t kid-friendly. One makes room for a wide range of incomes, offering most working people a comfortable life. The other, over time, becomes an enclave for the rich. Since day-to-day experience shapes people’s sense of what is typical and normal, these differences in turn lead to contrasting perceptions of economic and social reality. It is easy to believe the middle class is vanishing when you live in Los Angeles, much harder in Dallas. These differences also reinforce different norms and values – different ideas of what it means to live a good life. Real estate may be as important as religion in explaining the infamous gap between red and blue states.

And here is the concluding paragraph of the article:

The unintended consequence of these land-use policies is that Americans are sorting themselves geographically by income and lifestyle – not across neighborhoods, as they used to, but across regions. People are more likely to live surrounded by others like themselves, creating a more-polarized cultural map. In the superstar cities, where opinion leaders congregate, the perception is growing that the country no longer has a place for middle-class life. Yet the same urban sophisticates who fret that you can’t live decently on less than $100,000 a year often argue vociferously that increasing density will degrade their quality of life. They may be right – but, like any other luxury good, that quality commands a high price.

My only tentative disagreement would be to ask: unintended? If you are inclined to read this entire article, do it soon.

The more I think about the Green Belt that surrounds London, the more I find myself loathing it. I agree that greenery is nice to live near, very nice (I live quite near to St James Park, London SW1, and very fine it is too. It is what you might call the Buckingham Palace front garden, which maybe it once was for real, approximately speaking). But considering how huge the Green Belt is, hardly anyone lives in or near it. That is the whole idea. Judging by what the Green Belt looks like from the train when I go to visit my mum, who lives just outside it, it consists mostly of boring fields that only farmers have anything to do with or would want to. What would be nice would be lots of big parks, like Richmond Park or Wimbledon Common, surrounded by more houses.

If that makes daily commuting into London even more unpleasant than it is now, well, just put up the train and road use prices at the point of use. This would encourage people who now commute either to work nearer to home, or even to stay at home and do (more of) their work from there (maybe they could take a laptop into a nearby park). Plus it would encourage more and better railways and roads. The economy would adjust happily, if only all the economic signals were responded to rather than merely the signals that say that an ever growing number of people, from all over the world, are chasing a heavily restricted number of London houses.

Comments are closed.