Monday, 29 August 2016

A few urban thoughts worth reading (plus a little planning grump)

Let's open with Centre for Cities who've published their latest report. As usual it is pretty mainstream urbanism - all agglomeration and clusters - but still worth a read:

The report suggests that to be successful, local economies need to grow their ‘export base’ – those businesses that sell goods and services outside of their immediate area, be that to regional, national or international markets.

This is the regional economics version of thinking exports are more important than imports. And centre for Cities (just like their inclusive growth 'opponents') still seem a little obsessed with the local multiplier. Which is pretty dodgy economics if you ask me.

Meanwhile, James Gleeson has spotted one of the reasons for the UK's (or more specifically London's) housing problems:

In 1911 England reached ‘peak North’ as its population centre of gravity rested at Stoney Stanton, after which began the great movement south-east that has continued to this day. For the last couple of decades England’s population centre has travelled at a rapid pace on a route pleasingly parallel to Watling Street, the Roman road that connected Wroxeter with London and the coastal ports beyond.

The problem is that, since we're not snails or gypsies, the houses don't move with the people. And it reminds us that we need more geography and less economics.

All of which makes the cost of building houses pretty important. And, land costs aside, all sots of reasons contribute to making this price higher and higher. Here's Canadian urbanist blogger, Urban Kchoze on the subject:

Now, much has been written about the planning reforms that we need to achieve more affordable housing. But not much has been said about what affordable housing actually looks like. Sometimes, it feels like some people think that affordable housing is run-of-the-mill housing, just cheaper, and that's not how it works. You wouldn't expect a KIA subcompact to be identical to a Cadillac large sedan.

Really interesting (with some interesting Japanese stuff - they're closer to having this cracked than most places) and relevant wherever you're thinking about for your housing.

Joel Kotkin at New Geography previews a report - Geographies of Inequality - that aims "to unpack some of the prevailing assumptions that routinely define, and often constrain, Democratic and progressive economic and social policy debates". And there's a telling conclusion:

To address the rise of ever more bifurcated regions, we may need to return to policies reminiscent of President Franklin Roosevelt, but supported by both parties, to encourage dispersion and home ownership. Without allowing for greater options for the middle class and ways to accumulate assets, the country could be headed not toward some imagined social democratic paradise but to something that more accurately prefigures a new feudalism.

We need to stop thinking that owning your home is some sort of offence against those treasured "progressive" ideals. Asset ownership is one of the most liberating and empowering things going.

And it's the attitudes of BANANAs and NIMBYs that makes this liberation more difficult:

The CLA has outlined a number of proposed reforms they say will contribute to the rural economy.

They recommended farmers be granted the right to erect small buildings (up to 458sqm) without prior notification of the planning authority in order to reduce costs and delays.

The campaign group also called for it to be made easier to convert agricultural buildings to homes. They said this is being held back by the ‘obstructionist attitudes’ of local authorities, who have refused half of all applications.

The construction of between one and nine affordable homes in rural villages would, the CLA also argued, help to address the acute shortage of homes for those who want to live and work in rural communities, as well as create income opportunities for local landowning businesses.
None of this will make a bit of difference to the 'openness' of the Green Belt or the integrity of rural communities and is more sensible that daft policies banning second homes and so forth. Yet the anti-development lobby still bangs on as if a few houses in rural areas will somehow destroy the entire culture of such places.

Finally: have you registered for the Antarctic Biennial yet?

"The Antarctic Biennale is not just another art event. It is a utopian effort to get artists, architects, writers & philosophers to think about the last pure continent on this planet."


1 comment:

Curmudgeon said...

The idea that keeping spending local benefits the local economy is amazingly persistent, even though it flies in the face of the most basic principles of economics.

And it gets even better when people combine it with advocating more exports!