In his new book The Human City, Joel Kotkin tries to use NIMBYism as an argument against urbanism. He cites numerous examples of NIMBYism in wealthy city neighborhoods, and suggests that these examples rebut “the largely unsupported notion that ever more people want to move ‘back to the city’.” This argument is nonsense for two reasons.
First, the NIMBYs themselves clearly want city life and a certain level of density–otherwise they would have moved to suburbia. In cities like Los Angeles and New York, a wide range of housing choices exist for those who can afford them.
Second, the fact that some people want to prohibit new housing does not show that there is no demand for new housing. To draw an analogy: the War on Drugs prohibits many drugs. Does that mean that there is no demand for drugs? Of course not. If anything, it proves that there is lots of demand for drugs; otherwise government would not bother to prohibit it.
For my more in-depth review of The Human City, read: Joel Kotkin’s New Book Lays Out His Sprawling Vision For America
Tom Christoffel saysSeptember 28, 2016 at 12:50 pm
Zoning is a critical underpinning for the value proposition of real estate financing in the US. Preservation of value as a minimum and the hope of appreciation in value to cash out with equity when you leave is the home buyer goal. Most will never pay down the debt to zero and actually “own the ranch free and clear”. The detached single-family home is a long term, high maintenance proposition. Once paid for, there’s maintenance, improvements, taxes, utilities and, if so unlucky, HOA fees. The US has a very small inventory of apartments built as rentals, therefore having no outside maintenance requirements for renters – giving them a City life. These anti-city conditions of the “not quite an ownership society because of a big mortgage and equity line debts” are due to the belief that home-almost-owners were more responsible citizens than renters. Very little land zoned for multi-family housing post 1950s “urban vulnerability”, yet in towns and cities, three story brick apartments can be found in the core. The ownership society is the often balance sheet fiction that the home’s nominal value is net positive in respect to the mortgage debt, not to mention vehicle and credit-card debt. Upside down are many. Like the Victorian Mansions, McMansions may become apartments and rooming houses, but illegally so relative to ordinances. The land is wealth fiction needs to be tempered, but land speculation is the original development model of the colonies.
hcat saysOctober 3, 2016 at 7:01 am
You mean The Human City don’t you? I can’t find any trace of Kotkin having written a book called The Invisible City.