Housing discussion from ION

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Housing discussion from ION

Postby sardia » Sat Feb 11, 2017 4:50 am UTC

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/10/upsh ... f=business
there's a way to pump up the economy, reduce inequality and put an end to destructive housing bubbles like the one that contributed to the Great Recession. The idea would be simple, but not easy, requiring a wholesale reframing of the United States economy and housing market.

The solution: Americans, together and all at once, would have to stop thinking about their homes as an investment.
Honestly, my family is very big into real estate, and they think homes will double in value in a few years. But I agree with the principles in the article, homes are overrated, the regulations & mythology behind houses needs to die. To bad there isn't a Republican dumb enough to actually cut this particular piece of red tape.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby Zamfir » Tue Feb 14, 2017 11:51 am UTC

sardia wrote:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/10/upshot/popping-the-housing-bubbles-in-the-american-mind.html?ref=business
there's a way to pump up the economy, reduce inequality and put an end to destructive housing bubbles like the one that contributed to the Great Recession. The idea would be simple, but not easy, requiring a wholesale reframing of the United States economy and housing market.

The solution: Americans, together and all at once, would have to stop thinking about their homes as an investment.
Honestly, my family is very big into real estate, and they think homes will double in value in a few years. But I agree with the principles in the article, homes are overrated, the regulations & mythology behind houses needs to die. To bad there isn't a Republican dumb enough to actually cut this particular piece of red tape.

I felt like there was a step missing in that article. If can I can somewhat simplify its argument:
A. in a number of American cities with attractive jobs, house prices are way higher than the cost of new construction.
B. In these cities, new construction is limited due to zoning and environmental regulations
C. It would be good for the country, if those cities were to build more houses. Especially so that more people can take advantage of those job markets.
D. Those regulations are mainly due to local house owners who fear a loss of house prices if the housing supply is extended
E. Americans tend to see their house as a financial investment that should increase in (inflation -adjusted) value over time
Conclusion: Americans should see their house more as a consumption good, then they would be more relaxed about zoning regulation that might lower house prices, this would lead to more houses in cities with high wages, and more people could take advantage of those higher wages.

Now, if I look at that Glaeser graph, then those high-price cities are also places with much, much higher fractions of renters, compared to the US national average. Roughly put, 2 renters to 1 owner in the cities, while the national average is the other way round.

That's rather at odds with the argument. If regulations are driven by house owners who are protective of their investment, why would they only be successful in the places where they are weakest? After all, renters don't profit from high house prices.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby Mutex » Tue Feb 14, 2017 12:07 pm UTC

Landlords profit from a lack of housing supply though.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby Zamfir » Tue Feb 14, 2017 12:26 pm UTC

If landlords with political clout are the driver off the phenomenon, then that is very different tack from 'Americans should stop seeing their home as investment'. Different group of people, different solutions - we can hardly propose that landlords stop seeing their houses as investment.

Also, owners of rental property are not quite in the same boat as home owners, when it comes to rezoning for higher density. It allows landlords to redevelop their own properties - often to higher profits. Something most home owners don't want to do, or can't do.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby ucim » Tue Feb 14, 2017 3:42 pm UTC

The mistake is taking "property values" at face value. When people talk about "property values" they really mean "we don't want to live like that", where "like that" could mean anything that makes an area desirable in the first place. (No, it's not just a proxy for diversity avoidance). So, while it may be good for other people that your area gets developed, it's not good for the people who live there, and they own the place, so why shouldn't they have a say?

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby sardia » Tue Feb 14, 2017 4:00 pm UTC

ucim wrote:The mistake is taking "property values" at face value. When people talk about "property values" they really mean "we don't want to live like that", where "like that" could mean anything that makes an area desirable in the first place. (No, it's not just a proxy for diversity avoidance). So, while it may be good for other people that your area gets developed, it's not good for the people who live there, and they own the place, so why shouldn't they have a say?

Jose

They do have a say, they're a big reason we have a housing crisis in the first place. Your question is what reason should we override their interest in high value low density homes. For one thing, greater economic growth, more housing for people at lower prices. Those alone are damn good reasons for overriding the interests of a lucky few.

Zamfir wrote:If landlords with political clout are the driver off the phenomenon, then that is very different tack from 'Americans should stop seeing their home as investment'. Different group of people, different solutions - we can hardly propose that landlords stop seeing their houses as investment.

Also, owners of rental property are not quite in the same boat as home owners, when it comes to rezoning for higher density. It allows landlords to redevelop their own properties - often to higher profits. Something most home owners don't want to do, or can't do.

What else makes you think that landlords are a direct cause of the housing shortage instead of home owners?

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby Zamfir » Tue Feb 14, 2017 4:08 pm UTC

sardia wrote:What else makes you think that landlords are a direct cause of the housing shortage instead of home owners?

I don't think that - Mutex suggested it as a possibility, and all I can say is that if landlords are the driving force, then it is different from what the article suggests.

My point is in the post before that: namely that the phenomenon described is strongest in cities with many rental properties, which is odd if home owners who want to restrict supply are the driving force behind regulations.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby Sableagle » Tue Feb 14, 2017 4:42 pm UTC

Many rent because they can't afford to buy because prices are high because people are trying to invest in property in that area?

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby Zamfir » Tue Feb 14, 2017 4:51 pm UTC

That avoids the core question, namely why the area is not adding more units.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby ucim » Tue Feb 14, 2017 4:54 pm UTC

sardia wrote:Your question is what reason should we override their interest in high value low density homes. For one thing, greater economic growth, more housing for people at lower prices. Those alone are damn good reasons for overriding the interests of a lucky few.
No, they are not.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby elasto » Tue Feb 14, 2017 5:57 pm UTC

Why not? They seem good reasons to me.

Remember: For people that own just one home, if the value of their home drops, the cost of any home they'd move to will likely also drop, so they haven't lost utility.

The only people that lose out when homes drop in value across the board are those that own multiple houses for income - and as a society we should not be encouraging property as investment because of the enormous collateral damage that does. (We shouldn't ban it or anything; There just shouldn't be the expectation that there is right now that houses will always keep their value.)

The property market in the UK has been described as 'broken' by the Tory(!) government because of how many people are stuck in a vicious circle of paying such a high proportion of their income in rent that they cannot afford to buy.

Decades ago you could buy a house on one average income (the old cliche of the husband working and the stay-at-home mother/wife). Nowadays you need two average incomes. We should build enough houses such that they are affordable on one income again, for all sorts of good reasons.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby sardia » Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:42 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
sardia wrote:w.
No, they are not.

Jose

Can you elaborate on your housing priorities? You don't like eminent domain?

Zamfir, you cited that cities have high correlation between renters and home prices. That's why I said you believed that renting affected home prices.
It's plausible that people choose to rent out their homes when housing prices are high and that renting does not cause housing shortages.
When economists talk about housing shortages, they usually refer to high density residential towers that are blocked in favor of keeping what's already there or low density suburban type single family homes. Or the mandatory studies that show the environmental impact or show how it blocks the view.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby MartianInvader » Tue Feb 14, 2017 7:15 pm UTC

I live in the San Francisco Area, which is certainly going through these types of housing issues, and I don't think it's because people see their homes as investments. It's more because they value the very things that make those homes worth so much.

Does that make sense? I'm trying to say that homeowners are NOT thinking:

"If there's more construction around here, my house's value will go down, and I don't want that!"

Instead, they're thinking:

"If there's more construction around here, there will be more noise, my view will get worse, public spaces like parks will become more crowded, and schools will become more impacted. I don't want that!"

In other words, less people try to maximize their returns, and more classic NIMBYism.
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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby Zamfir » Tue Feb 14, 2017 7:55 pm UTC

Zamfir, you cited that cities have high correlation between renters and home prices. That's why I said you believed that renting affected home prices

No, that 's not my point. My point is that the high prevalence of renters in dense cities, undermines the argument of the article above. At least, as I understand its argument.

The articles says that Americans should stop seeing their own houses as an investment asset(where high prices are good) and more as consumption good where low prices are good. I don't object to this claim

It also says that some cities have very high prices, due to stringent regulations that prevent expansion when demand is high. They say that this is a problem. Again, no objection here from me.

But the articles coneects these two. It says that changing the attitude towards housing as consumption, will directly lead to less rules and more construction in those popular cities. The article finds this so obvious, it hardly bothers to explaim how it would go. And that's where I object. I don't find that link obvious at all.

That's where the renters come in. They are an example where reality seems to conflict with the article. Renters are exactly as the article propagates: they look a the housing as a consumption, not an investment. Yet the presence of lots of renting voters, doesn't seem to solve the high price issue. I am not saying that renters cause the high prices. I am saying that if the article is correct about seeing housing as consumption, then you'd expect to see the opposite pattern.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby freezeblade » Tue Feb 14, 2017 8:02 pm UTC

MartianInvader wrote:I live in the San Francisco Area, which is certainly going through these types of housing issues, and I don't think it's because people see their homes as investments. It's more because they value the very things that make those homes worth so much.

Does that make sense? I'm trying to say that homeowners are NOT thinking:

"If there's more construction around here, my house's value will go down, and I don't want that!"

Instead, they're thinking:

"If there's more construction around here, there will be more noise, my view will get worse, public spaces like parks will become more crowded, and schools will become more impacted. I don't want that!"

In other words, less people try to maximize their returns, and more classic NIMBYism.


I'm across the bay in Oakland, and have this exact experience. People are for more housing, they just don't want it near them. As a likely long-term renter, living in the ghetto where there's always construction on freeways and roads, and the tracks, etc. (I'm near BART and AmTrack), they need to just suck it up, housing needs to be built >:O
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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby sardia » Tue Feb 14, 2017 8:38 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
Zamfir, you cited that cities have high correlation between renters and home prices. That's why I said you believed that renting affected home prices

No, that 's not my point. My point is that the high prevalence of renters in dense cities, undermines the argument of the article above. At least, as I understand its argument.

The articles says that Americans should stop seeing their own houses as an investment asset(where high prices are good) and more as consumption good where low prices are good. I don't object to this claim

It also says that some cities have very high prices, due to stringent regulations that prevent expansion when demand is high. They say that this is a problem. Again, no objection here from me.

But the articles coneects these two. It says that changing the attitude towards housing as consumption, will directly lead to less rules and more construction in those popular cities. The article finds this so obvious, it hardly bothers to explaim how it would go. And that's where I object. I don't find that link obvious at all.

That's where the renters come in. They are an example where reality seems to conflict with the article. Renters are exactly as the article propagates: they look a the housing as a consumption, not an investment. Yet the presence of lots of renting voters, doesn't seem to solve the high price issue. I am not saying that renters cause the high prices. I am saying that if the article is correct about seeing housing as consumption, then you'd expect to see the opposite pattern.

https://www.apartmentlist.com/rentonomi ... nd-voting/
Google says Renters and home owners are not equal, politically speaking. Home owners benefit from high prices and are more likely to vote, skewing the priorities of the government towards home owners.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby Zamfir » Tue Feb 14, 2017 8:56 pm UTC

If home owners are so powerful that they can bend politics to their favour even in big cities where they are a distinct minority. Why doesn't that work even more in their favour elsewhere?

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby ucim » Tue Feb 14, 2017 10:05 pm UTC

elasto wrote:Why not? They seem good reasons to me.
I presume you have not put your life savings into buying a house, only to find that it's better for everyone else if they shared that house with you?

elasto wrote:Remember: For people that own just one home, if the value of their home drops, the cost of any home they'd move to will likely also drop, so they haven't lost utility.
This is an example of the wrongthingking that I'm referring to. A home's utility is not reducable to a number, any more than a friend's "value" is reducable to a number. I am saying that when people talk about reducing property values (effectively talking about their property as if it were reducable to a number) that that is not what they are actually doing, appearances aside. It's more like MartianInvader put it: It's more because they value the very things that make those homes worth so much." Somebody who wants to live in a quiet neighborhood and has paid to do so is entitled to enjoy the benefits she's paid for. That's what "ownership" means. Now, real estate is a little different from chattel in that in order to protect the very things that make (this particular) property desirable, some restrictions are put on owners to ensure compatible use. Yes, there can be legitimate differences on what these regulations ought to entail (noise regulations, race restrictions, limits on construction, etc.) but the whole point of these regulations is that the value of (a particular piece of) real estate is based in part on the neighborhood, and that in turn is based on what the neighbors can and cannot do.

sardia wrote:Can you elaborate on your housing priorities? You don't like eminent domain?
What do you mean by "housing priorities"? Do you mean "what do I value in choosing a home or neighborhood" or do you mean "how should society provide housing for people"? If the former, it doesn't really matter because this isn't about me. However, I value the ability for me to make whatever choice I do (and can afford), and not have it undermined. If you mean the latter, then I don't think it's society's job to provide housing for people.

I don't like eminent domain but I see and agree with its validity in certain cases. It has been abused, and it has also been employed to prevent abuse. It should not be used to turn a single family neighborhood into a high rise housing development just because "there are lots of people and this would be more efficient". Society is not a machine; people are not mere cogs. I don't want society to be made "efficient".
Spoiler:
Implicit in the idea of "efficiency" is "purpose". Efficiency is one measure of the "best" way to accomplish that purpose. But I don't think society was constructed with a purpose. Societies accomplish many different things, but that doesn't make those things its purpose.
sardia wrote:Home owners benefit from high prices and are more likely to vote, skewing the priorities of the government towards home owners.
Maybe people who have put their life savings into a home feel more of a stake in their neighborhood, and in their government, and therefore are more likely to vote. Maybe the cause and effect goes the other way (if it exists at all); I don't see a problem. Yes, they benefit from high prices inasmuch as they can take out a second mortgage more easily and for more money, but the bottom line is just that more people want nice housing than want less-than-nice housing (this being reflected in property values). That doesn't mean they should get it.

Jose
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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby Thesh » Tue Feb 14, 2017 10:10 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:If home owners are so powerful that they can bend politics to their favour even in big cities where they are a distinct minority. Why doesn't that work even more in their favour elsewhere?


Supply and demand. Cities have larger demand.
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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby sardia » Tue Feb 14, 2017 10:24 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Jose

Let's elaborate on what you, and many home owners want. If you bought a nice house in a quiet community with good schools jobs parks amenities etc etc, then the home owners will defend that. This leads to ordinances that say you can't build anything higher than 40 feet, or blocks the view, or "increases traffic". So the home owners is extending his control to the entire city. How does society weigh the rights of homeowners vs the rights of everyone else, future homeowners? Or are you saying that it's simply a political problem, and home owners are winning?

There's interest groups whose only goal is to put up as many NIMBY regulations as possible so that more homes aren't built.

Obviously out in suburbia, there's so much land that regulations don't mean as much, I'll just build it next door.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby ucim » Wed Feb 15, 2017 12:04 am UTC

sardia wrote:So the home owners is extending his control to the entire city.
No, the group of homeowners extends their control to their neighborhood. This of course affects the rest of the town; there's nothing wrong with that. People always affect each other. And what it is doing is protecting what they bought. I am in favor of zoning regulations that appropriately restrict land use that are voted on by the people whose land is primarily affected.

sardia wrote:How does society weigh the rights of homeowners vs the rights of everyone else, future homeowners?
Future homeowners don't have rights. You acquire rights (in land use) by becoming a land owner. It's part of what "ownership" means.

sardia wrote:There's interest groups whose only goal is to put up as many NIMBY regulations as possible so that more homes aren't built.
Yes. I participated in one some time ago. There was a developer that wanted to put a sea of condos in the last piece of pristine land my town had, pretty much destroying the feel of the neighborhood. The developer owned the land, but it wasn't zoned for what he wanted, so he tried to put one over on us. We said no, but it was a hard and costly fight.

sardia wrote:Obviously out in suburbia, there's so much land that regulations don't mean as much, I'll just build it next door.
Maybe you live in a different suburbia.

Mind you, I'm not objecting to appropriate use and development: though I may not like the fact that somebody is putting a house on the lot across the street, that's what it's for and if I don't like it I could buy it myself. I however am strongly objecting to the idea that my lifestyle and property is fair game for "society" to upend in the name of "efficiency".

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby sardia » Wed Feb 15, 2017 2:10 am UTC

ucim wrote:No, the group of homeowners extends their control to their neighborhood. This of course affects the rest of the town; there's nothing wrong with that. People always affect each other. And what it is doing is protecting what they bought. I am in favor of zoning regulations that appropriately restrict land use that are voted on by the people whose land is primarily affected.

Future homeowners don't have rights. You acquire rights (in land use) by becoming a land owner. It's part of what "ownership" means.

Yes. I participated in one some time ago. There was a developer that wanted to put a sea of condos in the last piece of pristine land my town had, pretty much destroying the feel of the neighborhood. The developer owned the land, but it wasn't zoned for what he wanted, so he tried to put one over on us. We said no, but it was a hard and costly fight.

Maybe you live in a different suburbia.

Mind you, I'm not objecting to appropriate use and development: though I may not like the fact that somebody is putting a house on the lot across the street, that's what it's for and if I don't like it I could buy it myself. I however am strongly objecting to the idea that my lifestyle and property is fair game for "society" to upend in the name of "efficiency".

Jose

This is why there's a housing shortage. See how hard it is to put up mass housing? The land was owned by the developer, but someone put in restrictions(zoning) that prevented the developer from building a bunch of homes for several families to live in. Then when the developer tried to change the rules, they lost when the homeowners fought him. Think about how this affects the business model of any real estate developer. Who's gonna invest money into land that gonna get fought over for years. Actions like these delay housing, increase it's cost after being built, and raise prices for everyone involved. It wouldn't matter if it was isolated to the pristine land around ucim's house, but this pattern is repeated across the country in all the desirable places to live.
Not to pick on ucim, but when you pit homeowners vs renters like freezeblade, the renters lose, the developer gives up or they only win after a costly lawsuit, (aka the renters lose anyway because they have higher rents now).

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby Dauric » Wed Feb 15, 2017 3:41 am UTC

I think Zamfir's point is being missed though.

Even if we say that home ownership should be viewed as a consumption rather than an investment, how does that change NIMBYism? The article in question links NIMBY-ism and resistance to the construction of nearby affordable housing with an investment mentality, but let's reverse that, let's say that a homeowner views their mortgage payment as a sort of rent and they don't plan on selling their home.

The housing-as-consumption mentality -still- doesn't want heavily developed low-income housing being built nearby, they're paying that mortgage to the bank for a certain lifestyle, regardless of whether someone that comes after them will have that lifestyle. They're paying the monthly bill for that view, for the sense of privacy from having space between their wall and their neighbor's, the front yard and white picket fence, etc., etc., etc.

Again, Zamfir's point was to question whether "Homes as Investments" was what caused people to react negatively against affordable housing projects, when the article simply takes that point as a given. I'd think it has more directly to do with perceived encroachment on the lifestyle, than directly on "lowering of property values." After all "Lowering of property values" is pretty much a code-phrase for "these undesirables and their lifestyle is going to ruin property values."

Grand upshot being that you could potentially remove all the long-term investment factors from owning a house and do absolutely nothing to curb NIMBYism (or the related issue of gentrification).
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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby LaserGuy » Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:25 am UTC

ucim wrote:Yes. I participated in one some time ago. There was a developer that wanted to put a sea of condos in the last piece of pristine land my town had, pretty much destroying the feel of the neighborhood. The developer owned the land, but it wasn't zoned for what he wanted, so he tried to put one over on us. We said no, but it was a hard and costly fight.


Ah, so you don't believe in private property rights.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby ucim » Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:41 am UTC

sardia wrote:This is why there's a housing shortage.
Translation: there's a housing shortage because people who own land don't want it destroyed so that a ghetto can be built next door.

sardia wrote:Then when the developer tried to change the rules, they lost...
Why should the developer win? The developer selfishly is destroying the value of the neighboring land in order to enrich himself at their expense. The homeowners have a stake in the land, in the town, in the society, and in their own governance. The developer has a stake he wants to put through the heart of the town. The masses of (unidentified) people that might move in after paying this developer, subsequently destroying the flavor of the town have no rights in the town.

Why do you think they should?

sardia wrote:Think about how this affects the business model of any real estate developer.
It will make greedy developers think twice about steamrolling an existing beautiful town for their own personal gain. They can go find a place that's already zoned for high rise apartments, or sprawling condos, or whatever atrocity they are building. They can find a place that's receptive to the masses of people they want to plaster onto it before skipping town with their booty.

sardia wrote:...but this pattern is repeated across the country in all the desirable places to live.
Then they can find an undesirable place to live, and make it desirable by living there. That is how America was built.

And it's not homeowners vs renters. It's people who already live there vs people who are thinking of moving in if somebody else does the dirty work first. And it doesn't matter what level of quality or class or style is involved, whatever it is, there's always something "more efficient" (code word for "less desirable") that can be stuffed into it.

Owning means something. It means nobody else has a claim to it, even if they want it. Even if they want it badly. Even if you are being "inefficient" in your use or non-use of the resource, it is yours.

LaserGuy wrote:Ah, so you don't believe in private property rights.
I don't believe that rights are absolute. For chattel, an example would be that my ownership of a tuba does not grant me the right to play it under your window at 3am. But it does give me the right to prevent you from playing it at all, even if you are in the school band, you don't have a tuba, and you have a concert on Friday. For real estate, owning land does not give me the right to do anything I want on the land (such as building a ten story apartment building in a residential area), but it does give me the right to prevent you from doing so. The value of real estate depends on the real estate around it, and regulations around real estate recognize and support this.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby LaserGuy » Wed Feb 15, 2017 5:04 am UTC

ucim wrote:
sardia wrote:This is why there's a housing shortage.


Translation: there's a housing shortage because people who own land don't want it destroyed so that a ghetto can be built next door.


Your land isn't being touched. If you don't want the land next to you to be built into something you don't like, then buy it yourself, or have the homeowners who care about it pitch in to buy it collectively and build a park on it or whatever.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby Dauric » Wed Feb 15, 2017 6:16 am UTC

The problem with low-income housing isn't building cheap structures to house people. It's not even building cheap structures to house people that mesh well with existing homes and architecture. These are trivial things to do.

The problem with low-income housing, and the one that people gloss over in favor of arguing over what architecture to use, is the problem of building the social constructs that make up a healthy community. Physical structures are simple engineering problems, the vast majority of which have already been solved. The problem is that of physically placing the social animals colloquially called "human beings" in to physical spaces without regard for their nature as social animals and how their physical arrangement affects how they socialize.

Simply building a structure, anywhere, and dumping people in to it like cordwood does not make a community. If anything the sudden addition of outsiders to a community can create a feeling of threat to existing people in the area. This is fundamental to the human condition and goes back to the earliest days of tribalism (and if you think tribalism has no bearing on the modern psyche, you clearly haven't been paying attention to politics.. like, ever).

I think there are solutions to the problems resulting from integrating new people in to existing communities, but 1) sociology isn't my field so I don't know what they are or even what the state of research on the matter is at present, and 2) they're difficult problems that are hard to argue about with/to/around people without the relevant backgrounds, so the issue gets reduced to discussions of structures and oversimplified analogies about property rights.
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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby KnightExemplar » Wed Feb 15, 2017 6:34 am UTC

Dauric wrote:they're difficult problems that are hard to argue about with/to/around people without the relevant backgrounds, so the issue gets reduced to discussions of structures and oversimplified analogies about property rights.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_triviality

In the third chapter, "High Finance, or the Point of Vanishing Interest", Parkinson writes about a fictional finance committee meeting with a three-item agenda: The first is the signing of a £10 million contract to build a reactor, the second a proposal to build a £350 bicycle shed for the clerical staff, and the third proposes £21 a year to supply refreshments for the Joint Welfare Committee.

The £10 million number is too big and too technical, and it passes in two and a half minutes. One committee member proposes a completely different plan, which nobody is willing to accept as planning is advanced, and another who understands the topic has concerns, but does not feel that he can explain his concerns to the others on the committee.
The bicycle shed is a subject understood by the board, and the amount within their life experience, so committee member Mr Softleigh says that an aluminium roof is too expensive and they should use asbestos. Mr Holdfast wants galvanised iron. Mr Daring questions the need for the shed at all. Holdfast disagrees. Parkinson then writes: "The debate is fairly launched. A sum of £350 is well within everybody's comprehension. Everyone can visualise a bicycle shed. Discussion goes on, therefore, for forty-five minutes, with the possible result of saving some £50. Members at length sit back with a feeling of accomplishment."
Parkinson then described the third agenda item, writing: "There may be members of the committee who might fail to distinguish between asbestos and galvanised iron, but every man there knows about coffee – what it is, how it should be made, where it should be bought – and whether indeed it should be bought at all. This item on the agenda will occupy the members for an hour and a quarter, and they will end by asking the secretary to procure further information, leaving the matter to be decided at the next meeting."[5]
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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby Sableagle » Wed Feb 15, 2017 11:26 am UTC

sardia wrote:Obviously out in suburbia, there's so much land that regulations don't mean as much, I'll just build it next door.
THis is one place where UK and US situations are different enough that I think we need to bear the difference in mind.

64.1 million
243,610 km²
318.9 million
9.834 million km²

263.125 per km²
32.428 per km²

Alright, the US has the Red Desert, the Painted Desert and a few other place totally unsuitable for building due to being sand, and the UK doesn't have that, but the UK does have its steep slopes, flood plains, landslip areas and so on too.

Our economy, our education system, our pension system and quite a few other things are all built on certain assumptions about how long people live and how many of those years they spend working and they depend on a pyramidal population that we're not seeing. To maintain the ratio of working to retired people, we need a growing population. That's about 200,000 new homes per year until we find a way to keep working into our 90s or start shooting ourselves one year after retirement. I'd rather have a larger home with private gardens and a tall, thick hedge between me and the generic public, sure, but given the choice between a 3-bed semi-detached with front and rear gardens and nowhere to go and my current arrangement within a few days' walking or hours' driving of Upper Wensleydale, Swaledale, Arkengarthdale, Thornton Force, Malham, Muker, Tan Hill, Rosedale, Ryedale, Whitby, the Buttermere valley, the Langdales and so on as they are now, I'd choose to retain those aspects of England's supposedly green and pleasant land.

Off-topic, there's an alternative interpretation of Jerusalem for you. Rather than "Oh, if only England had a Jerusalem," read it as: "Oh, if only we didn't have to come to the f'ng Middle East to conquer Jerusalem. I'd really much rather be in a lush valley between heather moors, with skylarks overhead and a beer in my hand, than in this gods-forsaken patch of brown dust."

Back on-topic, it ought to be possible to make much higher-density housing more attractive than individual houses at maxed density and cheaper where land is expensive if by increasing the homes per km² you get more people and more amenities per km². For example, front door opens into living room. Beyond living room is dining room, then kitchen, bathroom, second bedroom and master bedroom. Have one apartment like that each side of the stairwell, three floors high, with the corridor from living room to master bedroom on the outside and the bedrooms (and living room balconies) on the inside where it's quiet, on each side of a square enclosing a central garden. Make a cheaper version without the second bedroom, enclosing the swimming pool, and another enclosing the tennis court. You've got a quiet green place the kids can play whence it is physically impossible to stuff one directly into the boot of a car because there's no road access. Have one side of one square be a restaurant on the ground floor, another be small shops, another be craft facilities and maybe one have a rooftop bar and cafe with heavily soundproofed floors. As long as the soundproofing's good, I'd live there.
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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby Liri » Wed Feb 15, 2017 1:20 pm UTC

Mixed-income housing is the way to go. Sprawling suburbia is not.

I agree that preserving natural areas is a plus. A large part of my dad's job is convincing developers not to build and getting the money to buy up the land and preserve it.
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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby ucim » Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:06 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:Your land isn't being touched.
Land is something that can be profoundly altered without touching it. That's the whole point of zoning laws.
Liri wrote:I agree that preserving natural areas is a plus.
I do too. It's important how this is done however, and it's also important why, because that sets precedents.
Liri wrote:Mixed-income housing is the way to go.
It has its place. If people want it, they will migrate towards it. But it shouldn't be created by fiat where people are already living happily however they had chosen.
Sableagle wrote:Back on-topic, it ought to be possible to make much higher-density housing more attractive [by {methods}]
Fine, but this needs to be attractive to the existing residents, not just to the new people who aren't there yet and have no rights to this land.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby CBusAlex » Wed Feb 15, 2017 5:29 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:Ah, so you don't believe in private property rights.


Property ownership is an artificial social construct. The rights afforded to property owners can therefore be whatever society decides.

ucim wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:Your land isn't being touched.
Land is something that can be profoundly altered without touching it. That's the whole point of zoning laws.


For a more extreme example, imagine that instead of condos, the developer wanted to put up a giant neon sign pointed directly at ucim's bedroom window.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby sardia » Wed Feb 15, 2017 5:44 pm UTC

CBusAlex wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:Ah, so you don't believe in private property rights.


Property ownership is an artificial social construct. The rights afforded to property owners can therefore be whatever society decides.

ucim wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:Your land isn't being touched.
Land is something that can be profoundly altered without touching it. That's the whole point of zoning laws.


For a more extreme example, imagine that instead of condos, the developer wanted to put up a giant neon sign pointed directly at ucim's bedroom window.

I don't really mind this concept that property is whatever society decides. The issue is who society is. If all the people who wanted more housing voted against all the people who wanted less housing, we could decide. But it's not all the people, it's home owners vs developers. So all the future home owners get the short end of the stick.

Ucim is a hardliner that thinks only his neighbors should decide whether or not they should admit more neighbors.. the argument has merits, but it runs up into the desperate need for housing. Cities will probably need federal or state intervention before the housing shortage decreases. Or the economy shifts away from said towns with chronic housing shortages.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby LaserGuy » Wed Feb 15, 2017 5:49 pm UTC

sardia wrote:
CBusAlex wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:Ah, so you don't believe in private property rights.


Property ownership is an artificial social construct. The rights afforded to property owners can therefore be whatever society decides.

ucim wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:Your land isn't being touched.
Land is something that can be profoundly altered without touching it. That's the whole point of zoning laws.


For a more extreme example, imagine that instead of condos, the developer wanted to put up a giant neon sign pointed directly at ucim's bedroom window.


I don't really mind this concept that property is whatever society decides. The issue is who society is. If all the people who wanted more housing voted against all the people who wanted less housing, we could decide. But it's not all the people, it's home owners vs developers. So all the future home owners get the short end of the stick.

Ucim is a hardliner that thinks only his neighbors should decide whether or not they should admit more neighbors.. the argument has merits, but it runs up into the desperate need for housing. Cities will probably need federal or state intervention before the housing shortage decreases. Or the economy shifts away from said towns with chronic housing shortages.


You can fix this with the tax system. If people want to have their monstrously inefficient single-family homes with their half-acre yards full of invasive plants, let them, but they'll have to pay $40,000 per year in property tax for the privilege. Problem will sort itself out.

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby sardia » Wed Feb 15, 2017 6:05 pm UTC

Yea, taxes are a form of state intervention. But remember that homeowners are also tax payers, who vote and have money, and a lot to lose. It's often easiest to just settle for longer commutes and pay extra for "impact studies".

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Re: In other news... (humorous news items)

Postby elasto » Wed Feb 15, 2017 6:36 pm UTC

The downside of democracy is that it is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to eat for dinner.

For a multitude of reasons, richer and older people (who tend to be homeowners) vote in much greater numbers than poorer and younger people (who tend not to be).

This results in laws and policies that disproportionately favour that segment of society over the other.

Now, better than democracy is representative democracy whereby lawmakers decide on the best policies for the whole of society including for those who didn't vote.

It's the age old question of should lawmakers give the public what they want or what they need? Dangers exist in both directions, but right now it's clear the pendulum is swinging firmly towards populist extremism.

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Re: Housing discussion from ION

Postby freezeblade » Wed Feb 15, 2017 7:40 pm UTC

The problem I have with extreme NYMBYism is the problems it causes when it comes in contact with urban spaces. Construction of housing is necessary in areas with increasing economies. When companies move into urban areas, services and manpower to run these services move with them. In impacted areas, there is rarely enough housing (or the type of housing) necessary to house these workers. When neighborhoods want an increasing economy, but don't want the types of housing necessary to fuel them, they kick the can down the road, to the neighborhoods full of people who can't afford to fight the developers. This is a major cause of inequality, de-integration, and segregation of neighborhoods, and all the pitfalls and social problems that are spawned from such, all the while encouraging urban and suburban sprawl.

By no means am I defending all property developers, because there are plenty of bad eggs in that bunch that aren't helping, however urban city plans evolve for a reason, and placing too much power in the hands of individual homeowners only exaggerate the worst of "urban problems," and you end up with poverty and crime concentrating itself into ghettos and "low rent districts." The most stringent of HOAs are often thinly veiled attempts at keeping "the wrong types of people" out of their areas. I think we all know what that actually means.
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Re: Housing discussion from ION

Postby sardia » Wed Feb 15, 2017 7:44 pm UTC

Zamfir, did anyone ever answer your critique of houses as investment? I was never quite happy with my answer. Houses have value, and the idea that said value should be defended is seen in this very thread.
The connection between red tape thrown up at housing is due to homeowners defending their houses by preventing a large increase in the housing supply through regulations.

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Re: Housing discussion from ION

Postby Drumheller769 » Wed Feb 15, 2017 7:53 pm UTC

If I paid $200,000 for a house, and then due to changes in the area its assessed at $150,000, I've just lost $50,000. I won't be able to sell my house for what I paid for it to break even, or make a profit. If I wanted to lose money I would rent, not buy a house.
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Re: Housing discussion from ION

Postby freezeblade » Wed Feb 15, 2017 7:58 pm UTC

Areas, neighborhoods, and situations change. When anything is purchased, you cannot know what the future of that product or the area around it holds, just like buying stocks, cars, or anything else.

Edit: to expect to give property some kind of special exemption where it's always expected to increase in value, unlike everything else that is purchased, is foolishness.
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