Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Scott Gilmore discusses how Canada is actually backsliding in some crucial development goals. And Colin Gordon writes about the inequality growing on multiple fronts around the globe.

- Kathy Tomlinson uncovers a Vancouver real estate market rigged to benefit developers and speculators. And Ryan Cooper points out the importance of a meaningful social housing policy to ensure that development can benefit the people who actually need a home:
Upzoning advocates argue that if we simply went on a wild private building spree, we'd eventually burn through all the luxury demand and actually reduce the price of midrange and affordable units (as opposed to only slowing the rate of increase). But that could take easily take decades, if it even works at all.

Great big new social housing projects, by contrast — say, one million in California for starters — are a way to efficiently cram in tons and tons of housing supply directly where it is most socially necessary, not where it is most profitable. And unlike traditional American-style public housing which is means-tested for poor people only, social housing could be largely self-funding by including many tenants paying market or somewhat subsidized rents (though a good fraction would be reserved for poor and working-class people, of course). That would have the side benefit of making projects socioeconomically integrated, not poor-only ghettos.
(B)ackers should abandon the neoliberal frame of this being a simple issue of free markets versus government over-regulation. Jonathan Chait, for instance, argues that while there may be complex sub-details, at bottom the housing crisis is explained by an "Econ 101 model of supply and demand." Gentrification is simply caused by "artificially constricted housing supply," and California progressives simply will have to choke down de-regulation and working with private developers if they want to solve the housing crisis. (It's a mark of how influential this frame is that both climate writer David Roberts and leftist Hamilton Nolan present the issue in much the same way.)

As we have seen, this is a terribly mistaken way of thinking about the issue. Neoliberal thinking is not just a highly sub-optimal way of addressing the problem, it is big source of the problem in the first place. NIMBY politics are bad, and often quite racist, but they are also in large part a natural outgrowth of the way the American housing market is structured. A great deal of NIMBYism is simply being a good capitalist by defending the value of one's major asset. (This raises the question of why so much American housing policy is dedicated to helping upper-middle class people put their money into a highly-leveraged, highly-illiquid speculative investment, but that's a subject for another post.)

Incoherent Republican-style notions about deregulation and the markets will be most convincing to the people dead-set against solving the housing crisis at all. Granting the reality that the state is inextricably part of all decisions about the ownership of property is more accurate, allows for better policies, and can then help create an anti-NIMBY coalition that might actually win.
- But if we needed another example of the Libs going in the opposite direction, Brent Patterson weighs in on their plans to turn public services into financial profit centres.

- Finally, Anna Mehler Paperny reports that Justin Trudeau has been trying to rewrite Canada's safe third country agreement with the U.S. - not to protect asylum seekers being denied a fair hearing under the Trump administration, but to further restrict when they're able to apply to be safe in Canada. And Brendan Kennedy and Michelle Shepard discuss how Canada is providing minimal aid to victims of war in Yemen while simultaneously arming the countries responsible.

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