About 25 years ago I discovered Kevin Lynch and his seminal work Image of the City, and my life changed.
I had just gotten involved in neighborhood planning. Lynch’s qualitative methodology was inspiring. The results of his work seemed true. Early in the book Lynch explains,
“A striking landscape is the skeleton upon which many primitive races erect their socially important myths. Common memories of the “home town” were often the first and easiest point of contact between lonely soldiers during the war.”
I grew up in place oriented toward the horizon, flat, spread out, with the rest of the world a trip over a hill, desert, or mountain. I craved verticality when I grew up, tall buildings, crowds, densely packed structures around common spaces.
Since then I naturally argued for more dense development, because of its social, environmental, and economic benefits. But angry neighbors didn’t agree. To the enfranchised single-family owner dense development represented a threat to their equity – when there is more housing, they figured, the value of theirs goes down.
That view merged with those that see development as pure profit, growth as destructive, new jobs as a threat to existing jobs, and change as disadvantageous to one group or another. New housing is too expensive! Then, as rules and limiting supply of new housing urged by this group take hold, prices for all housing go up; then more rules.
It’s simple. We can make more housing with tall buildings. Allowing private money to take the risk of building, owning, and managing new housing is efficient and ultimately more affordable to the consumer. There is no compromise with this. I followed the data, and it leads me policies with fewer rules, more housing, and more sustainable choices for people needing housing, especially those who earn less money.
Next entry, Britain, Britain, Britain!