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  1. IluvMTL

    YIMBY Movement

    http://www.thestranger.com/news/2016/05/04/24039262/more-growth-please More Growth Please The "Yes in My Backyard" Movement Builds in Seattle by Heidi Groover "Meditate on this," San Francisco activist Sonja Trauss tells a crowd in a conference room overlooking Lake Union. "What's the difference between being able to afford something that's not available... and not being able to afford something that is available?" The room sits in polite quiet. "Nothing," Trauss says emphatically. "There's no difference. These are both ways that [housing] shortage manifests." Trauss is preaching to the choir: a room of mostly white, mostly male Seattle developers working on plates of steak and green beans. You don't have to tell this group twice about the rules of supply and demand. But in another way, Trauss is screaming into the void. All across Seattle, small fights are playing out over whether new buildings—new housing—should be built. These are fights about the scale and height of new buildings, neighborhood character, and whether Seattle is losing its "soul." They are tedious and they are hurting housing affordability in this city. But for the most part, the only people paying attention to these fights are the people who want to stop the growth. People like the developers in this room, who believe Seattle needs more growth to meet its massive influx of new residents, rarely show up to advocate for new housing unless it's their own project in question. The rest of the city's residents—who, if recent city council election results are any indication, favor new density over parochial NIMBYism—don't often show up, either. Trauss, 34, is trying to change that in San Francisco and encouraging urbanists in Seattle to do the same. Trauss founded the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, a blunt, tech-funded, grassroots organization that advocates for more housing in and around San Francisco and was recently profiled in the New York Times as an indication of that city's "cries to build, baby, build." The group is one of many across the country organizing under the banner of YIMBY ("yes in my backyard"). Next month, YIMBYs will convene in Boulder, Colorado, for a conference with discussion topics like "forging healthy alliances between housing advocates and housing developers" and "responding to anti-housing ballot measures." "You guys actually have some non-industry pro-growth people," Trauss tells the Seattle developers. "Seattle has a lot of urbanists. It's just a matter of Laura actually starting a mailing list, and pretty soon you'll have your own pro-development citizen group." In the crowd sits Laura Bernstein, a 40-year-old renter in the University District who recently quit grad school to spend this year studying urbanism on her own and figuring out how to expand the YIMBY movement in Seattle. Before becoming a middle-school teacher, Bernstein studied opera and plant biology. Now she spends her days having coffee with other urbanists, going to community meetings, and running the Twitter account @YIMBYsea. At this time last year, Bernstein wouldn't be showing up in a story about YIMBYs. Then, she was working for a city council candidate who embodies the "not in my backyard" movement—Tony Provine. (By the end of his campaign, Provine was sending out mailers depicting bulldozers threatening to tear down single-family zones across the city. He lost in the primary with just 14 percent of the vote in his district.) Bernstein says when she started working for Provine, she thought he could serve as a bridge between pro-density urbanists and neighborhood advocates afraid of change. With enough reasoning, she thought, anybody could be convinced to welcome growth in their neighborhood. "All of that idealism went right out the window the minute I started knocking on doors and talking to voters," Bernstein tells me over Skype while she's in Vancouver to see an interactive art exhibit about growth there. Knocking on doors is when Bernstein says she began "hearing how cynical of downtown, cynical of politicians, and so put upon [homeowners were], like 'They're doing this to us.'" By "this," the neighbors mean growth. It's a common refrain in Seattle's density debate that developers or city officials are inflicting growth onto neighborhoods. In fact, of course, new people will move to Seattle whether we build for them or not. The only thing we have control over—unless we decide to build a wall—is whether we're prepared for those new residents. But Bernstein is holding on to some of her idealism. She doesn't like to use the term "NIMBY" and is deliberate about trying to meet with people she disagrees with. That sounds cheesy, but it makes her a rarity among the city's hardcore urbanists. On social media, Seattle urbanists can be a condescending, dick-swinging crowd, dismissing the lived experiences of displaced and struggling renters because they're busy shouting about the faultless wisdom of the free market. ("NIMBYs are literally the worst," one tweeted as I was writing this story. "Economic terrorists.") The city's well-meaning pro-tenants movement, meanwhile, peddles tired caricatures of greedy developers and focuses almost exclusively on rent control as the solution to Seattle's housing crisis. It's an exhausting split that accomplishes little, except alienating everyone in the middle. A group like SFBARF, led by renters and fighting for growth, could bridge some of that divide. Trauss is wholly pro-development—all types of it—but she also supports increased protections to keep renters from being "economically evicted" (when landlords dramatically raise rents to push out low-income tenants) and temporary rent control while supply catches up with demand. Some local density advocates are skeptical of the YIMBY movement. "Look at the math," Ben Schiendelman, a Seattle tech worker and outspoken pro-density provocateur, says of Trauss's efforts in San Francisco. "They don't win fights, and when they do, it's like for a handful of units in a building. In the time it takes to win those fights, you lose thousands of people out of the city." Schiendelman, 34, believes the only answer in Seattle and San Francisco alike is to get rid of zoning altogether. (Trauss's group is trying to sue the suburbs for restricting growth; Schiendelman supports that and says he's working on a similar lawsuit against Seattle.) Killing zoning would allow all sorts of building all over the city, he argues, creating a denser, more transit-rich city where poor and rich people live alongside each other. He has little patience for community organizing like Bernstein and others are doing. "People are becoming NIMBYs at a faster rate than you could talk them out of it," Schiendelman says. "The rate at which you could possibly organize [pro-growth] people is slower than the rate at which the city becomes less affordable." But a look at the public reaction to modest moves toward more density in Seattle shows what an unwinnable fight getting rid of zoning altogether could be. Last year, Mayor Ed Murray's housing affordability committee—known as HALA—recommended upzones to make certain parts of the city denser, reductions of expensive parking quotas, and new requirements that developers include affordable units in new apartment buildings or pay fees to help pay for new affordable housing. The neighborhood backlash was immediate, particularly against the recommendation to allow duplexes, triplexes, and backyard cottages in some of the city's single-family zones—which make up 65 percent of land (including parks) in Seattle. Meanwhile, others opposed HALA for different reasons. Developer lobbyist Roger Valdez argued the affordability requirements would make housing more expensive. Jon Grant, the former head of the Tenants Union of Washington State and a member of the HALA committee, criticized the recommendations for not including rent control and not charging enough fees on developers. In the middle, a coalition of developers and housing advocates have joined to form a group called "Seattle for Everyone," which encourages lawmakers and the public to support the HALA recommendations. In response to neighborhood backlash, Murray, joined by Council Members Tim Burgess and Mike O'Brien (who claims to be the council's environmental leader), backed away from the HALA recommendations. It will be up to activists like Bernstein to force that discussion back onto the table. With calls to abandon all zoning set as the extreme, allowing backyard cottages and duplexes becomes the moderate position in this debate. Bernstein says she's focused on what happens after HALA is done. The YIMBY movement "is here," she says. "I think we're a super YIMBY city." Back at the developer dinner, Trauss urges builders to show up at meetings and comment in favor of each other's projects and to do an industry survey of their salaries to try to make the point that they're not all getting rich. In San Francisco, she's looking ahead to May 10, when she's asking YIMBYs to all show up and vote in an election on the same day to show that they're a real constituency. "At the end of the day, some people just hate growth and there's nothing you can do," she tells the room. "You're never going to convince that person, so that's fine. Don't waste your energy. You just have to say, 'See you at the ballot box.'" recommended Sent from my SM-T330NU using Tapatalk
  2. Québecers believe now is a good time to buy property. http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/the-montreal-housing-market-exceeded-forecasts-in-2015-565111581.html
  3. nickchinappi

    Montreal housing market outlook 2016-2017

    We shouldn't expect to see many more condo towers going up in the short term... "Regarding condominiums, the inventory of unsold units will remain at a relatively high level. The need for new units will remain limited in 2016 and 2017" http://m.marketwired.com/press-release/housing-market-outlook-for-2016-and-2017-montreal-cma-2066846.htm Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  4. IluvMTL

    #DontHave1Million

    Don't have a million dollars for a Vancouver home? A new Twitter campaign shows youre not alone The #DontHave1Million hashtag is spreading on Twitter, as people complain about being priced out of the housing market. Photograph by: Screenshot , Twitter Don’t have $1 million for a house in Vancouver? Turns out you’re not alone. A hashtag campaign created by 29-year-old Vancouverite Eveline Xia is encouraging priced-out urbanites to speak up about their home ownership woes by sharing their age and profession on Twitter. The campaign, called #DontHave1Million, is attracting posts from engineers, planners and scientists, as well as real estate agents from other B.C. communities where housing is cheaper. “Will never be able to afford living in the city I grew up in,” tweeted a business graduate. “Every city everywhere in this country needs the people that keep it going,” added an industrial rigger and specialty mover. “If only I could plant a money tree instead of bok choi, kale or mustard,” said another poster. But others countered with posts calling the tweeters entitled. “Don’t be foolish ... rent and invest instead,” said one. “Buy within your means. Move to the burbs. Suck it up, buttercup,” said another. Responding to critics of her campaign in a statement on Twitter, Xia said her generation is “not looking for a handout,” but rather “asking for a fighting chance to stay here in the city we love.” Salaries have not kept pace with housing prices, she noted, and young, talented workers are beginning to leave in favour of communities where they can afford to buy a home for their families. “To have a diverse, interesting and thriving community, Vancouver needs people like us to stay, work and raise our families here,” she said. According to a VanCity report released in March, the average detached Vancouver home could cost $2.1 million by 2030. “Although 75 per cent of Millennials think that home ownership is a primary long-term goal ... many will have to revise their goals to accommodate rising unaffordability in Metro Vancouver,” said the report. Warning that if trends are not reversed, homes in the suburbs will also become increasingly unaffordable for people earning the median income, the report said a reversal would be possible through public policy and changes in financial practices. Those using the #DontHave1Million hashtag expressed hope that the social media campaign would be the start of a “revolt” leading to change. gluymes@theprovince.com sent via Tapatalk
  5. Greece | Oil | Keystone XL | RRSPs | BoC | Apple | Target | Bombardier How the falling loonie and low rates could lure more foreign investors to Canadian housing Republish Reprint Garry Marr | February 26, 2015 | Last Updated: Feb 26 7:12 PM ET More from Garry Marr | @DustyWallet Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email Typo? More Jason Payne/Postmedia News, file Jason Payne/Postmedia News, fileLennon Sweeting, a Toronto-based dealer with US Forex which trades in currencies, says the loonie is making housing more attractive to foreign buyers. Canada’s two priciest housing markets may not need the boost, but Toronto and Vancouver could be on the verge of a spike in foreign investment. Toronto's rental market reborn as housing prices surge out of reach for many ‘There’s a huge demand for rental… We are seeing for the first time in 40 years people are starting to build rental,’ says managing director of Timbercreek Asset Management With the loonie falling about 10% against the U.S. dollar in the last six months, foreigners who have their money parked in greenbacks or in currencies pegged to the American dollar are likely to ramp up their interest in the Canadian marketplace, say industry experts. Alberta, which is now facing a crunch of new listings and weak demand, is unlikely to see any benefit as investors run away from the province over oil price fears. “The reputation of the oilpatch here has been tarnished a bit,” says Dan Scarrow, the Shanghai-based managing director of Canadian Real Estate Investment Centre, which was set up just two months ago, and is run by Vancouver-based Macdonald Real Estate Group. He says the opposite is true in Vancouver and Toronto, where prices in January were up 7.5% and 6.1% respectively from a year ago, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. “With the Chinese economy slowing down a bit and with the Canadian dollar depreciating 20% versus the RMB, it might change the calculus of some people of how much they want to leave in China and how much they want to bring to Canada.” To [foreign investors], the Canadian market has gone on sale Mr. Scarrow’s firm caused a stir last year with data it produced from its client base that showed 33.5% of all single-family homes sales in the Vancouver area could be traced to buyers from mainland China. Foreign buyers and their position in the marketplace have been a concern for some market watchers, who fear these investors are inflating housing prices. But there hasn’t been definitive data. Even the chief executive of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., Evan Siddall, conceded there were data gaps. The Crown corporation finally produced data two months ago on the condominium market that showed as much as 2.4% of Toronto highrises were in foreign hands and 2.3% in Vancouver, with some people still disputing those findings. Mr. Scarrow says in terms of Chinese investors they are divided between people still living overseas and people already living in Canada but with money still parked in RMBs. With Chinese New Year over, he expects investment to pick up. Related Foreign buyers taking over — this time it's Canadians in Florida IMF says housing in Canada overvalued by as much as 20% “Decisions have been held off until this week,” he says. “There is a lag for these things in terms of stats and what we see on the ground.” Brian Johnston, chief operating officer of Toronto-based Mattamy Homes, has never been a believer of the idea that foreign investment was a huge factor in Canadian housing, but he says when you get can a 10% to 20% currency swing it has to be positive. “To [foreign investors], the Canadian market has gone on sale,” said Mr. Johnston, noting his company also develops property in the United States it tries to sell to Canadians. “The reverse is true for them. The price of U.S. real estate just went up by 10%.” Lennon Sweeting, a Toront0-based dealer with US Forex which trades in currencies, says the loonie is making housing more attractive to foreign buyers. “The Bank of Canada has tried to offset lower prices with a weaker currency making investing in Canada more attractive,” said Mr. Sweeting, adding most high net worth investors are likely holding U.S. dollars right now. “Absolutely it makes it easier to buy [Canadian real estate]. If you’re holding U.S. dollars you are looking at buying at a discount and there’s plenty of supply.” Low interest rates have also boosted demand, even though foreign investors tend to have to put up larger down payments when borrowing to buy property. Shaun Hildebrand, senior vice-president at condo research firm Urbanation Inc., noted new condo sales in the Greater Toronto Area in 2014 rose over 50% from a year ago but it’s hard to pinpoint how much is attributable to foreign investors. “I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see more foreign investment in 2015,” said Mr. Hildebrand, adding surveys of Urbanation clients peg the foreign component of Toronto’s condo market at just under 5%. sent via Tapatalk
  6. Quebec exports to jump 9% in 2015: EDC economist FRANÇOIS SHALOM, MONTREAL GAZETTE More from François Shalom, Montreal Gazette Published on: November 27, 2014Last Updated: November 27, 2014 8:00 AM EST The U.S. housing market will spur export growth in Quebec, says Peter Hall, chief economist of Export Development Canada The U.S. housing market will spur export growth in Quebec, says Peter Hall, chief economist of Export Development Canada AFP/Getty Images SHARE ADJUST COMMENT PRINT Smile wide, Quebec exporters. Peter Hall, chief economist of Export Development Canada, says that two key ingredients will brighten your lives for the next year or three: the U.S. economy and the weak Canadian dollar. “These two things are coming together to make this year and next very positive for Quebec exports,” Hall said in an interview. “The reason it’s a particularly good story is that Quebec does not have a very strong internal economy. Consumption is going to be weak because of high indebtedness levels.” The good part of the EDC forecast, made public Thursday, is that just as household debt is cutting into the consumption economy, the trade sector is taking over and is set to boom, compensating — and then some — for the spending shortfall. “So we’ve got to be the luckiest people on Earth,” Hall said. Traditional resource sectors like mining and forestry as well as aerospace will be key drivers of the export resurgence. And that resurgence will in turn be driven principally by the U.S. housing market, which has mounted a remarkable comeback from the ominous recession of 2008. “The rate of (U.S.) housing construction has doubled where it was during the crisis,” said Hall. “And the best is yet to come. They’re building now at the rate of 1 million (housing) units a year. But the economy itself is generating (demand for) 1.4 million new households every year. They’re 400,000 units a year behind where they need to be just to keep pace with basic demand.” “So the very minimum you can expect over the next two or three years of growth inside this market is 40 per cent.” “That’s very good news for Quebec lumber firms and for everything else that goes into houses being built — copper piping, wiring, 2-by-4s, asphalt, OSB (particle board used for flooring, roofing and walls) — you name it.” “And it doesn’t stop there. Once the house is completed, there’s all the stuff that goes into it; washers, dryers, stoves, fridges, floorings, furnishings.” Again, he noted, a major opportunity for metal producers, notably Quebec aluminum smelters. It all adds up to a projected eight-per-cent jump for Quebec exports this year and another nine per cent in 2015, he said. Aerospace exports will surge 10 per cent next year, thanks to the weak Canadian dollar and good demand internationally. “Quebec’s Bombardier is the major beneficiary of these positive international trends, and with their CSeries line expected to enter into service in late 2015, it will be a huge boon for Quebec’s aerospace industry for years to come,” said Hall. He praised Quebec’s comprehensive overhaul of government spending under Premier Philippe Couillard as vital to the future of the province’s economy. “It’s essential to ensuring competitiveness for the future. If you don’t have fiscal sustainability, it means a higher future tax liability and an uncertain policy environment. “We’ve long learned that this is very, very positive for the future economy. :thumbsup::thumbsup:
  7. Influx of South Americans Drives Miami’s Reinvention By LIZETTE ALVAREZ JULY 19, 2014 MIAMI — As the World Cup played out over the past month, yellow-clad Colombians packed the Kukaramakara nightclub downtown, Aguila beers in hand, shouting, “Colombia, Colombia!” Outside, Brazilians in car caravans blasted samba music. Argentines, some in blue-and-white striped jerseys, jammed into nearby steakhouses and empanada joints. Around town, children filed into Sunday Mass, their jerseys ablaze with their futbol heroes from across Latin America. It was less a commentary on soccer than a tableau vivant of the new Miami, which has gone from a place defined by Cuban-Americans to one increasingly turbocharged by a surge of well-educated, well-off South Americans in the last decade. Their growing numbers and influence, both as immigrants and as visitors, have transformed Miami’s once recession-dampened downtown, enriched its culture and magnified its allure for businesses around the world as a crossroads of the Spanish-speaking world. “It’s now the indisputable capital of Latin America,” said Marcelo Claure, a Bolivian millionaire who founded Brightstar, a global wireless distribution company based here. “The Latin economic boom in the last 10 years has led to the creation of a huge middle class in countries like Brazil, Peru and Colombia, and they look at Miami as the aspirational place to be.” The transformation, the latest chapter in the city’s decades-long evolution, is especially apparent amid the building cranes, street life and nightclubs downtown. But it is seen across Miami-Dade County, where highly educated South American immigrants and second-home owners have increasingly put down roots and played a major role in jump-starting a region that not long ago was ravaged by recession. Their relative wealth has allowed them to ramp up businesses like import-export companies and banks, and to open restaurants that dish out arepas from Venezuela, coxinhas from Brazil and alfajores from Argentina. Partly as a result of that influx, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale region eclipsed Los Angeles in 2012 as the major metropolitan area with the largest share — 45 percent — of immigrant business owners, according to a report by the Fiscal Policy Institute, a research group. The South American presence has also reshaped politics and radio here. More moderate than traditional Cuban-Americans, South Americans have nudged local politics toward the center. Radio stations no longer cater exclusively to Cuban audiences; they feature more news about Latin America and less anti-Castro fulminating. Last week, Charlie Crist, who is running for governor as a Democrat, named a Colombian-American woman from Miami, Annette Taddeo-Goldstein, as his running mate. Colombians, who first began to settle here in the 1980s, are the largest group of South Americans. They now make up nearly 5 percent of Miami-Dade’s population. They are joined by Argentines, Peruvians and a growing number of Venezuelans. Brazilians, relative newcomers to Miami’s Hispanic hodgepodge, are now a distinct presence as well. The Venezuelan population jumped 117 percent over 10 years, a number that does not capture the surge in recent arrivals. Over half of Miami’s residents are foreign born, and 63 percent speak Spanish at home. Continue reading the main story The influx is expanding the borders of immigrant neighborhoods in places like West Kendall, the Hammocks and Doral. Their numbers are growing across the county line into Broward, where one city, Weston, has gained so many Venezuelans that it is jokingly called Westonzuela. Jorge Pérez, the wealthy real estate developer for whom the the new Pérez Art Museum Miami is named, said the latest surge of South Americans was turning the city into a year-round destination and luring more entrepreneurs and international businesses. Latin American banks have proliferated as they follow their customers here. Most noticeably, they are snapping up real estate in Miami, Miami Beach and Key Biscayne, a wealthy island two bridges away from Miami. Real estate developers credit South Americans for spurring the current housing boom. “South Americans are the game changers — they are the ones that allowed the housing market to bounce back,” Mr. Pérez said. Cubans still dominate Miami, making up just over half the number of Hispanics and a third of the total population, and Central Americans have flocked here for decades. But in an area where Hispanics have gone from 23 percent of the population in 1970 to 65 percent now, what is most striking is the deepening influence of South Americans. Many came here to flee a political crisis, as the Venezuelans did after the presidential election of Hugo Chávez in 1998 and then his protégé, Nicolás Maduro, or to escape turbulent economies, as the Argentines and Colombians did more than a decade ago. But the latest wave of South Americans adds a new twist. It includes many nonimmigrants — investors on the lookout for businesses and properties, including second homes in Miami and Miami Beach. For them, Miami is an increasingly alluring place to safely keep money and stay for extended periods. Spanish, which has long been the common language in much of Miami, now dominates even broader sections of the city. In stores, banks, gyms and even boardrooms in much of Miami, Spanish is the default language. “You can come here as a businessman, a professional, and make five phone calls, all in Spanish, to set up the infrastructure for your business,” said Guillermo J. Grenier, a sociology professor at Florida International University. The effect on real estate is especially visible in the Brickell area, Miami’s international banking center, and in once-bedraggled parts of downtown. The South American infatuation with urban living has led to the explosion of lavish new condominium towers, with more to come. There is even rooftop soccer, like the kind offered in South America. Last year, David Beckham and Mr. Claure announced that they would bring a Major League Soccer team to Miami, though they are still in negotiations for a suitable stadium site. Sit in a restaurant and you hear a range of accents — the lilt of Argentine patter, the clarity of Colombian Spanish, the liveliness of Venezuelans and the speedy rat-a-tat of Cubans. Brazilians have sprinkled Portuguese into the mix. The flurry of condo construction now rivals the one before the 2008 crash, raising the specter for some housing analysts of another risky housing bubble. A Miami Downtown Development Authority study found that more than 90 percent of the demand for new downtown and Brickell residential units came from foreign buyers; 65 percent were from South America. “Status is having a condo in Miami,” said Juan C. Zapata, the first Colombian to serve as a Miami-Dade County commissioner and, before then, in the State Legislature. The suburbs, too, continue to swell as more South Americans move into areas anchored by people from their countries. Doral, a middle-class city near the airport, is now a panoply of South Americans, most of them Venezuelans. Eighty percent of Doral is Hispanic, and in 2012, a Venezuelan, Luigi Boria, was elected mayor. “Every year, we get more and more Venezuelans,” said Lorenzo Di Stefano, the owner of El Arepazo 2, a Venezuelan restaurant there. This year, with the economy worsening in Venezuela, Mr. Di Stefano said he expected another large wave. But, Mr. Crist’s running mate and Mr. Boria aside, the South American influx has not translated into widespread electoral success. South Americans lag far behind Cuban-Americans in political power, in part because their citizenship rate is lower. Many do not vote or run for office, a reality that Mr. Zapata said must change. “What you see in Miami is a change economically; it’s much more diverse than it used to be,” Mr. Zapata said. “But the Cubans grew economically, and turned it into political power.” That transformation, Mr. Zapata said, will be Miami’s next chapter. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/20/us/20miami.html?smid=fb-nytimes&WT.z_sma=US_IOS_20140721&bicmp=AD&bicmlukp=WT.mc_id&bicmst=1388552400000&bicmet=1420088400000&_r=2
  8. Wealthy Global Buyers Favoring Montreal Spur 17% Gains By Greg Quinn - Dec 4, 2013 11:09 AM GMT-0500 International buyers have thrust Montreal, a city sometimes overshadowed by Toronto and Vancouver, into the national spotlight. Montreal, known for its crumbling water pipes and bridges as much as its cobblestone streets, now stands out for drawing the biggest share of foreign owners. They purchased 49 percent of the 206 homes worth at least C$1 million in the first half of 2013, according to a Sotheby’s International Realty Canada report and survey of brokers. In Vancouver, which boasts a rugged Pacific coastline and cultural ties to Asia, 40 percent of buyers of 1,239 such homes were from abroad. Toronto, which has filled its skyline with condo towers over the last decade, had the smallest portion of international owners, making up 25 percent of 2,947 deals. “The share of foreign buying in the Montreal luxury market surprises me,” said Craig Alexander, chief economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank. (TD) “When we think about the presence of international buyers we tend to think about Vancouver and Toronto.” 16.9% Gain International buyers are shoring up high-end housing in Canada after regulators tightened mortgage rules in 2012 to cool the nation’s booming market. In Montreal, prices of bungalows of around 1,200 square feet (111 square meters) rose as much as 5.4 percent in the third quarter from a year ago, according to figures from Toronto-based Royal LePage Real Estate Services. Dwellings of at least 3,000 square feet worth about C$2.47 million in the Westmount area gained 16.9 percent in the same period. In Vancouver and Toronto, price growth of luxury housing in some neighborhoods also outpaced less costly homes, the data show. Julie Dickson, who heads the Ottawa-based Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, said scant data makes it difficult to determine the impact of foreign buyers on the market. “There is anecdotal evidence at a minimum that foreign investment plays a big role, particularly in Vancouver. And while I think that means Canada is a great place to do business, it also is a risk because it can dry up quickly,” Dickson said during a Nov. 25 presentation in Toronto. Full article ici.
  9. (CNN) -- For architecture buffs numbed by the ongoing global battle to crank out record-breaking tall buildings, here's something innovative to spark the imagination. The South Korean government has granted approval to begin construction on the world's first "invisible" tower. Designed by U.S.-based GDS Architects, the glass-encased Tower Infinity will top out at 450 meters (1,476 feet) and have the third highest observation deck in the world. The project is backed by Korea Land & Housing Corporation, a state-owned land and public housing developer. The invisibility illusion will be achieved with a high-tech LED facade system that uses a series of cameras that will send real-time images onto the building's reflective surface. It will be built just outside of Seoul near the Incheon International Airport. Neither the developer nor GDS have released a target completion date. The development will reportedly be used primarily for leisure activities. It will include a series of observation decks, a movie theater, roller coaster, water park and numerous food and beverage outlets. Though height isn't its main selling point, Tower Infinity is no slouch in the vertical department. When completed, it's expected to come in sixth on the list of the world's highest towers, behind Tokyo SkyTree, Guangzhou's CantonTower, Toronto's CN Tower, Moscow's Ostankino Tower and Shanghai's Oriental Pearl. Editor's note: The original version of this paragraph said Tower Infinity would be one of the world's tallest buildings, not towers. The error has been corrected. How it works Tower Infinity's invisible face is essentially just state of the art camouflage. Cameras will be placed at three different heights on six different sides of the building to capture real-time images of the surroundings; three other sections, each filled with 500 rows of LED screens, will project the individual digital images. Through digital processing, images will be scaled, rotated and merged to create a seamless panoramic image that appears on the LED rows to create the illusion of invisibility. In essence, whatever is going on behind the building will be projected onto the front of the building. According to GDS, managers will be able to alter the level of power used to give the building different levels of invisibility. "Instead of symbolizing prominence as another of the world's tallest and best towers, our solution aims to provide the world's first invisible tower, showcasing innovative Korean technology while encouraging a more global narrative in the process," said Charles Wee, GDS design principal, in a statement. In 2011 GDS, in collaboration with firms Samoo Architects and A&U, was awarded first prize in a National Design Competition sponsored by the Korea Land & Housing Corporation to provide design and engineering services for the observation tower. http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/12/travel/seoul-invisible-skyscraper-tower-infinity/index.html?hpt=hp_c4
  10. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-03-14/micro-apartments-in-the-big-city-a-trend-builds Always happy to see quotes from professors at my alma mater, especially when it comes to real estate issues! Micro-Apartments in the Big City: A Trend Builds By Venessa Wong March 14, 2013 6:00 PM EDT Imagine waking in a 15-by-15-foot apartment that still manages to have everything you need. The bed collapses into the wall, and a breakfast table extends down from the back of the bed once it’s tucked away. Instead of closets, look overhead to nooks suspended from the ceiling. Company coming? Get out the stools that stack like nesting dolls in an ottoman. Micro-apartments, in some cases smaller than college dorm rooms, are cropping up in North American cities as urban planners experiment with new types of housing to accommodate growing numbers of single professionals, students, and the elderly. Single-person households made up 26.7 percent of the U.S. total in 2010, vs. 17.6 percent in 1970, according to Census Bureau data. In cities, the proportion is often higher: In New York, it’s about 33 percent. And these boîtes aren’t just for singles. The idea is to be more efficient and eventually to offer cheaper rents. To foster innovation, several municipalities are waiving zoning regulations to allow construction of smaller dwellings at select sites. In November, San Francisco reduced minimum requirements for a pilot project to 220 square feet, from 290, for a two-person efficiency unit. In Boston, where most homes are at least 450 sq. ft., the city has approved 300 new units as small as 375 sq. ft. With the blessing of local authorities, a developer in Vancouver in 2011 converted a single-room occupancy hotel into 30 “micro-lofts” under 300 sq. ft. Seattle and Chicago have also green-lighted micro-apartments. “In the foreseeable future, this trend will continue,” says Avi Friedman, a professor and director of the Affordable Homes Research Group at McGill University’s School of Architecture. A growing number of people are opting to live alone or not to have children, he says. Among this group, many choose cities over suburbs to reduce reliance on cars and cut commute times. “Many people recognize that there is a great deal of value to living in the city,” he says. Friedman calls the new fashion for micro-digs the “Europeanization” of North America. In the U.K. the average home is only 915 square feet. In the U.S. the average new single-family home is 2,480 square feet. The National Association of Home Builders expects that to shrink to 2,152 square feet by 2015. Small living has deep roots in Japan, where land is scarce. “It’s just the way things have always been done,” says Azby Brown, an architect and author of The Very Small Home: Japanese Ideas for Living Well in Limited Space. Three hundred square feet may sound tight, but consider that Japanese families historically lived in row houses outfitted with 100-square-foot living quarters and large communal areas. After World War II, Japan’s homes grew, though not much by American standards. By the late 1980s the average Japanese home measured 900 square feet. Tight quarters demand ingenuity and compromise. Think of the Japanese futon or the under-the-counter refrigerator, a feature of European apartments. The Murphy bed gets a sleek makeover in a mock-up of a micro-apartment on exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York. The 325-square-foot space, designed by New York architect Amie Gross, also features a table on wheels that can be tucked under a kitchen counter and a flat-screen TV that slides along a rail attached to built-in shelves. Visual tricks such as high ceilings and varied floor materials make the space feel roomier. The show, titled “Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers,” displays some of the entries from a design competition sponsored by New York’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The winning team, comprising Monadnock Development, Actors Fund Housing Development, and nArchitects, secured permission to erect a 10-story building in Manhattan made of prefabricated steel modules. Some of the 55 units will be as small as 250 square feet. “The hope is that with more supply, that should help with the affordability of these kinds of apartments so that the young or the elderly can afford to live closer to the center and not have to commute so far in,” says Mimi Hoang, a co-founder of nArchitects. Although tiny, these properties aren’t cheap, at least not on a per-square-foot basis. In San Francisco, where two projects are under way, rents will range from $1,200 to $1,500 per month. In New York, the 20-odd units for low- and middle-income renters will start at $939. Ted Smith, an architect in San Diego, says singles would be better served by residences that group efficiency studios into suites with communal areas for cooking, dining, and recreation. “The market does not want little motel rooms to live in,” he says. “There needs to be cool, hip buildings that everyone loves and goes, ‘Man, these little units are wonderful,’ not ‘I guess I can put up with this.’ ” BusinessWeek - Home ©2013 Bloomberg L.P. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  11. yarabundi

    "Urban shift is reshaping Montreal"

    Urban shift is reshaping Montreal Montreal will be a much greyer city 20 years from now, and the aging of our populace will influence everything from home design to urban architecture to public transportation. It will also be a more multi-coloured city, measured in terms of skin tone, and multi-linguistic, too, as new legions of immigrants flow in, altering its face, flavour and sound. It will be more condensed, with condominiums overtaking expensive single-family homes as the lodging of choice for first-time homebuyers. And it will be a poorer city mired in a heavily indebted province, forcing it to focus on necessities like rebuilding roads and paring down bureaucracies and services rather than investing in grand designs like megaprojects or metro extensions. Economic imperatives will force Montreal to focus on what it’s good at to survive — namely, being itself. The city will endure by hosting festivals and conferences, promoting its flourishing arts scene, throwing successful, peaceful street parties for hundreds of thousands at a time and inviting the world to come. It will market itself as a vibrant, fun, creative place to live, and a coveted vacation destination for legions of retired baby boomers with time on their hands and savings to burn. This in turn will lead the city to become more accommodating to pedestrians and cyclists, with stretches of thoroughfares like Crescent and Ste. Catherine Sts. becoming pedestrian-only enclaves. This is the Montreal 2033 vision of McGill University architecture professor and housing expert Avi Friedman. Author of 12 books on housing and sustainable development, he is called on by cities throughout the world to consult on urban development and wealth generation. He sees in Montreal’s future a metropolis that will be poorer, still paying for past transgressions of inept infrastructure design and inadequate maintenance. But at the same time, it will be buoyed by its four major universities and its cachet as one of the cool hangouts in the vast North American neighbourhood, a magnet for tourist dollars, immigrants and creative minds. “Montreal is a brand. We’re not talking about Hamilton or Markham or Windsor. Montreal is a brand. But we need to learn how to use our brand better,” he said. Statistics Canada released figures in the fall that indicated Montreal was becoming a city of singles. Nearly 41 per cent of its residents who reside in a private dwelling live on their own, as compared to 30 per cent in most large Canadian cities. Our aging population, large number of university students, exodus of families to the suburbs, low immigration numbers and high percentage of apartments are largely the cause. The numbers spurred Friedman to ponder where the city he’s lived in for more than three decades will be in 2033. Major urban shifts, he notes, generally take about 20 years to evolve. “I wasn’t looking for pie-in-the-sky ideas, not Jetsons-type futuristic predictions, just reasonable assumptions based on trends we are already seeing today.” The greatest influence will come from the aging of the huge demographic wave that is the baby boomer generation, which will be between 70 and 87 years old in 20 years. Most will no longer be working, or paying as much in taxes. “Montreal, like other eastern cities, is going to be a poorer city than it is today, which is likely to force greater efficiency of all operations and institutions,” Friedman said. “We will have to learn to do more with less.” As families shrink (the average family size has gone from 3.5 individuals in 1970 to 2.5 in 2006), and house prices rise, demand for smaller living units will increase. The era of the single-family house as a starter home within the city limits will be a thing of the past for most, as it has been in many European cities for a long time, Friedman said. First-time buyers, many of them young families, will move into the many condominium projects sprouting downtown. Older boomers will shift from their suburban homes to condominiums. The ratio of family homes to condominiums, now at a roughly 60-40 split, will probably reverse during the next two decades, he predicted. Already densely populated neighbourhoods like Notre Dame de Grâce will see residents and developers building upward, putting additional floors on houses or commercial buildings to add residential space. (In congested Vancouver, developers have already started stacking condominium complexes on top of big-box stores like Walmart and Home Depot.) Homeowners will transform their basements into separate apartments, and the division of single-family homes into separate units to take in two or more families will proliferate. Houses will be transformed as more people opt to work out of home offices, or as retirees alter their living spaces to pursue their hobbies or their work. And seniors will make room for live-in nannies and nurses to help care for them. There will also be more grab-bars, ramps and in-house escalators. Technological advances will allow many routine hospital procedures to be done at home via computer. Patients will be able to check their blood pressure and other health indicators at home and send the information to their caregivers over the Internet, all the while chatting with nurses or doctors face-to-face via Skype. “Aging in place will be on the upswing,” Friedman said. “There will be less and less reason for hospital visits.” The new superhospitals going up downtown and in N.D.G. will also spur residential development as thousands of hospital workers seek housing nearby. Condominiums have started sprouting already near the hospitals, and close to the métro stations and train stations that serve them. Private medical clinics, for locals and foreigners alike, will be built around and even in hospitals, as the cash-strapped government off-loads more services to the private sector for wealthier clients not willing, for example, to wait three years for a hip replacement. The condominium boom, well underway in Montreal and reaching the saturation point, will continue, although at a slower pace. Montreal is on the verge of a condo crash, Friedman predicted, part of the normal ebb and flow of residential construction that regenerates every five years. “You will hear about bankruptcies, about people going under, all sorts of bad stories. This is common. Then there will be a burst of energy and another wave.” Condominium developers will start incorporating more family-friendly features like larger units, terrace gardens and parks on their properties. Condo towers with shops and restaurants on the ground floor will become more common, as will the SOHO concept (Self-Office, Home Office) common in China, where residences are located on upper floors and small offices on lower floors, and people commute by elevator. Many boomers, liberated from their children and their jobs, will give up their suburban homes to live closer to services and entertainment and downtown. Their influx will spur elderly-friendly changes seen in other cities, such as automatic doors at unwieldy metro entrances. Métro stations will become poles of residential development, followed closely by commercial properties to serve the influx of people. Suburbs like the West Island will see more low-level condominiums of four to six storeys, and available land between municipalities will be slowly colonized, making for one continuous metropolis. The densification, with housing projects like those in Griffintown bringing tens of thousands of residents into the downtown core, will result in an even more active and vibrant city, with offshoots of more shops, restaurants, services and life downtown. Neighbourhoods like St-Henri, Rosemont and Park Extension, relatively close to downtown and well-served by public transit, will be the next regions to see a slow gentrification, Friedman predicted. In a sense, we will mirror Toronto’s growth, but on a smaller scale and with a Montreal twist. “In 20 years, downtown Montreal will be populated by many more people who will bring their flavour, their lifestyle and their unique Montreal brand, with things like after-hours clubs, which is not Toronto,” Friedman said. “This is a fun city, with restaurants and pubs and clubs. I believe it will be a fun place.” Friedman sees Montreal’s four major universities and an increase in immigration quotas to make up for low birthrates as other major drivers of change, with immigrants coming from burgeoning regions like Asia and Latin America and settling in the north and east of the city. Already, roughly 10 per cent of the students in Friedman’s bachelor’s-level architecture classes are from mainland China. Montreal needs to do more to attract the droves of computer engineers from places like China, India and Pakistan who currently see California as their first choice. And tourism, with the many jobs it brings, will be Montreal’s bread and butter. At this phase in its history, Friedman sees Montreal as a city bogged down by the sins of its past, fixated on corruption and mismanagement and with no sense of a grand vision coming from city hall. Things will get more difficult from an economic standpoint, and “poorer cities do nothing. If you have wealth, you can change things,” he said, pointing to bike and public-transit friendly European cities like Copenhagen, Helsinki, Amsterdam and Berlin as examples. There is hope for Montreal’s future, Friedman said. It is articulated in the plethora of condominium towers and cranes on its skyline, in Montreal’s reputation for its joie-de-vivre attitude, open-mindedness and its artistic energy, a magnet for the young, adventurous and creative. But the hope is tempered with this caveat: the successful cities that Friedman has observed, are those whose citizens are willing to enforce change, as opposed to hoping city councillors will do it for them. “Do-it-yourself cities are the successful cities. We have to ask ourselves ‘Are we a forwards city, or a backwards one?’ ” Developments already underway provide an indication of the answer. “The densification of the core we’re seeing here will bring life,” he said, gazing up at the condominium towers growing like mighty redwoods of metal and glass in Griffintown. “This city will be a hopping place.” Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/Urban+shift+reshaping+Montreal/8071854/story.html#ixzz2NF8glXu5
  12. By Jay Bryan, Special to Gazette February 15, 2013 8:04 PM Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/homes/Bryan+housing+numbers+point+soft+landing/7973381/story.html#ixzz2L1fXbpfN MONTREAL — For more than a year, there have been two competing narratives about the future path of Canada’s high-flying housing market: total collapse and moderate decline. The moderates, if we can call them that, still seem to me to have the better argument, especially when you consider the unexpectedly upbeat housing resale figures last month. Friday’s report from the Canadian Real Estate Association demonstrates that national home sales continue to be significantly lower than those of a year ago, but that virtually all of this decline happened abruptly last August, reflecting a tough squeeze on mortgage-lending conditions in July by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Since then, however, there’s been no further month-to-month downtrend, notes CREA chief economist Gregory Klump. Prices, which don’t necessarily track sales right away, have also weakened, but less. While sales are down five per cent from one year ago, average national prices are actually up by three per cent, as measured by the CREA Home Price Index. However, this year-over-year price gain has slid gradually from the 4.5 per cent recorded in July. What’s the bottom line? In my opinion, it’s that the catastrophist scenario detailed not just by eccentric bloggers but also in national newspapers and magazines, looks increasingly unlikely. That’s not to say this outcome is utterly impossible. At least one highly regarded consulting firm, Capital Economics, has been predicting for two years that this country faces a 25-per-cent plunge in average home prices. This is the kind of drop — almost comparable to the 30-per-cent-plus crash in the U.S. — that would probably trigger a bad recession, especially in today’s environment of subdued economic growth. David Madani, the economist responsible for this frightening prediction, understands the housing numbers very well, but he simply doesn’t share most other analysts’ relative equanimity about what they mean. Yes, Canada’s banks are financially stronger and more prudent in their lending than their U.S. counterparts, he acknowledges, and yes, there’s little evidence of the fraud and regulatory irresponsibility that worsened the U.S. catastrophe, but he sees the psychology of overoptimistic buyers as uncomfortably similar. What looks like enormous overbuilding of condos in the hot Toronto market help to make his point, as does the still-stratospheric price of Vancouver housing. Madani certainly has a point, but the countervailing evidence seems even stronger. A key example is the behaviour of Canada’s housing market over the past six months. The latest squeeze on mortgage lending, the fourth in five years, is also the toughest, points out economist Robert Kavcic of BMO Capital Markets. It drove up the cost of carrying a typical loan by nearly one percentage point, or about $150 a month on a $300,000 mortgage. And as this shock was hitting the housing market, Canada’s employment growth was slowing. In a market held aloft by speculative psychology, it seems very likely that such a hammer blow would bring about the very crash that pessimists have been predicting. Instead, though, the market reacted pretty much as it had during previous rounds of Flaherty’s campaign to rein in the housing market, notes Derek Burleton, deputy chief economist at the TD Bank. Sales dropped moderately, but the decline didn’t feed on itself as it would in an environment of collapsing speculative hopes. Instead, the market proved to be rather resilient, with sales plateauing and then actually rising a bit in January. Burleton, along with Kavcic and Robert Hogue, an economist at the Royal Bank who follows housing, believe that we’ve already seen most of the market downside that will result from Flaherty’s move. Jay Bryan: New housing numbers point to soft landing This doesn’t mean that the market is out of the woods. It’s still overvalued, not hugely, but by something like 10 per cent, Burleton estimates. But moderate overvaluation can persist for years unless the market is hit by some shock to incomes or interest rates. While there’s no agreement on the path prices take from here, some of these analysts think they’ll drift down slowly, maybe three to eight per cent over a few years. At the same time, rising take-home pay will be shrinking the amount of overvaluation, creating a more sustainable market. Let’s hope they’re right. bryancolumn@gmail.com © Copyright © The Montreal Gazette Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/homes/Bryan+housing+numbers+point+soft+landing/7973381/story.html#ixzz2L1ew0d8Y
  13. I hope Avenue, Tour des Canadiens and Icone go up. And then the rest can wait Softening market raises doubts over condo projects By Allison Lampert, THE GAZETTE January 9, 2013 8:11 PM 0 Story Photos ( 1 ) Softening market raises doubts over condo projects A number of properties are up for sale in Brossard, on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. Photograph by: Dave Sidaway , The Gazette MONTREAL - There are condo projects like the Tour des Canadiens which will undoubtedly be built, with the only lingering question surrounding their final height. But a decline in new home construction in Greater Montreal last year is increasingly raising doubts over the viability of the record number of condo buildings announced for the region: this summer, the city’s Ville Marie borough identified projects with 3,000 units destined for downtown alone. “You talk to the different developers and they are all confident that their project will go forward,” said Carlos Leitao, chief economist at Laurentian Bank. “But I don’t think that all the projects will come to fruition. I would be extremely surprised to see presales advancing for every project so some of them will have to drop off.” In 2012, a more balanced resale market led new home construction to decline nine per cent in the Greater Montreal Area and analysts are expecting a further 12-per-cent drop in housing starts for the region in 2013, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Wednesday. In December, the decline in housing starts, compared with the same month in 2011, was fuelled by a 65-per-cent drop in new home construction on Montreal Island. So even as the sold-out Tour des Canadiens near the Bell Centre is looking to add floors, the steep drop in new Montreal Island housing starts reflects the growing array of choices for buyers in the resale market. While Greater Montreal Real Estate Board data are not yet available for December, November resales tanked 19 per cent. Meanwhile, figures reported Tuesday by Royal LePage Real Estate Services showed condo inventory has shot up 30 per cent at the end of 2012, compared with a year earlier. Housing starts The numbers suggest Montreal’s current low interest rate-fuelled real estate boom peaked in 2011, even though demand still far exceeds historic norms. Compared with record-breaking 2011, new condo construction dropped six per cent to 11,880 units in 2012 — still the second highest year in Greater Montreal for condo building. To put that number in context, Greater Montreal developers were only building around 2,000 to 3,000 units a year before the last condo boom of the early 2000s that peaked with 10,000 units in 2004, explained CMHC analyst David L’Heureux. For the province of Quebec, new home construction dropped three per cent last year to 40,526 units above 2011, CMHC data show. Quebec and Nova Scotia were the only two provinces in Canada to report a decline in total housing starts for 2012. Nationally, housing starts declined for the fourth consecutive month in December, but remained well above sustainable levels, leading to further fears the economically important sector could be headed for a hard landing. The pace of housing starts slowed by a modest 1.7 per cent last month to 197,976 on an annual basis, the fourth drop in as many months. In a note, BMO economist Robert Kavcic said “2012 was a strong year for homebuilding in Canada, but it was distinctly a tale of two halves — we judge that 2013 will look more like the second half (cooling) than the first.” Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Softening+market+raises+doubts+over+condo+projects/7797746/story.html#ixzz2HXfyW4rB
  14. 10. Port Richey, Florida: $59,900 9. Holiday, Florida: $59,900 8. Youngstown, Ohio: $57,550 7. Dearborn Heights, Michigan: $55,000 6. Whiting, New Jersey: $52,450 5. Warren, Michigan: $49,900 4. Redford, Michigan: $40,000 3. Gary, Indiana: $39,900 2. Flint, Michigan: $31,950 1. Detroit, Michigan: $21,000 Cities Where Homes Cost Less Than a Car July 20, 2012 by 247wallst Source: Flickr - Marshall Astor For many Americans, homeownership is the epitome of living the American dream. Yet, in towns with high tumbling home prices and double-digit vacancy rates, median-priced homes now cost the equivalent of new American cars — except, as investments go, they’re slightly more risky. Read: Cities Where Homes Cost Less Than a Car Call it the dark side of the American dream – but if you can only afford to buy just one, which would you choose? In hard-hit cities, why own a home when you can rent one without the risk of foreclosure if your job falls through? Or, for about the same money, you can sport new wheels, facing only the risk of repossession — a lesser credit report complication than a foreclosure. While a car is unlikely to increase in value, its depreciation is both more manageable and predictable than a home. “Buying a home in most places is risky,” says Jed Kolko, chief economist and head of analytics at real estate site Trulia. These high risks in towns such as Detroit, Michigan or Youngstown, Ohio have helped depress housing prices. And until the labor market improves there’s no real chance of a strong recovery in housing. “Towns with a history of job losses probably won’t see big price gains, especially if they have high vacancy rates, because it means buyers have a lot of homes to choose from,” says Kolko. This quandary is especially meaningful to residents of Motor City, who have experienced deepening levels of housing hell in recent years. Much has been written about Detroit’s high misery index, and the challenges of thriving in a city with high unemployment, high crime rates, and city services under severe budgetary constraints. And yet, for those willing to take a long view of the city, Detroit also offers amazing bargains to residents dedicated to living in that community. Despite its problems, even in Detroit, it’s not unusual for multiple buyers to vie for an appealing home in a nice neighborhood. The city has one of the highest rental vacancy rates in America and boasts a four-month supply of homes on the market, according to a recent report in the Detroit Free Press. A buyer’s market is typically six or more months’ supply. Many residents of depressed cities in Michigan, Florida, Indiana and Ohio have been slammed by job losses and tumbling housing prices, too, and recovery is coming slowly if at all. Yet, on the positive side, these towns also offer a low cost of living by American standards that make for attractive buy-side opportunities for those willing to take a long view of homeownership. 24/7 Wall St. asked Trulia, a leading provider of real estate listings and market data, to identify and rank cities by the median prices of homes sold last year. Trulia limited the list to markets with an adequate supply of non-foreclosure, single-family homes, which ruled out markets that may have unusual spikes in median sales prices. To provide further context of how economic data can impact local housing market conditions we also gathered median-income data as well as Q1 2012 vacancy rates from the U.S. Census Bureau, unemployment numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and June 2012 foreclosure figures from RealtyTrac. With home prices at 30-year lows and mortgages available at record low rates, some residents in troubled cities will be tempted to take the plunge and buy a home. Yet, amid this fledgling recovery there’s still the allure of plunking down a small deposit and buying a car that can take you to a city that offers a healthier housing market and stronger long-term job prospects. These are the cities where homes cost less than a car. 10. Port Richey, Fla. >Median listing price: $59,900 >Comparably priced car: Cadillac CTS-V ($71,000) >Housing price change (year over year): -0.1% >Median household income: $31,016 >Unemployment rate: 8.6% Port Richey was clearly devastated by foreclosures, job losses and builders who overestimated demand for new homes. That’s evident in its whopping 24.7% vacant housing rate, which is more than twice the national average. Housing prices in the area have fallen 48% from their peak, according to Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) data. Also Read: The Fastest Growing Cities in America 9. Holiday, Fla. >Median listing price: $59,900 >Comparably priced car: Tesla Model S ($69,900 with 85 kwh battery) >Housing price change (year over year): -0.1% >Median household income: $37,240 >Unemployment: 8.6% Holiday’s 22.2% vacant housing rate, nearly twice the national average, is a hole so big that it will take years for housing demand to match supply. The 8.6% unemployment rate, though unexceptional for America, may further stunt a local recovery. Like neighboring Port Richey, housing prices have also plummeted 48% from their peak, according to the FHFA. 8. Youngstown, Ohio >Median listing price: $57,550 >Comparably priced car: Chevy Suburban ($68,900) >Housing price change (year over year): n/a >Median household income: $25,002 >Unemployment: 7.4% Just as the age of a tree is revealed by rings in its trunk, the age of a town’s housing stock, coupled by new construction rates, speaks volumes about the sturdiness of a city. In the U.S., only 14.4% of homes were built before 1940; in Youngstown, it’s more than 40%. New home construction is at a standstill. Nearly 19% of homes stand vacant, which places further downward pressure on a local recovery. 7. Dearborn Heights, Mich. >Median listing price: $55,000 >Comparably priced car: Cadillac Escalade ($64,800) >Housing price change (year over year): 5.2% >Median household income: $48,905 >Unemployment: 9.9% The city of Dearborn Heights is home to many workers in the auto industry, so it is far from immune to housing and other economic issues plaguing many Michigan cities. Home prices in the city have fallen by a fairly drastic 55.2% since their peak, according to FHFA data. Yet Dearborn Heights would appear to have a little more upside than some of its neighboring cities if only because Ford is preserving it, and because the number of residents earning more than $100,000 annually remains in line with national averages, unlike any of the other cities on this list. 6. Whiting, N.J. >Median listing price: $52,450 >Comparably priced car: Chevy Corvette Grand Sport ($64,650) >Housing price change (year over year): n/a >Median household income: $37,397 >Unemployment: 11.9% Whiting, an unincorporated area in Ocean County, is home to many retirement communities. The aging of the Baby Boomer population may help lead Whiting out of its funk. Unemployment isn’t especially high. In fact, unlike many other towns on this list, the vacant housing unit rate of 7.8% is below the national average of 11.8%. 5. Warren, Mich. > Median listing price: $49,900 >Comparably priced car: Lincoln Navigator ($59,900) >Housing price change (year over year): 6.5% >Median household income: $46,247 >Unemployment: 9.9% Chief among several promising housing trends for Warren is a surprisingly low homeowner vacancy rate, which suggests that the town has seen fewer foreclosures than many other cities in Michigan. Still, sales prices have dropped 35% over the past five years in Warren, says Trulia, which suggests that quite a few homeowners are underwater and perhaps holding onto their properties until things turn around. Also Read: Countries Where People Work Least 4. Redford, Mich. > Median listing price: $40,000 >Comparably priced car: Ford F-450 ($55,000) >Housing price change (year over year): 5.2% >Median household income: $52,573 >Unemployment: 9.9% Redford is not a large city, but it suffers from problems such as 1-in-159 homes in foreclosure, the worst rate among cities on this list. It also has aging homes, most of which were built just after World War II and may be expensive to maintain. Like Warren, prices have dropped by 38.5% from their peak according to FHFA data. On the bright side, at $52,573 the average annual income in Redford is higher than in many of its neighboring cities on this list. 3. Gary, Ind. > Median listing price: $39,900 >Comparably priced car: Ford Expedition ($39,900) >Housing price change (year over year): – 7.5% >Median household income: $27,367 >Unemployment: 8.5% In Gary, as in most other troubled housing markets, employment or rather the lack of opportunities holds the key to its housing recovery. The current high unemployment rate is not a blip unfortunately — Gary has 3% fewer jobs than it did a decade ago, according to Trulia. Much of the local population lives at some of the nation’s lowest income levels as 46.5% earn under $25,000 annually according to Census economic data. Such data suggest that local businesses may have trouble leading the city of recession. 2. Flint, Mich. > Median listing price: $31,950 >Comparably priced car: Chrysler 300 ($31,950) >Housing price change (year over year): n/a >Median household income: $28,835 >Unemployment: 8.9% According to Trulia’s Kolko, both Flint and Detroit experienced significant housing-price declines, not because of overbuilding as in Florida but because of “long-term job decline coupled with declining populations.” Worse, Flint suffers from a significant amount of poverty with about 44% of the population earning under $25,000 a year according to Census economic data. Also Read: The Most Dangerous Cities in America 1. Detroit, Mich. >Median listing price: $21,000 >Comparably priced car: Chevy Malibu ($21,000) >Housing price change (year over year): 5.2% >Median household income: $29,447 >Unemployment: 9.9% Detroit’s leaders are committed to reducing spending and creating a more livable and prosperous city for families and businesses of all sizes. The local automotive economy is improving, especially as Chrysler stages a comeback from its near-death experience. Some may interpret a year-over-year housing price increase as a positive sign for Detroit’s future. But unkind economists might call it a dead-cat bounce. Unemployment is not merely high, population is decreasing, and in 2010, one-in-five homes were vacant. Long term, that’s a lot of downward pressure on housing prices. Rusty Weston http://247wallst.com/2012/07/20/cities-where-homes-cost-less-than-a-car/3/
  15. Est-ce que l'article ci-dessous et un avertissement pour la préservation hyperactive de l'architecture Montréalaise? Preservation Follies http://www.city-journal.org/2010/20_2_preservation-follies.html New York’s original Pennsylvania Railroad Station opened its doors in November 1910, with its towering Doric columns and a 150-foot-high waiting room based on the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. “As the crowd passed through the doors into the vast concourse,” the New York Times reported, “on every hand were heard exclamations of wonder, for none had any idea of the architectural beauty of the new structure.” But in the mid-1960s, the Pennsylvania Railroad tried to make up for falling revenues by razing the Beaux Arts structure—over the protests of architects and editorial boards—and replacing it with today’s drab station, the new Madison Square Garden, and rent-bearing office towers. The beloved old station became a martyr for the preservationist cause. In 1965, Mayor Robert Wagner signed the law establishing the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Initially, the move seemed like a harmless sop to the activist architects. But the commission’s power soon grew, partly because it was charged not only with protecting beautiful old structures but also with establishing large historic districts. Today, New York City contains just 1,200 individually landmarked buildings, far fewer than the 25,000 buildings within its 100 historic districts. And in these districts—1,300 acres’ worth in Manhattan alone—almost every action that affects a building’s exterior must pass muster with the commission, from installing air conditioners in windows to mounting intercom boxes next to front doors. A tree can grow in Brooklyn, but not in SoHo, unless the commission decides that its leaves are no affront to that neighborhood. It is wise and good to protect the most cherished parts of a city’s architectural history. But New York’s vast historic districts, which include thousands of utterly undistinguished structures, don’t accomplish that goal. Worse, they impede new construction, keeping real estate in New York City enormously expensive (despite a housing crash), especially in its most desirable, historically protected areas. It’s time to ask whether New York’s big historic districts make sense. According to a law passed in 1965, to bestow historic-district status on a neighborhood, the Landmarks Preservation Commission must hold public hearings, vote, and then submit its proposal to the city council, which must approve the designation. Once that happens, the commission has enormous powers over the new district: it may “specify the nature of any construction, reconstruction, alteration or demolition of any landscape feature which may be performed” within that district. The commission began landmarking speedily after the law was passed. From 1966 to 1981, it created 20 historic districts in southern Manhattan, at a rate of about 38 acres per year. (By “southern Manhattan,” I mean the island below 96th Street—the most expensive land in the city and some of the most expensive in the world.) The largest of these districts was Greenwich Village, which was landmarked in 1969. The plan to submit the Village to the commission’s oversight was embraced by most of its residents, despite their well-known history of fighting the government’s use of eminent domain to seize their property outright. Mayor Wagner said that he was “deeply concerned and sympathetic with the people of the West Village neighborhood in their desire to conserve and build constructively upon a neighborhood life which is an example of city community life at its healthiest.” Mayor-elect John Lindsay and mayor-to-be Ed Koch, a Village resident himself, also favored making the Village a historic district. Two property owners did file a lawsuit against the city, and large property-owning institutions like the New School and Saint Vincent’s Hospital also didn’t want their future building options curtailed. But in the end, the proposal passed, and a similar groundswell helped establish the SoHo Cast Iron District in 1973. In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed governments to landmark commercial areas without compensating the owners, giving the Landmarks Preservation Commission a green light to expand farther into areas that had many nonresidential properties. The largest of these was the Upper East Side. Once again, effective organizers, like New Yorker drama critic Brendan Gill, rallied a sophisticated community behind the districting plan. Opponents of the Upper East Side Historic District mounted a spirited defense, challenging the notion that this large swath of Manhattan had any kind of architectural unity, but they were overwhelmed. Paul Goldberger, writing in the Times, noted that the decision put the Koch administration “squarely on the side of preservation, rather than development, of some of the city’s most expensive real estate.” The Upper East Side Historic District was the high-water mark of preservationism in the age of Ed Koch. From May 1981 to May 1989, the commission added just five new districts in southern Manhattan, a rate of 2.82 acres per year. Perhaps the commissioner during much of this period, Gene Norman, didn’t believe in expansion as much as his predecessors did. Perhaps the commission was busy fighting other battles, like landmarking the Broadway theaters and preventing Saint Bartholomew’s on Park Avenue from erecting a tower. Or perhaps it was the spirit of the expansive eighties, when New York’s growth seemed like a pretty good thing. But then Norman resigned, and suddenly, perhaps coincidentally, historic districting soared. Between May 1989 and December 1993, 509 extra acres were added—a pace of over 100 acres per year. Tribeca, Ladies’ Mile, and the Upper West Side—a vast collection of extremely heterogeneous buildings, many of them with little architectural distinction—were just a few of the major districts brought under the commission’s control. The bulk of this districting occurred during the mayoralty of David Dinkins. Again, that may be the result of happenstance, or of Dinkins’s appointments to the commission, or of their sense that their decisions wouldn’t be overruled. But it’s worth noting that the districting explosion stopped as soon as Rudy Giuliani became mayor. Since 1993, the pace of historic districting in southern Manhattan has averaged about seven acres per year. Only one-tenth of the 1,200 acres that are now part of historic districts in southern Manhattan have been added since 1993. The Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations, including their commission chairs—Jennifer Raab, Sheridan Hawkins, and Robert Tierney—have shown far more restraint in increasing their sway over Manhattan than most of their predecessors did. Nevertheless, the damage has been done. Not counting parks, southern Manhattan contains about 7,700 acres of potentially buildable area. Today, nearly 16 percent of that land is in historic districts and therefore subject to the commission’s authority. This preservation is freezing large tracts of land, rendering them unable to accommodate the thousands of people who would like to live in Manhattan but can’t afford to. To get an idea of the way that historic districts can freeze a city, consider two recent episodes. In 1999, Citibank sold a one-story branch bank on the corner of 91st and Madison Avenue to a developer who planned a 17-story tower for the site. But the corner was within the prestigious Carnegie Hill Historic District, whose distinguished residents didn’t like the idea of another tower in their neighborhood. Woody Allen made a short video protesting the plan. Kevin Kline recited Richard II: “How sour sweet music is, / When time is broke and no proportion kept!” No New Yorker who grew up hearing Kline play Henry V in Central Park can fault the commission for being swayed by his eloquence. It told the developer to limit the building to nine stories—even though one of the few limits to the commission’s power, explicitly stated in the New York City Administrative Code, is that “nothing contained in this chapter shall be construed as authorizing the commission, in acting with respect to any historic district or improvement therein, . . . to regulate or limit the height and bulk of buildings.” A few years later, the developer Aby Rosen wanted to erect a 22-story glass tower atop the old Sotheby Parke-Bernet building at 980 Madison Avenue, in the heart of the massive Upper East Side Historic District. Even though the building itself wasn’t landmarked, Rosen and his architect, Lord Norman Foster, proposed keeping the original building’s facade intact and letting the tower rise above it, much as the MetLife building rises above Grand Central Terminal. Once again, well-connected neighbors didn’t like the idea and took their complaints to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Tom Wolfe, the brilliant chronicler of the foibles of New York and the real-estate industry, penned a 1,500-word piece in the New York Times insinuating that if the commission approved the project, it would betray its mission. Wolfe won, and nothing was built. Replying to his critics (of whom I was one), Wolfe wrote in the Village Voice that “to take their theory to its logical conclusion would be to develop Central Park. . . . When you consider the thousands and thousands of people who could be housed in Central Park if they would only allow them to build it up, boy, the problem is on the way to being solved!” But building high-rises in dense neighborhoods means that you don’t have to build in green areas, whether they’re urban parks or undeveloped areas far from the city. In fact, a true preservationist should realize that building up in one area reduces the pressure to take down other buildings. Once the landmarks commission decides that a building can be knocked down—as was the case in the Battle of Carnegie Hill—it should logically demand that its replacement be as tall as possible. Does turning a neighborhood into a historic district actually discourage new construction, as these stories suggest? To find out, I couldn’t simply use data from the U.S. Census to see if regular districts boasted more housing growth than historic districts did, because historic districts don’t match up exactly with census tracts. So I have made comparisons among three kinds of census tracts: those that have no territory within a historic district; those that have some; and those with a majority of land in a historic district. During the 1980s, the mostly historic tracts added an average of 48 housing units apiece—noticeably fewer than the 280 units added in the partly historic tracts and the 258 units added in the nonhistoric tracts. In the 1990s, the mostly historic tracts lost an average of 94 housing units (thanks to unit consolidation or conversion to other uses), while the partly historic tracts lost an average of 46 units and the nonhistoric tracts added an average of 89 units. In short, census data show that there has indeed been less new housing built in historic districts, even though they are some of the most attractive areas in New York. A different approach to measuring new construction is to use consumer websites to look at high-rise buildings, which make the biggest contributions to the city’s housing stock. According to Emporis.com, just five residential buildings with more than 15 stories have been erected in historic districts in southern Manhattan since 1970; that’s an average of 0.004 buildings per acre, less than half the rate in nonhistoric southern Manhattan. Nybits.com, another website, lists 234 over-15-story residential buildings built in southern Manhattan since 1981. Of these, just 6 percent were built in historic districts, even though historic districts cover 16 percent of southern Manhattan. Neither website includes every new building erected in the city, but there’s no reason to suspect that they are disproportionately missing new buildings in historic districts. Again, we see that less new housing is built in historic districts—which shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The laws of supply and demand aren’t usually subject to legislative appeal: when the supply of something desirable is restricted, its price will typically rise. To find out whether prices have risen more quickly in historic districts than elsewhere, I have used data on more than 17,000 Manhattan condominium sales by the First American Corporation. The data cover the years between 1980 and 2002, avoiding the extreme price increases that occurred during the last eight years, and they include the addresses of the condos, making it possible to link them to historic districts. From 1980 through 1991, the average price of a midsize condominium (between 800 and 1,200 square feet) sold in a historic district was $494,043 in today’s dollars. From 1991 through 2002, that price was $582,671—an 18 percent increase. The average price of a midsize condo outside a historic district, meanwhile, barely rose in real dollars, from $581,865 in the first decade to just $583,352 in the second. In other words, even though condos within historic districts were cheaper than those outside historic districts in the 1980s, they had become equally expensive by the 1990s. Over the entire 1980–2002 period, prices each year rose $6,000 more in historic districts than outside them. The results tend to get stronger if you look at price per square foot, use statistical techniques to control for unit size, or expand the sample. For example, if you include units between 500 and 1,500 square feet, you’ll find that price per square foot increased by only about $5.50 outside historic districts from the first decade to the second (again, in real dollars)—but that within historic districts, the price per square foot rose from $530 to $596. The increasing cost of property in historic districts remains even if you control for those districts’ amenities, like proximity to Central Park, and if you allow that proximity to become more valuable over time. Restricting new construction in historic districts drives up the price of housing, then. This, in turn, increasingly makes those districts exclusive enclaves of the well-to-do, educated, and white. Census data about southern Manhattan show that in 2000, average household income in census tracts that were primarily in historic districts was $183,000 (in current dollars), which was 74 percent more than that of households in tracts outside historic districts. Almost three-quarters of the adults in the mostly historic tracts had college degrees, as opposed to 54 percent in tracts outside historic districts. And people in the majority-historic tracts were 20 percent more likely to be white. This alone isn’t surprising: architectural beauty is a luxury good, so one would expect that the prosperous would be willing to pay more to enjoy it. What’s disturbing is that historic-district status itself seems to make areas more exclusive over time, as limits on new development make it more difficult to build for people with lower incomes. In 1970, families in tracts that would eventually be located at least partly within historic districts had incomes 29 percent higher than families living outside such districts. By 2000, that gap had widened to 54 percent. Similarly, in 1970, people living in areas that would become historic districts were 4 percent more likely to be white than those outside these areas, as opposed to 15 percent 30 years later. Tracts in historic districts have also seen their share of residents with college degrees increase significantly faster than that of tracts outside historic districts. In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs argued that “cities need old buildings” because “if a city area has only new buildings, the enterprises that can exist there are automatically limited to those that can support the high costs of new construction.” Jacobs was surely correct that cities benefit from having some less expensive real estate—but restricting the construction of new buildings doesn’t achieve that end. Prices stay low not when the building stock is frozen but when it increases to meet demand. Preservation doesn’t make New York accessible to a wider range of people; it turns the city into a preserve of the prosperous. As if it weren’t enough that large historic districts are associated with a reduction in housing supply, higher prices, and increasingly elite residents, there’s also an aesthetic reason to be skeptical about them: they protect an abundance of uninteresting buildings that are less attractive and exciting than new structures that could replace them. Not every city, it’s worth adding, has restricted construction in its most valuable areas. Chicago has allowed an enormous number of high-rise buildings with splendid views of Lake Michigan. The result is a city with a great deal of affordable luxury housing. It’s hard to fault the Landmarks Preservation Commission for stopping development in historic districts. That’s its job: to “safeguard the city’s historic, aesthetic and cultural heritage,” as the city’s administrative code puts it. The real question is whether these vast districts should ever have been created and whether they should remain protected ground in the years ahead. No living city’s future should become a prisoner to its past. Research for this article was supported by the Brunie Fund for New York Journalism. Edward L. Glaeser is a professor of economics at Harvard University, a City Journal contributing editor, and a Manhattan Institute senior fellow. He is grateful to Kristina Tobio for heroic research assistance.
  16. Glen Carter

    New master urban plan for Dorval

    http://www.westislandgazette.com/news/28915 Dorval considering options for major facelift City wants public input on its draft of master urban plan Albert Kramberger The Gazette Wednesday, March 14, 2012 The city of Dorval is looking to make a few changes in how it looks - everything from revitalizing its waterfront to giving Dorval Ave. a facelift. The next step in preparing a new sustainable master urban plan is a public consultation set for March 26. The city has prepared a draft of its master plan, a general statement of the direction the city should follow over the next two decades regarding development, zoning and quality of life concerns as well as promoting and encouraging "greener" options. It now hopes to gauge input from citizens before adopting the formal version later this fall, said Mayor Edgar Rouleau. Among its proposals, the city aims to make its waterfront along Lake St. Louis more user-friendly and animated, possibly installing outdoor exercise equipment at Millennium Park. As well, it will consider purchasing select private lands near existing cityowned sites, like the Forest and Stream Club, should they ever come on the market, the mayor said. "There are sites along Lakeshore that may, in five or 10 years, become available and the council should at that time evaluate if it's worthwhile to acquire," Rouleau said of potentially adding to publicly owned space along the lake. "Is it going to expensive? As you know, yes." While the city is also looking at encouraging highdensity residential develop-ment, especially around the Pine Beach and Dorval train stations and along Bouchard Blvd., it will have to be measured in light of respecting the single-family home residential character in much of the city. There is also a goal to reverse an aging demographic trend by attracting young families and immigrants, the latter of which are expected to account for more than 30 per cent of Dorval's population by 2024. As of 2011, Dorval had about 18,615 residents and approximately 8,000 households, with an additional 2,000 housing units envisioned by the city within a decade, including more affordable housing. "Residents want the population to increase, but they don't want to lose that residential sector that we have," Rouleau said. "We're not going to change that, except those few big lots we have, like the one at the corner of De la Presentation and Lakeshore, which will soon be developed," he said. The city also aims to revitalize the commercial area on Dorval Ave. and make it more attractive. For example, by allowing outdoor terraces, and making it safer for both pedestrians and cyclists. A study has already been commissioned to prepare some proposals, the mayor said. "We want it more friendly, but the challenge is that we cannot widen the road," Rouleau said of Dorval Ave. "Whatever we extend, we have to take it from somewhere else. Right now it's two lanes each way with an island in the middle and sidewalks on both sides," he said, adding that perhaps the avenue could be reduced to one lane in each direction with a narrow median strip to allow for something like a bike path.
  17. http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jk162UUpJfgGma16l7tAmrNPBShQ?docId=CNG.51741d44ded9b31056a85d8267330981.b31 Not sure any Canadians who would want to get a US Visa and start paying even more taxes. True, you will be able to work in the states, but I do not see the reward.
  18. Productivity in Latin America City limits Once a source of economic dynamism, megacities risk becoming a drag on growth Aug 13th 2011 | from the print edition They could all be working instead FOUR out of five Latin Americans live in cities, compared with fewer than half of Asians or Africans. The region’s 198 biggest cities—those with more than 200,000 people—account for 60% of its economic output, with the ten largest alone generating half of that. The productivity gains that flow from bringing people together in cities have been one of the drivers of economic growth in Latin America over the past half century or more. But congestion, housing shortages, pollution and a lack of urban planning mean that Latin America’s biggest cities now risk dragging down their country’s economies, according to a report* by the McKinsey Global Institute, the research arm of McKinsey, a firm of management consultants. Until the 1970s, Latin America’s big cities led their countries’ economic development. São Paulo saw annual economic growth of 10.3% from 1920 to 1970 and Rio de Janeiro of 7%, both faster than the 6.8% notched up by Brazil as a whole over that period. But in the decade to 2008 São Paulo’s output grew only two-thirds as fast as Brazil’s, whereas Rio de Janeiro managed a pitiful 37% of the national average. Of the nine cities with the biggest economies, only Lima, Mexico City and Monterrey saw economic growth in this period that was above their countries’ norms. Some medium-sized cities—such as Curitiba and Florianópolis in Brazil, Toluca and Mérida in Mexico and Medellín in Colombia—are starting to show more dynamism than the urban behemoths. That is partly the healthy consequence of liberal economic reforms in the 1980s and 1990s: the previous policies of state-led import-substitution tended to concentrate economic activity close to the centres of political power. But McKinsey expects this trend to continue. It reckons that over the next 15 years most of the top ten cities will display below-average growth in population and output (one exception will be Rio de Janeiro, boosted by investment in offshore oil as well as the Olympic games of 2016). But other big and medium-sized cities will grow faster than the national average. Unusually early in their development, Latin America’s biggest cities may have ceased to reap economies of scale “because their institutional, social and environmental support structures have not kept up with their expanding populations,” McKinsey argues. Put more bluntly, the problem is that they are “congested, poorly planned and dangerous”. Latin America’s overall record of productivity growth is poor, thanks to a toxic mixture of burdensome regulation, a large informal economy and a lack of innovation. Given the cities’ economic weight, it is not surprising that many of the region’s wider problems are reflected there. Compared with their peers in developed countries, Latin America’s top ten cities are unsafe, suffer endemic housing shortages, poor schooling and weak health services. They are also inefficient in their energy use and waste management. For example, every dollar of GDP generated in Chile’s capital, Santiago, requires 60% more energy than a dollar of GDP generated in (much colder) Helsinki in Finland. McKinsey reckons that Bogotá needs to double its housing stock by 2025. Overcoming Latin America’s housing shortage and supplying its urban population with associated services (sewerage, water, gas and electricity) would require investment of $3 trillion by 2025. If cities are exacerbating, rather than mitigating, national ills, this may be because of a lack of urban planning. Unplanned sprawl leads to a shortage of green space, strains transport systems, and makes it hard for businesses or housing developers to find sites. All this is harder still when cities expand beyond their political boundaries, creating problems of co-ordination (Mexico City is split between the Federal District and the surrounding State of Mexico, for example). But the report also highlights some success stories. In both Monterrey and Medellín, public authorities have worked closely with the private sector to foster innovation. Along with land use, transport is the biggest headache facing city authorities. Vehicle ownership is likely to expand by 4% a year over the next 15 years, further clogging the streets. Curitiba stands out as an exception: 54% of journeys there are by public transport. The city’s pioneering bus rapid-transport system has been copied across the region—in Bogotá, Mexico City and Lima. In Bogotá the number of daily public-transport journeys is equal to 75% of the population, whereas in Santiago this number is only 50%. More is needed. Experience in Europe and Asia shows that public authorities can increase the efficiency of goods distribution in cities by getting private firms to share their lorries. And although metros are expensive, the cost of not having them may soon be even greater. * “Building globally competitive cities: The Key to Latin American Growth”. McKinsey Global Institute, 2011.
  19. The quarry St-Michel I believe near autoroute 125 and the second being close to autoroute papineau... This area is baffling me. So much unused and wasted land that can be used for something better. Maybe housing developments or something else? Do you think the city is actually going to do something about this zone? Here's the sites in question: http://maps.google.ca/maps?hl=en&ll=45.563583,-73.636261&spn=0.000008,0.010568&z=17&vpsrc=6&layer=c&cbll=45.563583,-73.636261&cbp=12,0,,0,0&photoid=po-46317218 http://maps.google.ca/maps?hl=en&ll=45.5575,-73.622802&spn=0.00003,0.042272&vpsrc=6&layer=c&cbll=45.5575,-73.622802&cbp=12,0,,0,0&photoid=po-38890502&z=15
  20. Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Montreal+severely+unaffordable/4167729/story.html#ixzz1CBr3AL86
  21. MONTREAL – The central-city administration didn’t open the door any further Monday night to preserving the 57-hectare Meadowbrook green space. But Alan DeSousa, vice-chairman of the city executive committee, didn’t slam it shut, either – not with about 375 anti-development protesters who converged on city hall trying to save the West End site hanging onto his words. “We’re ready to see what we can do to support a local community consensus” on Meadowbrook’s future, he told Patrick Asch of the Les Amis de Meadowbrook citizens’ coalition, which wants the entire site preserved as a public park. A Miami Beach condo developer, Michael Bedzow of Pacific Group Canada, wants to build 1,500 housing units on the site, which has been a private golf course for about a century. Meadowbrook hosts a broad range of wildlife, including foxes, rabbits and birds. It straddles the Lachine borough and Côte St. Luc, and is located near rail yards. Asch and other questioners tried repeatedly to get Mayor Gérald Tremblay to commit to preservation. But the mayor left it to DeSousa to do all the talking on his behalf. The site is already partly zoned for development. Last night’s occasionally loud crowd demonstrates broad support for the site’s preservation, Asch said. The site is “irreplaceable and one of the few natural green spaces left in Montreal,” he added. “Residents across the island will not accept the destruction of Meadowbrook.” Tremblay’s continuing silence on the issue is “deafening – and very suspicious,” Asch said. The site’s preservation is part of a May 2009 report that is to be voted on Thursday by Montreal Island’s agglomeration council. DeSousa said that report doesn’t deal with golf courses. On April 15, Karel Mayrand, Quebec executive director of the David Suzuki Foundation, wrote to Tremblay asking him to act “to preserve all of Meadowbrook as a nature park.” The Pacific Group housing plan – which features Plateau Mont Royal density levels – would represent “destruction for short-term private gain,” Mayrand added. Projet Montréal has already endorsed Meadowbrook’s preservation in full as a public park, said party leader Richard Bergeron. janr@thegazette.canwest.com © Copyright © The Montreal Gazette Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/City+commit+Meadowbrook/2926786/story.html#ixzz0leaaJ97g
  22. Bronfman’s famous relatives fled the city long ago Macleans : Martin Patriquin There are a couple of reasons why Stephen Bronfman seems to be smiling more than usual these days. Having failed in his bid to purchase the Montreal Canadiens last year, the eldest child of billionaire Charles Bronfman got quite a consolation prize by luring the Habs’ former president Pierre Boivin to Claridge Inc., the private investment firm the 47-year-old has run for 15 years. Scoring Boivin, who will serve as Claridge’s president and CEO, is a coup for the small investment house: as one of Quebec’s most respected business minds, he was reportedly courted by some of the biggest companies in the province. Mostly, though, Stephen Bronfman is decidedly optimistic about the future of Montreal—which, coming from a Bronfman, is good news for the city. Though the family made their name and much of their fortune in Quebec through liquor behemoth Seagram’s, practically all of the members of the sprawling Bronfman family tree have left. The reason represents a familiar narrative in Quebec’s history: the province’s political upheaval, beginning with the election of the Parti Québécois in 1976, caused a monumental flight of capital, mostly to Toronto. This included Stephen’s cousins Peter and Edward, who departed shortly after selling off their ownership of les Canadiens in 1978. Stephen’s father Charles debarked for New York, while American cousin Edgar Jr.’s disastrous reign as head of Seagram’s is the stuff of dubious legend. Throughout it all, Stephen Bronfman has mostly stayed put in Montreal. “I guess I’m a bit more of a traditionalist, and very proud to be the last man standing, so to speak,” he says from his downtown office. “There’s a sense of history, tradition, pride of being third-generation Bronfman in Montreal.” Bronfman joined Claridge, the boutique investment firm started by his father, in 1991; four years later he negotiated a deal to buy Labatt’s broadcast assets; the ensuing company was sold to CTV in 1999, nearly doubling Claridge’s initial $45-million investment. That same year, Bronfman joined a group of investors attempting to keep the Expos in Montreal. One of Claridge’s recent successes was investing in SunOpta, an Ontario-based and publicly traded purveyor of organic foods. Claridge’s initial investment was $2 million in 2001; SunOpta’s sales have since grown sixfold to nearly $900 million in 2010. Canadian Business magazine deemed SunOpta stock to be the best cash-flow generator of 2010. Claridge has two new major construction projects in Montreal—Les Bassins du Nouveau Havre, a 2,000-unit housing development on 23 acres bordering the Lachine Canal, and Le Seville, a $120-million housing and retail development plunked down into what has been a decrepit void of western Ste. Catherine Street. The 450-unit development wasn’t without its hiccups: namely, a plan to bring organic grocer Whole Foods to the site fell through. “I think they got nervous about the climate, about doing business in a predominantly French market,” Bronfman says. These investments aren’t happenstance; as Bronfman notes, Montreal’s real estate market is doing quite well. Last year saw a nine per cent increase in housing sales volume, according to the Greater Montreal Real Estate Board. The city’s GDP, meanwhile, has increased by roughly 20 per cent since 2000—nothing flashy, but without the drastic dips faced by many North American cities recently. Bronfman’s decision to stay in Montreal through thick and thin has had a positive effect on the city’s anglophone community in particular, says McGill business professor Karl Moore. “The Bronfmans have a storied history here, and it’s encouraging to Anglo Montrealers that he’s stayed close to his roots here,” he says. “It’s good for the community, and suggests we should do the same.” As a smaller and private investment firm, Bronfman says Claridge is well-positioned to reap the benefits of Quebec’s peculiar business climate: the wariness to search out funding from big, out-of-province firms. “There’s always a bit of trepidation with local business people,” he says. “They’ve invested their life and their emotion into their business and they don’t want to have someone strip out their management just for the almighty dollar. We’ve won out a few deals where we’ve beaten multinationals by buying, say, a food business, maybe paid a little less, but the entrepreneur is much happier to do business with a local family office than a large corporation.” But what of Quebec’s old (but ever-present) political ghosts? After all, unpopular as it may be right now, the question of Quebec sovereignty remains a stubborn constant. Regardless, Bronfman is staying put. “That’s the nature of the beast,” he says of Montreal. “There’s always going to be ups and downs. It’s what makes Quebec an exciting place to live.”
  23. The Toronto Board of Trade's Scorecard on Prosperity ranks 24 cities based on economy and labour attractiveness #20 Montreal (Courtesy of The Globe and Mail)
  24. How Skyscrapers Can Save the City BESIDES MAKING CITIES MORE AFFORDABLE AND ARCHITECTURALLY INTERESTING, TALL BUILDINGS ARE GREENER THAN SPRAWL, AND THEY FOSTER SOCIAL CAPITAL AND CREATIVITY. YET SOME URBAN PLANNERS AND PRESERVATIONISTS SEEM TO HAVE A MISPLACED FEAR OF HEIGHTS THAT YIELDS DAMAGING RESTRICTIONS ON HOW TALL A BUILDING CAN BE. FROM NEW YORK TO PARIS TO MUMBAI, THERE’S A POWERFUL CASE FOR BUILDING UP, NOT OUT. By Edward Glaeser IMAGE CREDIT: LEONELLO CALVETTI/BERNSTEIN & ANDRIULLI IN THE BOOK of Genesis, the builders of Babel declared, “Come, let us build us a city and a tower with its top in the heavens. And let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered upon the face of the whole earth.” These early developers correctly understood that cities could connect humanity. But God punished them for monumentalizing terrestrial, rather than celestial, glory. For more than 2,000 years, Western city builders took this story’s warning to heart, and the tallest structures they erected were typically church spires. In the late Middle Ages, the wool-making center of Bruges became one of the first places where a secular structure, a 354-foot belfry built to celebrate cloth-making, towered over nearby churches. But elsewhere another four or five centuries passed before secular structures surpassed religious ones. With its 281-foot spire, Trinity Church was the tallest building in New York City until 1890. Perhaps that year, when Trinity’s spire was eclipsed by a skyscraper built to house Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, should be seen as the true start of the irreligious 20th century. At almost the same time, Paris celebrated its growing wealth by erecting the 1,000-foot Eiffel Tower, which was 700 feet taller than the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Also see: Interactive Graphic: How High Can We Go? The ceaseless climb of the world's skyscrapers is a story of ever-evolving challenges. Here's how we reached the heights we have—and where we might go from here. Since that tower in Babel, height has been seen both as a symbol of power and as a way to provide more space on a fixed amount of land. The belfry of Trinity Church and Gustave Eiffel’s tower did not provide usable space. They were massive monuments to God and to French engineering, respectively. Pulitzer’s World Building was certainly a monument to Pulitzer, but it was also a relatively practical means of getting his growing news operation into a single building. For centuries, ever taller buildings have made it possible to cram more and more people onto an acre of land. Yet until the 19th century, the move upward was a moderate evolution, in which two-story buildings were gradually replaced by four- and six-story buildings. Until the 19th century, heights were restricted by the cost of building and the limits on our desire to climb stairs. Church spires and belfry towers could pierce the heavens, but only because they were narrow and few people other than the occasional bell-ringer had to climb them. Tall buildings became possible in the 19th century, when American innovators solved the twin problems of safely moving people up and down and creating tall buildings without enormously thick lower walls. Elisha Otis didn’t invent the elevator; Archimedes is believed to have built one 2,200 years ago. And Louis XV is said to have had a personal lift installed in Versailles so that he could visit his mistress. But before the elevator could become mass transit, it needed a good source of power, and it needed to be safe. Matthew Boulton and James Watt provided the early steam engines used to power industrial elevators, which were either pulled up by ropes or pushed up hydraulically. As engines improved, so did the speed and power of elevators that could haul coal out of mines or grain from boats. But humans were still wary of traveling long distances upward in a machine that could easily break and send them hurtling downward. Otis, tinkering in a sawmill in Yonkers, took the danger out of vertical transit. He invented a safety brake and presented it in 1854 at New York’s Crystal Palace Exposition. He had himself hoisted on a platform, and then, dramatically, an axman severed the suspending rope. The platform dropped slightly, then came to a halt as the safety brake engaged. The Otis elevator became a sensation. In the 1870s, it enabled pathbreaking structures, like Richard Morris Hunt’s Tribune Building in New York, to reach 10 stories. Across the Atlantic, London’s 269-foot St. Pancras Station was taller even than the Tribune Building. But the fortress-like appearance of St. Pancras hints at the building’s core problem. It lacks the critical cost-reducing ingredient of the modern skyscraper: a load-bearing steel skeleton. Traditional buildings, like St. Pancras or the Tribune Building, needed extremely strong lower walls to support their weight. The higher a building went, the thicker its lower walls had to be, and that made costs almost prohibitive, unless you were building a really narrow spire. The load-bearing steel skeleton, which pretty much defines a skyscraper, applies the same engineering principles used in balloon-frame houses, which reduced the costs of building throughout rural 19th-century America. A balloon-frame house uses a light skeleton made of standardized boards to support its weight. The walls are essentially hung on the frame like a curtain. Skyscrapers also rest their weight on a skeleton frame, but in this case the frame is made of steel, which became increasingly affordable in the late 19th century. THERE IS A lively architectural debate about who invented the skyscraper—reflecting the fact that the skyscraper, like most other gifts of the city, didn’t occur in a social vacuum, and did not occur all at once. William Le Baron Jenney’s 138-foot Home Insurance Building, built in Chicago in 1885, is often seen as the first true skyscraper. But Jenney’s skyscraper didn’t have a complete steel skeleton. It just had two iron-reinforced walls. Other tall buildings in Chicago, such as the Montauk Building, designed by Daniel Burnham and John Root and built two years earlier, had already used steel reinforcement. Industrial structures, like the McCullough Shot and Lead Tower in New York and the St. Ouen dock warehouse near Paris, had used iron frames decades before. Jenney’s proto-skyscraper was a patchwork, stitching together his own innovations with ideas that were in the air in Chicago, a city rich with architects. Other builders, like Burnham and Root, their engineer George Fuller, and Louis Sullivan, a former Jenney apprentice, then further developed the idea. Sullivan’s great breakthrough came in 1891, when he put up the Wainwright Building in St. Louis, a skyscraper free from excessive ornamental masonry. Whereas Jenney’s buildings evoke the Victorian era, the Wainwright Building points the way toward the modernist towers that now define so many urban skylines. Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead is believed to be loosely based on the early life of Sullivan’s apprentice Frank Lloyd Wright. Sullivan and Wright are depicted as lone eagles, Gary Cooper heroes, paragons of individualism. They weren’t. They were great architects deeply enmeshed in an urban chain of innovation. Wright riffed on Sullivan’s idea of form following function, Sullivan riffed on Jenney, and they all borrowed the wisdom of Peter B. Wight, who produced great innovations in fireproofing. Their collective creation—the skyscraper—enabled cities to add vast amounts of floor space using the same amount of ground area. Given the rising demand for center-city real estate, the skyscraper seemed like a godsend. The problem was that those city centers already had buildings on them. Except in places like Chicago, where fire had created a tabula rasa, cities needed to tear down to build up. The demand for space was even stronger in New York than in Chicago, and skyscrapers were soon springing up in Manhattan. In 1890, Pulitzer’s World Building had some steel framing, but its weight was still supported by seven-foot-thick masonry walls. In 1899, the Park Row Building soared over the World Building, to 391 feet, supported by a steel skeleton. Daniel Burnham traveled east to build his iconic Flatiron Building in 1902, and several years later, Wight’s National Academy of Design was torn down to make way for the 700-foot Metropolitan Life tower, then the tallest building in the world. In 1913, the Woolworth Building reached 792 feet, and it remained the world’s tallest until the boom of the late ’20s. IMAGE CREDIT: GIANLUCA FABRIZIO/GETTY IMAGES THOSE TALL BUILDINGS were not mere monuments. They enabled New York to grow and industries to expand. They gave factory owners and workers space that was both more humane and more efficient. Manhattan’s master builders, such as A. E. Lefcourt, made that possible. Like a proper Horatio Alger figure, Lefcourt was born poor and started work as a newsboy and bootblack. By his teenage years, he had saved enough cash to buy a $1,000 U.S. Treasury bond, which he kept pinned inside his shirt. At 25, Lefcourt took over his employer’s wholesale business, and over the next decade he became a leading figure in the garment industry. In 1910, Lefcourt began a new career as a real-estate developer, putting all of his capital into a 12-story loft building on West 25th Street for his own company. He built more such buildings, and helped move his industry from the old sweatshops into the modern Garment District. The advantage of the garment industry’s old home downtown had been its proximity to the port. Lefcourt’s new Garment District lay between Grand Central and Pennsylvania stations, anchored by the rail lines that continued to give New York a transportation advantage. Transportation technologies shape cities, and Midtown Manhattan was built around two great rail stations that could carry in legions of people. Also see: City Limits: A Conversation With Edward Glaeser The author comments on preserving Paris, the hazards of housing projects, and why measures aimed at saving our cities may actually threaten their survival. Over the next 20 years, Lefcourt would erect more than 30 edifices, many of them skyscrapers. He used those Otis elevators in soaring towers that covered 150 acres, encased 100 million cubic feet, and contained as many workers as Trenton. “He demolished more historical landmarks in New York City than any other man had dared to contemplate,” TheWall Street Journal wrote. In the early 1920s, the New York of slums, tenements, and Gilded Age mansions was transformed into a city of skyscrapers, as builders like Lefcourt erected nearly 100,000 new housing units each year, enabling the city to grow and to stay reasonably affordable. By 1928, Lefcourt’s real-estate wealth had made him a billionaire in today’s dollars. He celebrated by opening a national bank bearing his own name. Lefcourt’s optimism was undiminished by the stock-market crash, and he planned $50 million of construction for 1930, sure that it would be a “great building year.” But as New York’s economy collapsed, so did his real-estate empire, which was sold off piecemeal to pay his investors. He died in 1932 worth only $2,500, seemingly punished, like the builders of Babel, for his hubris. I suspect that Lefcourt, like many developers, cared more about his structural legacy than about cash. Those structures helped house the creative minds that still make New York special. His most famous building, which doesn’t even bear his name, came to symbolize an entire musical style: the “Brill Building Sound.” In the late 1950s and early ’60s, artists connected in the Brill Building, producing a string of hits like “Twist and Shout,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” and, fittingly enough, “Up on the Roof.” Cities are ultimately about the connections between people, and structures—like those built by Lefcourt—make those connections possible. By building up, Lefcourt made the lives of garment workers far more pleasant and created new spaces for creative minds. NEW YORK’S UPWARD trajectory was not without its detractors. In 1913, the distinguished chairman of the Fifth Avenue Commission, who was himself an architect, led a fight to “save Fifth Avenue from ruin.” At that time, Fifth Avenue was still a street of stately mansions owned by Carnegies and Rockefellers. The anti-growth activists argued that unless heights were restricted to 125 feet or less, Fifth Avenue would become a canyon, with ruinous results for property values and the city as a whole. Similar arguments have been made by the enemies of change throughout history. The chair of the commission was a better architect than prognosticator, as density has suited Fifth Avenue quite nicely. Also see: Gallery: The Architecture of Louis Sullivan Historic photographs of some of Louis Sullivan's most renowned and intriguing buildings. The Atlantic on Skyscrapers and Cities Writings by Robert Moses, Richard Florida, Witold Rybczynski, Philip Langdon, and others, from the Atlantic's archives. In 1915, between Broadway and Nassau Street, in the heart of downtown New York, the Equitable Life Assurance Society constructed a monolith that contained well over a million square feet of office space and, at about 540 feet, cast a seven-acre shadow on the city. The building became a rallying cry for the enemies of height, who wanted to see a little more sun. A political alliance came together and passed the city’s landmark 1916 zoning ordinance, which allowed buildings to rise only if they gave up girth. New York’s many ziggurat-like structures, which get narrower as they get taller, were constructed to fulfill the setback requirements of that ordinance. The code changed the shape of buildings, but it did little to stop the construction boom of the 1920s. Really tall buildings provide something of an index of irrational exuberance. Five of the 10 tallest buildings standing in New York City in 2009—including the Empire State Building—were completed between 1930 and ’33. In the go-go years of the late ’20s, when the city’s potential seemed unlimited, builders like Lefcourt were confident they could attract tenants, and their bankers were happy to lend. The builders of the Chrysler Building, 40 Wall Street, and the Empire State Building engaged in a great race to produce the tallest structure in the world. It is an odd fact that two of New York’s tallest and most iconic edifices were built with money made from selling the cars that would move America away from vertical cities to sprawling suburbs. As it turned out, the winner, the Empire State Building, was soon nicknamed the “Empty State Building”—it was neither fully occupied nor profitable until the 1940s. Luckily for its financiers, the building’s construction had come in way below budget. New York slowed its construction of skyscrapers after 1933, and its regulations became ever more complex. Between 1916 and 1960, the city’s original zoning code was amended more than 2,500 times. In 1961, the City Planning Commission passed a new zoning resolution that significantly increased the limits on building. The resulting 420-page code replaced a simple classification of space—business, residential, unrestricted—with a dizzying number of different districts, each of which permitted only a narrow range of activities. There were 13 types of residential district, 12 types of manufacturing district, and no fewer than 41 types of commercial district. Each type of district narrowly classified the range of permissible activities. Commercial art galleries were forbidden in residential districts but allowed in manufacturing districts, while noncommercial art galleries were forbidden in manufacturing districts but allowed in residential districts. Art-supply stores were forbidden in residential districts and some commercial districts. Parking-space requirements also differed by district. In an R5 district, a hospital was required to have one off-street parking spot for every five beds, but in an R6 district, a hospital had to have one space for every eight beds. The picayune detail of the code is exemplified by its control of signs: For multiple dwellings, including apartment hotels, or for permitted non-residential buildings or other structures, one identification sign, with an area not exceeding 12 square feet and indicating only the name of the permitted use, the name or address of the building, or the name of the management thereof, is permitted. The code also removed the system of setbacks and replaced it with a complex system based on the floor-to-area ratio, or FAR, which is the ratio of interior square footage to ground area. A maximum FAR of two, for example, meant that a developer could put a two-story building on his entire plot or a four-story building on half of the plot. In residential districts R1, R2, and R3, the maximum floor-to-area ratio was 0.5. In R9 districts, the maximum FAR was about 7.5, depending on the building height. The height restriction was eased for builders who created plazas or other public spaces at the front of the building. While the standard building created by the 1916 code was a wedding cake that started at the sidewalk, the standard building created by the 1961 code was a glass-and-steel slab with an open plaza in front. NEW YORK’S ZONING CODES were getting more rigorous, but so were other restrictions on development. After World War II, New York made private development more difficult by overregulating construction and rents, while building a bevy of immense public structures, such as Stuyvesant Town and Lincoln Center. But then, during the 1950s and ’60s, both public and private projects ran into growing resistance from grassroots organizers like Jane Jacobs, who were becoming adept at mounting opposition to large-scale development. In 1961, Jacobs published her masterpiece, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which investigates and celebrates the pedestrian world of mid-20th-century New York. She argued that mixed-use zoning fostered street life, the essence of city living. But Jacobs liked protecting old buildings because of a confused piece of economic reasoning. She thought that preserving older, shorter structures would somehow keep prices affordable for budding entrepreneurs. That’s not how supply and demand works. Protecting an older one-story building instead of replacing it with a 40-story building does not preserve affordability. Indeed, opposing new building is the surest way to make a popular area unaffordable. An increase in the supply of houses, or anything else, almost always drives prices down, while restricting the supply of real estate keeps prices high. The relationship between housing supply and affordability isn’t just a matter of economic theory. A great deal of evidence links the supply of space with the cost of real estate. Simply put, the places that are expensive don’t build a lot, and the places that build a lot aren’t expensive. Perhaps a new 40-story building won’t itself house any quirky, less profitable firms, but by providing new space, the building will ease pressure on the rest of the city. Price increases in gentrifying older areas will be muted because of new construction. Growth, not height restrictions and a fixed building stock, keeps space affordable and ensures that poorer people and less profitable firms can stay and help a thriving city remain successful and diverse. Height restrictions do increase light, and preservation does protect history, but we shouldn’t pretend that these benefits come without a cost. IMAGE CREDIT: RAEFORD DWYER IN 1962, IN response to the outcry over the razing of the original Pennsylvania Station, which was beautiful and much beloved, Mayor Robert Wagner established the Landmarks Preservation Commission. In 1965, despite vigorous opposition from the real-estate industry, the commission became permanent. Initially, this seemed like a small sop to preservationists. The number of buildings landmarked in the commission’s first year, 1,634, was modest, and the commission’s power was checked by the city council, which could veto its decisions. Yet, like entropy, the reach of governmental agencies often expands over time, so that a mild, almost symbolic group can come to influence vast swaths of a city. By 2008, more than 15 percent of Manhattan’s non-park land south of 96th Street was in a historic district, where every external change must be approved by the commission. By the end of 2010, the commission had jurisdiction over 27,000 landmarked buildings and 101 historic districts. In 2006, the developer Aby Rosen proposed putting a glass tower of more than 20 stories atop the old Sotheby Parke-Bernet building at 980 Madison Avenue, in the Upper East Side Historic District. Rosen and his Pritzker Prize–winning architect, Lord Norman Foster, wanted to erect the tower above the original building, much as the MetLife Building (formerly the Pan Am Building) rises above Grand Central Terminal. The building was not itself landmarked, but well-connected neighbors didn’t like the idea of more height, and they complained to the commission. Tom Wolfe, who has written brilliantly about the caprices of both New York City and the real-estate industry, wrote a 3,500-word op-ed in The New York Times warning the landmarks commission against approving the project. Wolfe & Company won. In response to his critics in the 980 Madison Avenue case, of whom I was one, Wolfe was quoted in The Village Voice as saying: To take [Glaeser’s] theory to its logical conclusion would be to develop Central Park … When you consider the thousands and thousands of people who could be housed in Central Park if they would only allow them to build it up, boy, the problem is on the way to being solved! But one of the advantages of building up in already dense neighborhoods is that you don’t have to build in green areas, whether in Central Park or somewhere far from an urban center. From the preservationist perspective, building up in one area reduces the pressure to take down other, older buildings. One could quite plausibly argue that if members of the landmarks commission have decided that a building can be razed, then they should demand that its replacement be as tall as possible. The cost of restricting development is that protected areas have become more expensive and more exclusive. In 2000, people who lived in historic districts in Manhattan were on average almost 74 percent wealthier than people who lived outside such areas. Almost three-quarters of the adults living in historic districts had college degrees, as opposed to 54 percent outside them. People living in historic districts were 20 percent more likely to be white. The well-heeled historic-district denizens who persuade the landmarks commission to prohibit taller structures have become the urban equivalent of those restrictive suburbanites who want to mandate five-acre lot sizes to keep out the riffraff. It’s not that poorer people could ever afford 980 Madison Avenue, but restricting new supply anywhere makes it more difficult for the city to accommodate demand, and that pushes up prices everywhere. Again, the basic economics of housing prices are pretty simple—supply and demand. New York and Mumbai and London all face increasing demand for their housing, but how that demand affects prices depends on supply. Building enough homes eases the impact of rising demand and makes cities more affordable. That’s the lesson of both Houston today and New York in the 1920s. In the post-war boom years between 1955 and 1964, Manhattan issued permits for an average of more than 11,000 new housing units each year. Between 1980 and ’99, when the city’s prices were soaring, Manhattan approved an average of 3,100 new units per year. Fewer new homes meant higher prices; between 1970 and 2000, the median price of a Manhattan housing unit increased by 284 percent in constant dollars. The other key factor in housing economics is the cost of building a home. The cheapest way to deliver new housing is in the form of mass-produced two-story homes, which typically cost only about $84 a square foot to erect. That low cost explains why Atlanta and Dallas and Houston are able to supply so much new housing at low prices, and why so many Americans have ended up buying affordable homes in those places. Building up is more costly, especially when elevators start getting involved. And erecting a skyscraper in New York City involves additional costs (site preparation, legal fees, a fancy architect) that can push the price even higher. But many of these are fixed costs that don’t increase with the height of the building. In fact, once you’ve reached the seventh floor or so, building up has its own economic logic, since those fixed costs can be spread over more apartments. Just as the cost of a big factory can be covered by a sufficiently large production run, the cost of site preparation and a hotshot architect can be covered by building up. The actual marginal cost of adding an extra square foot of living space at the top of a skyscraper in New York is typically less than $400. Prices do rise substantially in ultra-tall buildings—say, over 50 stories—but for ordinary skyscrapers, it doesn’t cost more than $500,000 to put up a nice 1,200-square-foot apartment. The land costs something, but in a 40-story building with one 1,200-square-foot unit per floor, each unit is using only 30 square feet of Manhattan—less than a thousandth of an acre. At those heights, the land costs become pretty small. If there were no restrictions on new construction, then prices would eventually come down to somewhere near construction costs, about $500,000 for a new apartment. That’s a lot more than the $210,000 that it costs to put up a 2,500-square-foot house in Houston—but a lot less than the $1 million or more that such an apartment often costs in Manhattan. Land is also pretty limited in Chicago’s Gold Coast, on the shores of Lake Michigan. Demand may not be the same as in Manhattan, but it’s still pretty high. Yet you can buy a beautiful condominium with a lake view for roughly half the cost of a similar unit in Manhattan. Building in Chicago is cheaper than in New York—but it’s not twice as cheap. The big cost difference is that Chicago’s leadership has always encouraged new construction more than New York’s (at least before the Bloomberg administration). The forest of cranes along Lake Michigan keeps Chicago affordable. Most people who fight to stop a new development think of themselves as heroes, not villains. After all, a plan to put up a new building on Madison Avenue clearly bugs a lot of people, and preventing one building isn’t going to make much difference to the city as a whole. The problem is that all those independent decisions to prohibit construction add up. Zoning rules, air rights, height restrictions, and landmarks boards together form a web of regulation that has made building more and more difficult. The increasing wave of regulations was, until the Bloomberg administration, making New York shorter. In a sample of condominium buildings, I found that more than 80 percent of Manhattan’s residential buildings built in the 1970s had more than 20 stories. But less than 40 percent of the buildings put up in the 1990s were that tall. The elevator and the steel-framed skyscraper made it possible to get vast amounts of living space onto tiny amounts of land, but New York’s building rules were limiting that potential. The growth in housing supply determines not only prices but the number of people in a city. The statistical relationship between new building and population growth within a given area is almost perfect, so that when an area increases its housing stock by 1 percent, its population rises by almost exactly that proportion. As a result, when New York or Boston or Paris restricts construction, its population will be smaller. If the restrictions become strong enough, then a city can even lose population, despite rising demand, as wealthier, smaller families replace poorer, larger ones. Jane Jacobs’s insights into the pleasures and strengths of older, shorter urban neighborhoods were certainly correct, but she had too little faith in the strengths of even-higher density levels. I was born a year before Jacobs left New York for Toronto, and I lived in Manhattan for the next 17 years. Yet my neighborhood looked nothing like low-rise Greenwich Village. I grew up surrounded by white glazed towers built after World War II to provide affordable housing for middle-income people like my parents. The neighborhood may not have been as charming as Greenwich Village, but it had plenty of fun restaurants, quirky stores, and even-quirkier pedestrians. The streets were reasonably safe. It was certainly a functioning, vibrant urban space, albeit one with plenty of skyscrapers. WHEN BARON HAUSSMANN thoroughly rebuilt Paris in the mid-19th century at the behest of Napoleon III, he did things unthinkable in a more democratic age: He evicted vast numbers of the poor, turning their homes into the wide boulevards that made Paris monumental. He lopped off a good chunk of the Luxembourg Gardens to create city streets. He tore down ancient landmarks, including much of the Île de la Cité. He spent 2.5 billion francs on his efforts, which was 44 times the total budget of Paris in 1851. All of that spending and upheaval turned Paris from an ancient and somewhat dilapidated city of great poverty into an urban resort for the growing haute bourgeoisie. He also made Paris a bit taller, boosting the Bourbon-era height limit on buildings from 54 feet to 62 feet. Still, relative to cities built in the elevator-rich 20th century, Haussmann’s Paris stayed short, because people needed to climb stairs. Height restrictions were lifted in 1967, and construction of Paris’s first proper skyscraper, the 689-foot Montparnasse Tower, didn’t begin until 1969. Two years later, Les Halles, a popular open-air marketplace, was wiped away and the futuristic Centre Pompidou museum was begun. But these changes rankled those Parisians who had gotten used to a static city. The Montparnasse Tower was widely loathed, and the lesson drawn was that skyscrapers must never again mar central Paris. Les Halles was sorely missed, in much the same way that many New Yorkers mourned the demise of the old Penn Station. France is a far more regulatory country than America, and when its rulers decide they don’t want change, change will not occur. In 1974, a height limit of 83 feet was imposed in central Paris. But while these rules restricted height in old Paris, they let buildings grow on the periphery. Today, the majority of Paris’s skyscrapers are in relatively dense but far-flung complexes like La Défense, which is three miles northwest of the Arc de Triomphe. La Défense is as vertical as central Paris is flat. It has about 35 million square feet of commercial space and the feel of an American office park. Except for the distant view of the Arc, administrative assistants drinking lattes in a Starbucks there could easily be in a bigger version of Crystal City, Virginia. La Défense addresses the need to balance preservation and growth by segregating skyscrapers. In some senses, it is an inspired solution. People working there can still get to old Paris in about 20 minutes by Métro or in an hour on foot. That Métro line means that businesses in La Défense can connect with the all-important French bureaucracy that remains centered in the old city. La Défense is one of Europe’s most concentrated commercial centers, and it seems to have all of the economic excitement that we would expect from such a mass of skilled workers. The sector enables Paris to grow, while keeping the old city pristine. But building in La Défense is not a perfect substitute for new construction in the more-desirable central areas of Paris, where short supply keeps housing prices astronomical. The natural thing is to have tall buildings in the center, where demand is greatest, not on the edge. The lack of new housing in central Paris means that small apartments can sell for $1 million or more. Hotel rooms often cost more than $500 a night. If you want to be in the center of the city, you’ll have to pay for it. People are willing to pay those high prices, because Paris is so charming, but they wouldn’t have to if the city’s rulers hadn’t decided to limit the amount of housing that can be built in the area. Average people are barred from living in central Paris just as surely as if the city had put up a gate and said that no middle-income people can enter. For the world’s oldest, most beautiful cities, La Défense provides a viable model. Keep the core areas historic, but let millions of square feet be built nearby. As long as building in the high-rise district is sufficiently unfettered, then that area provides a safety valve for the region as a whole. The key issue with La Défense is whether it is too far away. Its distance from the old city keeps central Paris pristine, but it deprives too many people of the pleasures of strolling to a traditional café for lunch. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to balance the benefits of providing additional desirable space with the need to preserve a beautiful older city. I wish that some developments like La Défense had been built closer to the center of Paris. But I also understand those who think Paris is so precious that more space should be maintained between the developments and Haussmann’s boulevards. Paris, however, is an extreme case. In much of the rest of the world, the argument for restricting development is far weaker. And nowhere have limits on development done more harm than in the Indian mega-city of Mumbai. IT’S A PITY that so few ordinary people can afford to live in central Paris or Manhattan, but France and the U.S. will survive. The problems caused by arbitrarily restricting height in the developing world are far more serious, because they handicap the metropolises that help turn desperately poor nations into middle-income countries. The rules that keep India’s cities too short and too expensive mean that too few Indians can connect, with each other and with the outside world, in the urban places that are making that poor country richer. Since poverty often means death in the developing world, and since restricting city growth ensures more poverty, it is not hyperbole to say that land-use planning in India can be a matter of life and death. Mumbai is a city of astonishing human energy and entrepreneurship, from the high reaches of finance and film to the jam-packed spaces of the Dharavi slum. All of this private talent deserves a public sector that performs the core tasks of city government—like providing sewers and safe water—without overreaching and overregulating. One curse of the developing world is that governments take on too much and fail at their main responsibilities. A country that cannot provide clean water for its citizens should not be in the business of regulating film dialogue. The public failures in Mumbai are as obvious as the private successes. Western tourists can avoid the open-air defecation in Mumbai’s slums, but they can’t avoid the city’s failed transportation network. Driving the 15 miles from the airport to the city’s old downtown, with its landmark Gateway of India arch, can easily take 90 minutes. There is a train that could speed your trip, but few Westerners have the courage to brave its crowds during rush hour. In 2008, more than three people each working day were pushed out of that train to their death. Average commute times in Mumbai are roughly 50 minutes each way, which is about double the average American commute. The most cost-effective means of opening up overcrowded city streets would be to follow Singapore and charge more for their use. If you give something away free, people will use too much of it. Mumbai’s roads are just too valuable to be clogged up by ox carts at rush hour, and the easiest way to get flexible drivers off the road is to charge them for their use of public space. Congestion charges aren’t just for rich cities; they are appropriate anywhere traffic comes to a standstill. After all, Singapore was not wealthy in 1975, when it started charging drivers for using downtown streets. Like Singapore, Mumbai could just require people to buy paper day licenses to drive downtown, and require them to show those licenses in their windows. Politics, however, and not technology, would make this strategy difficult. Mumbai’s traffic problems reflect not just poor transportation policy, but a deeper and more fundamental failure of urban planning. In 1991, Mumbai fixed a maximum floor-to-area ratio of 1.33 in most of the city, meaning that it restricted the height of the average building to 1.33 stories: if you have an acre of land, you can construct a two-story building on two-thirds of an acre, or a three-story building on four-ninths of an acre, provided you leave the rest of the property empty. In those years, India still had a lingering enthusiasm for regulation, and limiting building heights seemed to offer a way to limit urban growth. But Mumbai’s height restrictions meant that, in one of the most densely populated places on Earth, buildings could have an average height of only one and a third stories. People still came; Mumbai’s economic energy drew them in, even when living conditions were awful. Limiting heights didn’t stop urban growth, it just ensured that more and more migrants would squeeze into squalid, illegal slums rather than occupying legal apartment buildings. Singapore doesn’t prevent the construction of tall buildings, and its downtown functions well because it’s tall and connected. Businesspeople work close to one another and can easily trot to a meeting. Hong Kong is even more vertical and even friendlier to pedestrians, who can walk in air-conditioned skywalks from skyscraper to skyscraper. It takes only a few minutes to get around Wall Street or Midtown Manhattan. Even vast Tokyo can be traversed largely on foot. These great cities function because their height enables a huge number of people to work, and sometimes live, on a tiny sliver of land. But Mumbai is short, so everyone sits in traffic and pays dearly for space. A city of 20 million people occupying a tiny landmass could be housed in corridors of skyscrapers. An abundance of close and connected vertical real estate would decrease the pressure on roads, ease the connections that are the lifeblood of a 21st-century city, and reduce Mumbai’s extraordinarily high cost of space. Yet instead of encouraging compact development, Mumbai is pushing people out. Only six buildings in Mumbai rise above 490 feet, and three of them were built last year, with more on the way as some of the height restrictions have been slightly eased, especially outside the traditional downtown. But the continuing power of these requirements explains why many of the new skyscrapers are surrounded by substantial green space. This traps tall buildings in splendid isolation, so that cars, rather than feet, are still needed to get around. If Mumbai wants to promote affordability and ease congestion, it should make developers use their land area to the fullest, requiring any new downtown building to have at least 40 stories. By requiring developers to create more, not less, floor space, the government would encourage more housing, less sprawl, and lower prices. Historically, Mumbai’s residents couldn’t afford such height, but many can today, and they would live in taller buildings if those buildings were abundant and affordable. Concrete canyons, such as those along New York’s Fifth Avenue, aren’t an urban problem—they are a perfectly reasonable way to fit a large number of people and businesses on a small amount of land. Only bad policy prevents a long row of 50-story buildings from lining Mumbai’s seafront, much as high-rises adorn Chicago’s lakefront. The magic of cities comes from their people, but those people must be well served by the bricks and mortar that surround them. Cities need roads and buildings that enable people to live well and to connect easily with one another. Tall towers, like Henry Ford II’s Renaissance Center in Detroit, make little sense in places with abundant space and slack demand. But in the most desirable cities, whether they’re on the Hudson River or the Arabian Sea, height is the best way to keep prices affordable and living standards high. THE SUCCESS OF our cities, the world’s economic engines, increasingly depends on abstruse decisions made by zoning boards and preservation committees. It certainly makes sense to control construction in dense urban spaces, but I would replace the maze of regulations now limiting new construction with three simple rules. Also see: The 30 Most Dynamic Cities in the World Grading each metropolis by the growth of its income and employment, a new study found the world's fastest recovering cities are overwhelmingly in three key areas: China and India, Southeast Asian islands, and Latin America The 20 Cities Leading the U.S. Recovery Areas that traded the boom-and-bust real estate business for Meds, Eds, Feds and Enlisteds only got spritzed by the recession while most cities felt the full force of the economic tsunami. First, cities should replace the lengthy and uncertain permitting processes now in place with a simple system of fees. If tall buildings create costs by blocking out light or views, then form a reasonable estimate of those costs and charge the builder appropriately. The money from those fees could then be given to the people who are suffering, such as the neighbors who lose light from a new construction project. I don’t mean to suggest that such a system would be easy to design. There is plenty of room for debate about the costs associated with buildings of different heights. People would certainly disagree about the size of the neighboring areas that should receive compensation. But reasonable rules could be developed that would then be universally applied; for instance, every new building in New York would pay some amount per square foot in compensation costs, in exchange for a speedy permit. Some share of the money could go to the city treasury, and the rest would go to people within a block of the new edifice. A simple tax system would be far more transparent and targeted than the current regulatory maze. Today, many builders negotiate our system by hiring expensive lawyers and lobbyists and buying political influence. It would be far better for them to just write a check to the rest of us. Allowing more building doesn’t have to be a windfall for developers; sensible, straightforward regulations can make new development good for the neighborhood and the city. Second, historic preservation should be limited and well defined. Landmarking a masterpiece like the Flatiron Building or the old Penn Station is sensible. Preserving a post-war glazed-brick building is absurd. But where do you draw the line between those two extremes? My own preference is that, in a city like New York, the Landmarks Preservation Commission should have a fixed number of buildings, perhaps 5,000, that it may protect. The commission can change its chosen architectural gems, but it needs to do so slowly. It shouldn’t be able to change its rules overnight to stop construction in some previously unprotected area. If the commission wants to preserve a whole district, then let it spread its 5,000-building mandate across the area. Perhaps 5,000 buildings are too few; but without some sort of limit, any regulatory agency will constantly try to increase its scope. The problem gets thornier in places like Paris, practically all of which is beloved worldwide. In such cases, the key is to find some sizable area, reasonably close to the city center, that can be used for ultra-dense development. Ideally, this space would be near enough to let its residents enjoy walking to the beautiful streets of the older city. Finally, individual neighborhoods should have more power to protect their special character. Some blocks might want to exclude bars. Others might want to encourage them. Rather than regulate neighborhoods entirely from the top down, let individual neighborhoods enforce their own, limited rules that are adopted only with the approval of a large share of residents. In this way, ordinary citizens, rather than the planners in City Hall, would get a say over what happens around them. Great cities are not static—they constantly change, and they take the world along with them. When New York and Chicago and Paris experienced great spurts of creativity and growth, they reshaped themselves to provide new structures that could house new talent and new ideas. Cities can’t force change with new buildings—as the Rust Belt’s experience clearly shows. But if change is already happening, new building can speed the process along. Yet many of the world’s old and new cities have increasingly arrayed rules that prevent construction that would accommodate higher densities. Sometimes these rules have a good justification, such as preserving truly important works of architecture. Sometimes, they are mindless NIMBYism or a misguided attempt at stopping urban growth. In all cases, restricting construction ties cities to their past and limits the possibilities for their future. If cities can’t build up, then they will build out. If building in a city is frozen, then growth will happen somewhere else. Land-use regulations may seem like urban arcana. But these rules matter because they shape our structures, and our structures shape our societies—often in unexpected ways. Consider that carbon emissions are significantly lower in big cities than in outlying suburbs, and that, as of 2007, life expectancy in New York City was 1.5 years higher than in the nation as a whole. As America struggles to regain its economic footing, we would do well to remember that dense cities are also far more productive than suburbs, and offer better-paying jobs. Globalization and new technologies seem to have only made urban proximity more valuable—young workers gain many of the skills they need in a competitive global marketplace by watching the people around them. Those tall buildings enable the human interactions that are at the heart of economic innovation, and of progress itself. This article available online at: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/03/how-skyscrapers-can-save-the-city/8387/ Copyright © 2011 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All Rights Reserved. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/03/how-skyscrapers-can-save-the-city/8387/