A sting ray fish flying in front of the San Diego skyline on the bay.

Future Cities – Brief Summary of a Wall Street Journal Section on Future Cities

The Wall Street Journal had an excellent special section on future cities. A couple of things standout; 1) An article called “Suburbs Hope to Be the New Cities” talks about how suburban New Rochelle, NY is trying to appeal to Millennials by building density through and urban core. 2) San Jose wasn’t listed in the WSJ article according to the Wall Street Journal’s article “5 Innovative Cities to Watch” . The cities to watch, are Singapore, Vancouver, Medellin, Columbia, Detroit and Houston.

Regarding Houston, the WSJ gave kudos to for increasing housing stock without increasing housing inflation. Roughly 60% of homes in the Houston area are considered affordable by median income family, compared to 15% in the LA area. They tout a light regulatory touch, particularly lack of traditional zoning. This approach gives the developer and design community flexibility.

Along these lines, another article suggests “Five Ways to Make Housing Affordable“, which include:

  • Don’t over rely on direct intervention (voucher and rent control), as these tools have limits. They don’t provide a huge bang for the buck.
  • Supply is crucial, especially the right kind of housing; “demand is growing for units in more urban, walkable neighborhoods that are close to jobs and amenities.”
  • Don’t forget the middle housing – townhomes, duplexs and courtyard apartments – between single family homes and high rises
  • Reform zoning – allowing developers to build faster than today’s process.
  • Innovate in the technology of building (e.g. modular)
  • Equalize among schools, so all areas become desirable from a school standpoint.

Water, always a challenge in California, is being addressed by San Diego, which used to import 95% of its water, has reduced it to 57% and is looking at importing only 18% within two decades; this is due to things like recycling and desalination.

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