Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Policy X

As a kind of thought experiment along the lines of my last post, imagine that there is a new policy ("Policy X") embraced by urbanists that has been rigorously proven to lower rents by 10-20% wherever it is implemented. Affluent neighborhoods are strongly resisting the implementation of Policy X and are lobbying for laws allowing them to designate their neighborhoods as exempt from it. Urbanists charge that this is motivated by fear of the poor people who could afford to move in if rents fell by 10-20%.

I think a lot of people would instinctively side with the urbanists without knowing what Policy X is. But what if Policy X is something like, "Cut down all the street trees"? That would certainly make it less pleasant to live in a given neighborhood (except for people with allergies I guess), and other things being equal it should drive down demand and therefore rents. (The magnitude cited above may be unrealistic, though.)

But this is not a good way to drive down rents! You're not really increasing affordability, in the sense of making it easier for people to live in the neighborhoods they want. You're degrading the product. Or to be more precise, you are making neighborhoods with tree-lined streets less affordable while making treeless neighborhoods more affordable. Depending on how people feel about trees, this might be good or bad, but it's hard to argue it's something that should be done over the objections of the residents of any given neighborhood.


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