The HomeWork – December 12, 2019

Welcome to the December 12, 2019 edition of The HomeWork, the official newsletter of California YIMBY. In each edition, we aim to support grassroots YIMBYs with the most up-to-date thinking on how to end the housing shortage. The Homework offers top news clips, cutting-edge research by leading academics in housing and related studies, and the latest writings from the California YIMBY team on our blog.

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Good with coffee and avocado toast:

Screenshot of article headline

California YIMBY brings you summaries of cutting-edge research from the nation’s top housing experts. In this edition:

The United Nations Says: Sprawl is Killing the Planet —

Fighting climate change requires legalizing apartment homes. But don’t just take it from us—the United Nations is sounding the alarm.
With little fanfare, the UN Environment Programme’s 2019 Emissions Gap Report contains some bombshell implications for the future of urban planning. In order to prevent dangerous climate change and keep temperature increases below 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, in line with the Paris Agreement emissions targets, we are going to need more homes near jobs, services and transit. The key takeaways:
  • Construction materials, not just buildings themselves, are becoming more energy efficient.
  • Living in denser environments can yield major emissions reductions.
  • Regressive subsidies for homeownership should be reversed to encourage more compact, sustainable dwellings.

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Housing is Opportunity (Part 1):
As opportunity grows in metropolitan areas across the United States, tight housing supply has concentrated economic opportunity in more highly desirable neighborhoods. At first glance, that sounds redundant, doesn’t it? Not really—when UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation took a closer look at the data, they found something startling: 40 percent of the nation’s high-opportunity neighborhoods remain dominated by single-family housing. And it’s not just because of sprawl in the sunbelt. Even booming job centers like the Seattle-Tacoma metro region saw a slight increase in predominantly single-family neighborhoods over the past few decades.
This is one of two studies in a series on housing supply and opportunity, “How Housing Supply Shapes Access to Opportunity for Renters,” by Elizabeth Kneeborne and Mark Trainer. The other half of this series, which we’ll cover next, addresses homeownership. The big takeaways for renter:
  • Single-family neighborhoods in the nation’s largest metro areas have increased by almost 40 percent since 1990, “largely at the expense of neighborhoods that offer a more diverse mix of housing types.”
  • As opportunity grows in cities, some neighborhoods have become more restrictive in their housing supply. 25 percent of neighborhoods that had more mixed housing stock in 1990 became predominantly single-family by 2016.
  • Opportunity and density have effectively been bifurcated. New construction of affordable housing has been largely concentrated in denser neighborhoods, but when built in Single-Family tracts, it has improved neighborhood conditions for subsidized residents.

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Meet Eric, a Super Commuter: “On most days, I wake up at 4:30 a.m., commute from Sacramento to the South Bay Area, and return home at around 9 or 10 pm. If there’s an accident on the way to work, I might not make it in on time.”

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We’re obsessed with solving the housing crisis, and our nightstands are stacked with writings on the topic. Here’s what we’re reading this week:

American Neighborhood Change in the 21st Century: Gentrification and Decline —American Neighborhood Change in the 21st Century is a detailed analysis of neighborhood economic expansion and decline across the United States, from the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota. Its findings show that “the most common form of American neighborhood change, by far, is poverty concentration. About 36.5 million residents live in a tract that has undergone low-income concentration since 2000. In addition, at the metropolitan level, low-income residents are invariably exposed to neighborhood decline more than gentrification. As of 2016, there was no metropolitan region in the nation where a low-income person was more likely to live in an economically expanding neighborhood than an economically declining neighborhood.”

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