Monthly Archives: July 2010

Evangelicals: Causing and Preventing the Housing Bubble?

Excerpts…

The International Monetary Fund has published some of the most peculiar econometric research in recent history in Irrational Exuberance in the US Housing Market: Were Evangelicals Left Behind? In it, Christopher Crowe associates the financial behavior of Evangelical Protestant Christians with more stable US markets during the housing bubble. It is well known that the housing bubble was concentrated in some metropolitan areas and largely missed others

Evangelicals like nice houses. They like nice cars. They like their children to be well clothed and to go to good schools. They do not refuse raises offered by their bosses because they expect shortly to be caught up into heaven like the prophet Elijah. True, some "end times" Christians have sold their property and trekked to mountaintops or otherwise awaited dates wrongly prophesied by their leaders. It happened in 1844 and in 1914, but these were not Evangelicals.

While Crowe’s research suggests an Evangelical stabilizing effect on housing markets, an opposite, but no less improbable thesis was advanced in an Atlantic Monthly article entitled "Did Christianity Cause the Housing Crash?" This article suggests that the "prosperity" gospel preached in some Evangelical churches led parishioners to take on obligations they could not afford, leading to the bursting of the bubble, though it is mercifully devoid of spurious regressions.

It would not be surprising if a future article in The Atlantic pontificated about abandoned suburban megachurches.

More at… http://www.newgeography.com/content/001704-evangelicals-preventing-and-causing-housing-bubble

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Hello Smart Growth, Goodbye Affordable Housing: Washington Times

By Ronald D. Utt & Wendell Cox


Despite the lack of evidence that more intensive land-use regulations can reduce GHG, enthusiasm for population-densification measures runs high among White House officials and congressional leaders. But in clinging to the slim hope that their "smart growth" schemes will somehow work, they ignore the lessons of the housing-market collapse and risk making it worse.

Demographia, for one, has published several studies indicating that smart growth and New Urbanist housing policies would disrupt the already wobbly housing market, make housing less affordable, reduce housing quality and substantially limit consumer choice.

For more than a decade, numerous independent sources have studied the influence of land-use regulations on housing affordability. One of the better summaries of these findings was written in 2005 by Paul Krugman — Nobel laureate in economics and columnist for the New York Times — just as the housing price bubble was about to burst:

More at.. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jul/28/cox-hello-smart-growth-goodbye-affordable-housing/

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Transit in Los Angeles: Celebrating the Wrong Thing

There is a lesson from Los Angeles experience both for other areas and other government functions. The test of government performance is outputs, not inputs. Thus, it is appropriate to celebrate large transit market share increases or significant improvements in student achievement, not how many miles of rail are built or how much money is spent on education.

More at http://www.newgeography.com/content/001699-transit-los-angeles-celebrating-wrong-thing

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The Fifth Estate Clarifies Professor Newman Data

Late on July 26 (Washington time), The Fifth Estate corrected the attribution by Professor Peter Newman of Curtain University to the effect that driving was down 43% and transit up 65% in the United States. This issue had been the subject of my column on the same morning. It was a simple decimal error (in the reporting) and has now been corrected on the site. Driving is now reported as being down 4.3% and transit up 6.5%. Professor Newman provided slides with the data to Ms. Tina Perinotti, who forwarded them to me.

While the new figures are less inconsistent with the official figures than the former, there are still material inconsistencies.

More at… http://www.newgeography.com/content/001698-the-fifth-estate-clarifies-us-driving-and-transit-figures

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Driving and Transit in America: Misinformation from Down Under

I nearly fell off my bicycle when I read that driving had declined 43% in the United States and transit use had increased 65%. Australia’s The Fifth Estate attributes these figures to Professor Peter Newman of Sydney’s Curtin University at an event at the Hassell architectural and urban planning firm offices in Sydney. In speaking about a declining driving trend in Australia,The Fifth Estate reports Professor Newman as saying that:

"… new research from the United States shows this is not a localised trend – car use in the US has plunged 43 percent and there has been a 65 percent leap in public transport use."

As anyone remotely familiar with US transport trends knows, the statement is erroneous. The driving claim is more than 20 times (2,000%) the reality, while transit has seen no ridership increase remotely approaching 65% since World War II, when gasoline (petrol) and tires were rationed.

Professor Newman is one of the world’s leading advocates of compact city policies (urban consolidation or smart growth policies), and was co-author of Cities and Automobile Dependence(with Professor Jeffrey R. Kenworthy). This 1990 volume broke new ground in reporting international transport data (one can take issue with commentary in the book, but the data is solid as have been subsequent revisions under Professor Kenworthy’s leadership). Professor Newman has also served as Sustainability Commissioner for the state of New South Wales (Sydney is the capital) and serves on the federal government’s Infrastructure Advisory Council.

In view of Professor Newman’s prominence, Australian colleagues asked me for clarification on the matter. I contacted Tina Perinotti, author of the story (by whom I had been interviewed while on a national speaking tour of Australia in 2006). She indicated concern said she would investigate it and make any necessary correction. The last I heard, she had been referred to a Brookings Institution publication. I responded that nothing would be found at Brookings to support the absurd notion that driving is down 43% and transit is up 65% (since we all rely on the same authoritative data sources). Approaching one month after publication (July 24), the error has neither been retracted nor clarified.

The actual data shows the following:

More at… http://www.newgeography.com/content/001694-driving-and-transit-america-myths-down-under (including source citations)

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How Much of the World is Covered by Cities?

For years, planners and others have raised concerns about the amount of land that urbanization occupies, especially in the United States and other developed nations. My attention was recently drawn to an estimate that 2.7% of the world’s land (excluding Antarctica) is occupied by urban development. This estimate, which is perhaps the first of its kind in the world, is the product of the Columbia University Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center Gridded Population of the World and the Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project (GRUMP) and would amount to 3.5 million square kilometers.

While the scholars of Columbia are to be complimented for their ground breaking work, their estimate seems very high, especially in light of the fact that in the United States, with the world’s lowest density urban areas, only 2.6% of land is urbanized. Further, the data developed for ourDemographia World Urban Areas and Population Projections would seem to suggest a significant overstatement of urbanization’s extent. Demographia World Urban Areas and Population Projections data are generally from national census authorities and examination of satellite photography.

More At http://www.newgeography.com/content/001689-how-much-world-covered-cities

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US Leads World in GHG Emissions Reductions

Per a report by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency….

More at http://www.newgeography.com/content/001682-us-leads-world-greenhouse-gas-reduction

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