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Urban Poverty in Asia

October 28, 2014 Comments off

Urban Poverty in Asia
Source: Asian Development Bank

The phenomenon of urban poverty in Asia is pervasive, severe, and largely unacknowledged. In several Asian countries, the numbers of the urban poor have risen over the 1990–2008 period, lending strength to the proposition that as Asian economies become more urbanized, they may face increasing urban poverty with some urban scholars labeling it as “urbanization of poverty.”

Unlike rural poverty, urban poverty is complex and multidimensional—extending beyond the deficiency of income or consumption, where its many dimensions relate to the vulnerability of the poor on account of their inadequate access to land and housing, physical infrastructure and services, economic and livelihood sources, health and education facilities, social security networks, and voice and empowerment.

In most of developing Asia, urbanization has been accompanied by slums and shelter deprivation, informality, worsening of the living conditions, and increasing risks due to climate change and exclusionary urban forms. According to the UN-HABITAT, Asia has 60% of the world’s total slum population, and many more live in slum-like conditions in areas that are officially designated as nonslums. Working poverty and informality are high in Asian cities and towns. Recent years have witnessed, almost universally, increasing urban inequalities and stagnating consumption shares of lower-percentile households, with Hong Kong, China registering one of the highest Gini-coefficients observed in any other part of the developing and developed world.

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Tackling the world’s affordable housing challenge

October 27, 2014 Comments off

Tackling the world’s affordable housing challenge
Source: McKinsey & Company

Decent, affordable housing is fundamental to the health and well-being of people and to the smooth functioning of economies. Yet around the world, in developing and advanced economies alike, cities are struggling to meet that need. If current trends in urbanization and income growth persist, by 2025 the number of urban households that live in substandard housing—or are so financially stretched by housing costs that they forego other essentials, such as healthcare—could grow to 440 million, from 330 million. This could mean that the global affordable housing gap would affect one in three urban dwellers, about 1.6 billion people.

A new McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, A blueprint for addressing the global affordable housing challenge, defines the affordability gap as the difference between the cost of an acceptable standard housing unit (which varies by location) and what households can afford to pay using no more than 30 percent of income. The analysis draws on MGI’s Cityscope database of 2,400 metropolitan areas, as well as case studies from around the world. It finds that the affordable housing gap now stands at $650 billion a year and that the problem will only grow as urban populations expand: current trends suggest that there could be 106 million more low-income urban households by 2025, for example. To replace today’s inadequate housing and build the additional units needed by 2025 would require $9 trillion to $11 trillion in construction spending alone. With land, the total cost could be $16 trillion. Of this, we estimate that $1 trillion to $3 trillion may have to come from public funding.

However, four approaches used in concert could reduce the cost of affordable housing by 20 to 50 percent and substantially narrow the affordable housing gap by 2025. These largely market-oriented solutions—lowering the cost of land, construction, operations and maintenance, and financing—could make housing affordable for households earning 50 to 80 percent of median income.

Unleashing Metro Growth—What the U.K.’s City Growth Commission Can Teach the U.S.

October 27, 2014 Comments off

Unleashing Metro Growth—What the U.K.’s City Growth Commission Can Teach the U.S.
Source: Brookings Institution

As the United States suffers through the final weeks of a particularly bitter midterm election, something remarkable is happening in the United Kingdom. All three major parties in Britain have concluded that devolving power away from central government and toward metropolitan areas will improve economic growth and government performance. Tory, Lib-Dem, and Labour alike find themselves competing over who can articulate a more complete vision of devolution. It’s enough to make you believe in representative democracy again.

The Royal Society of the Arts’ City Growth Commission has released a well-timed report that explains the need for devolution in the U.K. and creates a blueprint for how to get it done. “The drumbeat of devolution has grown ever louder,” writes Jim O’Neill, chairman of the commission. “Over recent months, the importance of cities in driving growth and prosperity has been increasingly recognized, rising up the political agenda to the highest levels.”

These calls for devolution are long overdue in the U.K., which has one of the most centralized systems of public finance of any major OECD country. Cities lack nearly all of the powers that we take for granted in the United States—they cannot raise their own revenues, they cannot designate funding for specific projects, most don’t even have directly elected mayors. As it stands, taxes are paid overwhelmingly to central government—about 95 percent of all revenue in Britain, compared to about 65 percent in the United States, according to the OECD—and Whitehall then redistributes compartmentalized funding to all of Britain’s cities. This system prevents timely, tailored responses to pressing local issues and eliminates any incentive for innovative local policymaking.

That’s where the City Growth Commission comes in. It details two sets of recommendations: one proposing a specific process of devolution and outlining the specific powers to be devolved; the other detailing how central government can best set the stage for metropolitan success.

Tons of Toilets: Which City Sits Atop the Throne?

October 22, 2014 Comments off

Tons of Toilets: Which City Sits Atop the Throne?
Source: Redfin

Using census and housing data, we calculated which cities had the most residential toilets per person and we had a clear winner: Boulder, Colorado. Boulder is the only city with more residential toilets than actual people. For every 100 Boulderites, there are an estimated 102 residential toilets. That’s 305,200 total toilets, which use 5,341,000 gallons of water per day (for more on water use, see our chart and infographic below). In other words, if you’re home shopping in Boulder and can’t find a three-bedroom home with three bathrooms, you’re doing something wrong.

Canada’s Top Entrepreneurial Cities, 2014

October 21, 2014 Comments off

Canada’s Top Entrepreneurial Cities, 2014
Source: Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Historically, and for a variety of reasons, CFIB has found entrepreneurial characteristics to be strongest in Canada’s prairie cities and the urban areas that ring large urban cores. What they have in common is ‘newness’—the prairie economies have only been developed in the past 150 years or so. Only a few generations separate today’s urban prairie residents from their entrepreneurial forbearers. Similarly, suburban entrepreneurs sought the benefits of urban markets already in place, but found outlying areas more conducive to the structure and cost of doing business.

One often sees higher entrepreneurial activity in resource regions as well–although economies there can suffer from wider boom and bust business cycles. Favourable resource development conditions will attract businesses seeking to service increased activity—and, when conditions deteriorate, a strong base of experienced business owners often becomes the primary pillar of community support.

Among major centres, Canada’s overall top-ranked entrepreneurial communities in 2014 fit all these main characteristics. The combined communities of Airdrie, Rocky View, Cochrane and Chestermere that ring around Calgary’s periphery takes the top score of 70.8 out of a possible 100. This area also received the top score in 2012 and 2013. Periphery communities around Edmonton (which include Strathcona County, St. Albert, Parkland, Spruce Grove, Leduc and other smaller municipalities) climbs to second spot. Saskatoon slipped back a little, but still held its place above Saskatchewan’s other major city Regina. Kelowna is not far behind in fifth spot.

Among mid-sized urban areas, the prairie region is also still well represented, including Lloydminster, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie and Red Deer. Here, the obvious common element is the resource sector, which has offered many new entrepreneurial and development opportunities. Medicine Hat is another Alberta community in the top 10, as are Camrose and Brooks, which are new to the study this year. Another newcomer, Collingwood, is Ontario’s representative in the group, while Thetford Mines and Saint-Georges takes Quebec’s top spots.

Airbnb in the City

October 17, 2014 Comments off

Airbnb in the City (PDF)
Source: New York State Office of the Attorney General

The rapid rise of short-term rental platforms like Airbnb have dramatically expanded the use of traditional apartments as transient hotel rooms — sparking a public debate in New York and in communities worldwide about the real-world consequences of this online marketplace.

Where supporters of Airbnb and other rental sites see a catalyst for entrepreneurship, critics see a threat to the safety, affordability, and residential character of local communities . Are the new platforms fueling a black market for unsafe hotels? By bidding up the price of apartments in popular areas, do short-term rentals mak e metropolitan areas like New York City less affordable? Is the influx of out-of-town visitors upsetting the quiet of longstanding residential neighborhoods?

Until now, t he discourse has centered more on opinions and anecdotes than facts . This report seeks to bridge the gulf between rhetoric and reality. It offers the first exploration of the data on how users in New York City, one of Airbnb’s most important markets, utilize the most successful online lodging rental platform . More broadly, the report endeavors to use quantitative data to inform an ongoing debate about how we embrace emerging, disruptive technologies, while protecting the safety and well-being of our citizens .

By a nalyzing Airbnb bookings for “private” stays, this report presents a snapshot of short-term rentals in New York City from January 1, 2010 through June 2, 2014 (the “Review Period” .

New report: US metros set to out-perform, led by Portland & San Jose

October 14, 2014 Comments off

New report: US metros set to out-perform, led by Portland & San Jose
Source: Oxford Economics

All of the 7 leading metros in the Pacific region look set to outperform the national economy, reflecting in part the importance of high-technology manufacturing and the information sector to many of them, plus softer factors such as quality of life

The four weakest of our top 30 metros are, perhaps predictably, to be found in the Midwest, where the weight of legacy industries means that Cleveland and Detroit manage to grow by just 1.8% and 1.7% annually in the 2014-18 period. It’s poor comfort that in Europe, those would be average performances for large metros.

There’s also the ever-present matter of risk, with international dangers making it possible that economic growth will be more troubled than we assume. However, under most scenarios it still seems right to expect leading metros to comfortably out-perform the national average growth rate, almost whatever that might be.

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