California State Senator wants to remake cities with midrises near public transit, but he is facing a wave of nimbyism

Scott Wiener is California State Senator for San Francisco, whose SB827, co-sponsored by State Senator Nancy Skinner, will move some zoning responsibility from cities to the state, forcing cities to allow the construction of higher-density housing (duplexes, eight-plexes and midrise, six-story apartment buildings) near public transit stops. Read the rest

LA's soaring homelessness is distorting the national statistics

LA's homeless population is up 75% over the past six years; remove LA from the national statistics and the rate of American homelessness is actually in decline. Read the rest

Australia put an algorithm in charge of its benefits fraud detection and plunged the nation into chaos

In a textbook example of the use of big data to create a digital poorhouse, as described in Virginia Eubanks's excellent new book Automating Inequality, the Australian government created an algorithmic, semi-privatised system to mine the financial records of people receiving means-tested benefits and accuse them of fraud on the basis of its findings, bringing in private contractors to build and maintain the system and collect the penalties it ascribed, paying them a commission on the basis of how much money they extracted from poor Australians. Read the rest

Berlin regulates Airbnb and safely deflates its housing bubble while returning 8,000 rentals to the market

Berlin is one of many European cities that have faced new housing crises -- or worsening existing ones -- attributed to Airbnb, where homes were converted to unlicensed, super-profitable hotel rooms, driving up housing prices, shrinking rental inventory, and making the city unaffordable for the people who lived and worked there. Read the rest

To keep their bond-ratings, hedge-funds have to publicly demonstrate that they are the most ruthless of landlords

After the subprime crisis, vulture funds swept into the hardest-hit areas and bought thousands of foreclosed-upon homes at firesale prices and floated bonds based on the expected returns from the rents they'd be able to charge in an America with the lowest levels of home-ownership in modern history. Read the rest

Leaseholders in building sheathed in flammable Grenfell cladding sent a £2m bill for repairs

In the UK, many people who live in multiunit buildings -- the sort of thing that would be a condo or co-op in the US -- live under the leaseholder/freeholder system, a relic of feudalism that has been updated for the age of inequality thanks to hedge funds and other socially useless financial engineers. Read the rest

California's record poverty and real-estate bubble are creating a "wheel-estate" boom of people with good jobs living in their cars

Extreme housing prices in California -- driven by a combination of speculation, favorable legal/tax positions for landlords, foreclosures after the 2008 crisis, and an unwillingness to build public housing -- has created vast homeless encampments, but there's a less visible side to the crisis: working people in "good jobs" who have to live in their cars. Read the rest

More than 1 in 200 Britons are homeless

The countable homeless population of the UK -- the people living on the streets and in shelters, not including people sofa-surfing -- is 307,000, about 1 in 200. In some places, it's as high as one in 27. Read the rest

San Francisco SPCA uses a robot to chase away homeless people, because cruelty to humans is just fine

The San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals bought a "security robot" to harass homeless people at its Mission District offices, a move that the city has banned and threatened $1,000/day fines for. Read the rest

How an influential economics paper used imaginary environmental overregulation to spur low-density luxury housing

Why Do Cities Matter? Local Growth and Aggregate Growth is a 2015 paper written by University of Chicago and UC Berkeley economists Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti, which purports to show that the reasons cities are so expensive is that bourgeois NIMBYism drives affluent people to raise spurious environmental challenges to new developments, stalling growth. Read the rest

Zoning and the housing crisis: at Manhattan densities, San Francisco could house 100 million people

One measure of dysfunction in a housing market is the spread between the cash value of a home and the construction cost of a replacement home on the same site -- in other words, the cost of the dirt the home is sitting on. Read the rest

China's 1 percenters are now worth as much as the GDP of the United Kingdom

China's latest rich-list of 2,030 people controlling fortunes of $300M or more now totals $2.6 trillion, as much as the UK GDP. Read the rest

China's massive property bubble creates mad scramble to take on decades of debt

Massive infusions of cash by way of the central bank, combined with runaway mass panic-buying has stampeded Chinese people into buying into the property markets in boomtowns like Shenzhen, despite the insane prices that almost guarantee that they will default on their mortgages -- because they fear that rising property prices will shut them out forever if they don't buy now, and the new rentiers who've speculated on all that property are cranking up rents so fast that renting is worse than buying. Read the rest

On the road with America's post-homed nomads

Housing costs Americans more than at any time in history, and it's only getting worse as foreclosures open the door to market-cornering by inconceivably vast hedge funds who buy all those "distressed properties" and turn then into bond-coupon factories where the rent ratchets higher and higher, well ahead of inflation, wages, or affordability. Read the rest

Vancouver housing co-op rescinds family's apartment because unborn child is a girl

Kristjan Gottfried and Michelle Hurtig were first the waiting list for Vancouver's Marina Housing Co-operative, a nonprofit when the volunteer co-chair of the admissions board told them that their new home couldn't be confirmed until they found out the sex of their unborn baby. When they found out they were having a girl, they were refused a place to live. Read the rest

In California's foreclosure valley, rents soar thanks to hedge fund landlords

California's Inland Empire was hit hard by the 2008 crisis, with disproportionate foreclosures on poor and working-class families, leaving neighborhoods blighted by empty, vandalized homes. Read the rest

Downtown LA: high vacancy rates and catastrophic homelessness

Downtown LA's vacancy rate is 12%, which is the highest it's been since 2000 and triple the overall rate for LA -- and downtown LA is also the site of LA's skid row, whose population surged by 20% last year, thanks to a dramatic increase in homelessness among veterans and under-24s. Read the rest

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