Tag Archives: Urban Policy

The Housing Dilemma, and Trilemma

My own observation is that most of the time, housing/affordability is a quagmire of an issue, in large part because it combines personal impact with enduringly popular misconceptions.

I’m certainly not a policy expert here. Even without taking leave of reality it’s possible to venture very very far into the weeds on this issue. But for what it’s worth, I think the reality of housing policy is ultimately pretty basic.

If you want to counter rising local housing costs, you need more housing, in significant amounts. That’s pretty much it.

I think the housing conversation in most places tends to go everywhere but this basic principle because people don’t want to accept the basic trade-offs in housing policy. I would describe these as a dilemma, and a trilemma.

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“Cleveland’s 2030 movement”

I have lived in northeast Ohio long enough to get the sense that outbreaks of coordinated handwringing by the region’s elites are just a periodic ritual. I wrote about a previous handwringing episode three years ago, and in a sense there is little to add…

…except that somehow, the Plain Dealer editorial board’s contribution to this show actually seems to get substantially worse.

Yesterday’s editorial “Let’s launch inclusively, collectively, our 2030 movement for Cleveland’s future” begs the question: what city are these people living in?

Very possibly nothing has ever better demonstrated this editorial board’s complete detachment from reality, than their continued insistence that hosting the 2016 Republican National Convention was “a success.”

The blinkered perception that somehow “a big convention is a big convention,” and the purpose and consequences are simply abstract concepts of no importance, was appalling from the outset. Cleveland elites might as well have been holding their own Know-Nothing convention, so doggedly have they stuck to the premise that RNC2016 was some kind of apolitical Cleveland Expo, rather than a working assembly of people with a specific agenda directly harmful to the values and communities which Cleveland elites purport to cherish.

But set that aside, and even then, RNC2016 was still no more than another boondoggle exercise of local elites’ vanity.

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Cleveland: population reduced, leadership absent

Cleveland, and Cuyahoga County, continue to hemorrhage population. Nothing new here, right?

But wait, what about the Cleveland Comeback™? As this editorial board “roundtable” from The Plain Dealer* sets out, “The Cavs are in the playoffs, Cleveland is on travel writers’ must-visit lists for 2015 [no idea] and the Republican National Convention is about to bust down the doors in 2016 [whatever that means].” The absurd Opportunity Corridor is being built, too. The dreams of this very editorial board are coming true!

But the population is still shrinking?

Yeah. Still. Which juxtaposition, never quite explicitly confronted but at least presented openly, is the closest that the board comes to saying anything useful on this topic.

Reading between the lines, this is basically a confession of intellectual bankruptcy by Cleveland’s leadership. They hem and haw, but the reality is, the agenda that they advocate has largely been driving planning in Cleveland and it doesn’t seem to be producing a meaningful turnaround. Yes, this is nice and that’s big and shiny, but the reality is that downtown and University Circle are small islands in a sea of rusty decline. In the decade I’ve spent living in this region, this editorial board and most other local “leaders” have had no real ideas besides reinforcing those successes. Clearly, though, something more is needed. Just as clearly, it won’t come from the top down.

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