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Old 08-07-2019, 10:07 AM
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We should have housing policies like Tokyo


https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-ho...at-11554210002

Tokyo is one of the greatest and most advanced cities in the world. The average monthly rent for a 2 BR apartment in Tokyo is under $1000. Compare that to NYC, SF, DC, or the big European metro areas.

They functionally don't allow NIMBY-ism, and their housing market is relatively unregulated in terms of zoning.

We (big American cities and metro areas) should be more like Tokyo in housing policy. Lower housing prices due to market action (rather than rent controls) would greatly benefit the economy.
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Old 08-07-2019, 10:20 AM
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The article is paywalled, can you summarize the policies that you think we should implement? It seems to me that the market would be perfectly content building 10 luxury apartments to sell for $2.5m a pop versus building 83 much smaller units at $300k a pop. Same amount of money for the developer, fewer headaches.

I think two things are generally true -- residents have worked with local governments to prevent large quantities of housing being built in expensive areas, and building large quantities of housing is the best idea for making expensive cities affordable. I'm just not sure that getting those local governments out of the way would fix it; rather, I think those local governments need to force residents to accept new housing developments that they otherwise wouldn't want, and I'm not sure how that works in a democracy. I'm curious how the article suggest we overcome that.
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Old 08-08-2019, 05:14 AM
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I'm just not sure that getting those local governments out of the way would fix it; rather, I think those local governments need to force residents to accept new housing developments that they otherwise wouldn't want, and I'm not sure how that works in a democracy. I'm curious how the article suggest we overcome that.
Realistically, it will be very hard to overcome in the political culture and system of the USA. There are too many "veto points" that block new things from being done, and too much reliance on "local control" of important regional/state powers. Even though the states are sovereign over local government, and can override it as they see fit, most of them are constrained by self-imposed (and very difficult to change) limits on this authority.

This is a pretty unlikely solution, really, but the only chance I see for reform is to eventually convince federal judges that the use of zoning powers to block most new housing is a de facto control on internal migration, which is unconstitutional.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 08-08-2019 at 05:19 AM.
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Old 08-07-2019, 10:23 AM
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How many times do we have to explain this to your types : absent strong moral imperatives and social consequences for breaking them, the Invisible Hand does. Not. Work. Even its inventor acknowledged this - he was a moral philosopher before turning social traitoreconomist.

Last edited by Kobal2; 08-07-2019 at 10:24 AM.
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Old 08-07-2019, 10:25 AM
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How many times do we have to explain this to your types : absent strong moral imperatives and social consequences for breaking them, the Invisible Hand does. Not. Work. Even its inventor acknowledged this - he was a moral philosopher before turning social traitoreconomist.
Do you think rent control "works?"
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Old 08-07-2019, 10:46 AM
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Do you think rent control "works?"
I think it controls rent.
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Old 08-07-2019, 12:55 PM
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I think it controls rent.
At the expense of supply.

Is it a reasonable assumption on my part that your extremely narrow answer is intended to convey that in a city with high rents, you would prefer to cap the increases in rents, knowing that shortages of rental units is an easily foreseeable consequence; rather than increase supply, knowing that lower costs would logically follow?
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Old 08-07-2019, 08:44 PM
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The inventor did not acknowledge that and history pretty clearly shows that the invisible hand works - or, at least, I doubt that you are a subsistence farmer in serfdom to a wealthy landowner.
I'm not, but then again we all cut the heads off our wealthiest landowners some while back. Nothing invisible about it, that would have defeated the purpose.

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I don't even understand what this means. What are you saying doesn't work? How does it not work? Can you even say what the "invisible hand" is supposed to do?
Capitalist apologists and assorted libertarians opine that an absolutely unregulated free market innately and implicitly creates the best results for everyone involved because... something something. In the real world, self-defeating greed and dishonesty both exist, as do profiteering and price-fixing.
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Old 08-07-2019, 08:46 PM
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At the expense of supply.

Is it a reasonable assumption on my part that your extremely narrow answer is intended to convey that in a city with high rents, you would prefer to cap the increases in rents, knowing that shortages of rental units is an easily foreseeable consequence; rather than increase supply, knowing that lower costs would logically follow?
Porque no los dos ?
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Old 08-20-2019, 01:31 AM
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At the expense of supply.

Is it a reasonable assumption on my part that your extremely narrow answer is intended to convey that in a city with high rents, you would prefer to cap the increases in rents, knowing that shortages of rental units is an easily foreseeable consequence; rather than increase supply, knowing that lower costs would logically follow?
How do you increase supply when the only land left unbuilt is streets and parks, and it's all already high rises (by US standards)? The total supply of living units isn't very manageable; you need to work on own/rent balance. Doing this has two facets: a cultural one which is long-term, and a price-based one which is short-term. One of the biggest, if not the biggest, problems with the AirBnB market is that the short-term rentals are prohibitive for anybody who doesn't have Daddy Corporate to pay for him and the long-term rentals are being replaced by short-term rentals, so the growth in the total rental market is actually lowering the amount of units available for "real renters".
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Old 08-10-2019, 01:38 PM
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Do you think rent control "works?"
Mild rent control, like the sort they have in San Jose, certainly does. SJ limits rent increases to 8% a year, thus protecting the renter (and the landlord) from rapid swings in the marketplace and economy.
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Old 08-10-2019, 03:46 PM
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Mild rent control, like the sort they have in San Jose, certainly does. SJ limits rent increases to 8% a year, thus protecting the renter (and the landlord) from rapid swings in the marketplace and economy.
San Jose has the lowest rental vacancy rate in the nation. That doesnít speak well for being a well-functioning housing market.
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Old 08-10-2019, 08:58 PM
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San Jose has the lowest rental vacancy rate in the nation. That doesnít speak well for being a well-functioning housing market.
Huh ? How does that follow ? Why would a low vacancy rate be a bad thing ? More people get housed, more people get paid than anywhere else, isn't this the ideal ?

(real question - I'm not trying to be a bitch or nothing)
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:11 PM
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How many times do we have to explain this to your types : absent strong moral imperatives and social consequences for breaking them, the Invisible Hand does. Not. Work. Even its inventor acknowledged this - he was a moral philosopher before turning social traitoreconomist.
I don't even understand what this means. What are you saying doesn't work? How does it not work? Can you even say what the "invisible hand" is supposed to do?
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:13 PM
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As much as I've used and liked AirBnB in the past, I'd also argue that they've become a bit of an urban scourge as well. People buy up properties and use them as short-term rentals for investment purposes, and it just ruins affordability for some low-wage workers.
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Old 08-08-2019, 02:38 AM
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I don't even understand what this means. What are you saying doesn't work? How does it not work? Can you even say what the "invisible hand" is supposed to do?
The Invisible Hand is supposed to touch you in your most private places. And you can't see it coming. Because it's Invisible.

But that's OK because the Invisible Hand sees all, the Invisible Hand knows all. All praise Invisible Hand!
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:13 PM
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How many times do we have to explain this to your types : absent strong moral imperatives and social consequences for breaking them, the Invisible Hand does. Not. Work. Even its inventor acknowledged this - he was a moral philosopher before turning social traitoreconomist.
The inventor did not acknowledge that and history pretty clearly shows that the invisible hand works - or, at least, I doubt that you are a subsistence farmer in serfdom to a wealthy landowner. How many such people do you know? What about if you went back 100 years? 200 years? 500 years?

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Old 08-09-2019, 11:31 AM
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How many times do we have to explain this to your types : absent strong moral imperatives and social consequences for breaking them, the Invisible Hand does. Not. Work.
I'd say that with respect to American housing issues, the Invisible Hand's obstacles are a host of regulatory requirements: zoning, parking minimums, setback requirements, height limitations, lot size requirements, you name it.

Take the Vienna, VA Metro station. You could have a town built around this Metro stop, there's surely thousands more people who'd like to live on that side of the DC area and be within walking distance of the Metro than can actually do so. It's not the invisible hand that preserves all that single-family housing there, or prioritizes parking spaces within walking distance of the Metro over apartments within walking distance of the Metro. It's zoning in the former case, and probably a mix of politics and zoning in the latter case.

If I were the Housing God, I'd get rid of all the zoning, parking, setback requirements within a quarter-mile of any permanently constructed mass transit stop. Just build, baby!
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Old 08-09-2019, 12:29 PM
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If I were the Housing God, I'd get rid of all the zoning, parking, setback requirements within a quarter-mile of any permanently constructed mass transit stop. Just build, baby!
Well, concrete jungles have their own downside(s), and what's possible in Japan due to their strong cultural community values of is not necessarily workable elsewhere. So I wouldn't call for an absolutely unrestricted license to build. Unless you really like Mumbai for some reason.
But I agree there's a more sensible middle to be reached than preserving residential suburbia. I'm not sure I could articulate what the "correct" population density would be where the comfort of each is high enough, the alienation of the individual is kept to a minimum, infrastructure requirements/solutions are neither problematic nor overtaxed and housing supply is plentiful enough that rents don't make your eyes explode. What we could call an "harmonious and balanced order of things", at the risk of sounding a bit Mysteriously Auriental about it .
However, since such an ideal population density level must perforce exist, and is presumably actively sought out by wonks and be-spectacled eggheads of various stripes, you bet it should be strongly encouraged by laws and regs, and abuses in either direction (too much nimby vs too much skyscraping) prevented. This over the will of both suburbanites clutching their pearls and developpers dreaming of having to find a new bank because they've filled up the first one.
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Old 08-12-2019, 08:36 PM
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Well, concrete jungles have their own downside(s), and what's possible in Japan due to their strong cultural community values of is not necessarily workable elsewhere. So I wouldn't call for an absolutely unrestricted license to build. Unless you really like Mumbai for some reason.
But I agree there's a more sensible middle to be reached than preserving residential suburbia.
I have nothing against residential suburbia! I grew up in residential suburbia, and I've lived in residential suburbia for most of my adult life, including right now.

But it's a tremendous waste of scarce infrastructure to surround a subway stop with single-family tract housing. The best way to fully utilize it is to enable as many people to live or work within walking distance of that stop as want to live or work there. You want several thousand, not several dozen, people walking to that station every day.

And since I said "within a quarter-mile" that's not exactly going to create Mumbai. Well, maybe a number of very, very small Mumbais.

Though again, if I were the housing god, I'd have some rule for extending the radius once the quarter-mile was built to sufficient density that there were no longer any obvious tear-down-and-build-higher candidates within the circle.
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Old 08-07-2019, 10:37 AM
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Correlation not causation


I haven't read the article because it is behind a paywall, so I am going off your post alone. I don't know whether we can attribute Japan's low housing costs to their housing policy. Japan has a major population problem and CNN recently ran an article saying the country had to start giving away houses for free (Jozuka, 2019). In addition to the shrinking population it seems that many people are moving to the cities, which means demand for city housing is unhealthily high. Combine this with the fact that they are offering free housing in rural areas, I would say it is very possible that urban housing is low due to abnormal and undesirable conditions, not necessarily the "housing policy". I quote,
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jozuka for CNN
It's predicted that by 2040, nearly 900 towns and villages across Japan will face a risk of extinction, according to a 2014 report entitled 'Local Extinctions' published by Hiroya Masuda.
The implication is that this may be a case of correlation, not causation. Therefore your proposal rests on shaky grounds.

~Max

Jozuka, E. (January 14, 2019). Japan has so many vacant homes it's giving them away. CNN. Retrieved August 8, 2019 from https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/05/asia/...mes/index.html

Last edited by Max S.; 08-07-2019 at 10:40 AM. Reason: undesirable conditions
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:02 PM
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Japan has a major population problem ...
Japan as a whole has a population problem (i.e. it's declining). But at the same time, people are continuing to flow into major cities. The population of the Tokyo metropolitan area is still increasing.

I can't read the article either but I think it's true that Japan has a lot more low cost housing available. There is also a lot of new development going on. My parents recently moved to an area in Chiba, about 45 min by train from central Tokyo. It's a completely new development area - the train station is new, surrounded by several high-rise apartment/condo buildings that are still under construction. In fact, even the railroad is less than 10 years old. Walk 10 minutes and you get to even more (cheaper) condo buildings as well as new neighborhoods of small detached houses. All this new development is still going on, within commuting distance of central Tokyo.

Although I think the extensive public transit network also helps with the housing availability. The railway map of the Tokyo metro area looks like this. And that's just the trains. Every one of those train stations connects to several bus routes.
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:16 PM
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I haven't read the article because it is behind a paywall, so I am going off your post alone. I don't know whether we can attribute Japan's low housing costs to their housing policy.
It's part of it.

I don't know a whoooooole lot about this, but my understanding from having lived there for a time is that Japan doesn't have the same local zoning restrictions on construction. A lot of that stuff is federally controlled, which means local residents can't so easily squelch new development in order to pump up their personal property values. That's probably not the whole story, declining population has possibly also contributed to lower housing prices, but the zoning practices really are different. They simply don't have the same class of parasites that we see in places like San Francisco.

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Combine this with the fact that they are offering free housing in rural areas, I would say it is very possible that urban housing is low due to abnormal and undesirable conditions, not necessarily the "housing policy".
This makes no apparent sense to me.

The kids leave local areas for places like Osaka and Tokyo. Yes. Which means demand for housing in rural areas can drop to essentially nothing (true), but this also necessarily means that demand is higher in urban areas like Tokyo and Osaka than it would otherwise be without that population shift. I lived in a small-ish city in Japan for a while, and plenty of the kids I knew got the hell out of there as soon as they could. They went to the big city, and they needed places to stay. A decrease in rural housing demand necessarily means a corresponding increase in demand someplace else.

All else equal, higher demand would be sending prices up. But prices aren't terrible in places like Tokyo, precisely because all else isn't equal: supply has generally been able to keep pace with demand. It's pretty easy to get a smallish but decent place. I know people who have done it. The whole point of the OP is that Tokyo has always been able to find/construct housing for its new arrivals. Of course, there are fewer new arrivals now than before (population decline), but the difference in zoning shouldn't be dismissed so lightly.

There is no rentier class of local landed property owners that can suck the blood of new arrivals because a lot of those regulations are simply not determined locally.
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Old 08-07-2019, 10:52 AM
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FYI, I google "Wall Street Journal Japan Housing" and the google link let me read the article. I think they have some dealie where if you come from google you can see the article but if it's just a hotlink, they want you to pay.

The article is barebones and doesn't say much more than iiandyiiii said. It doesn't explain why the developers are building cheaper buildings with lots of economy apartments instead of a few luxury apartments.

I wonder if Max S isn't right and this is a result of falling population. Though I suppose the urban centers could be more attractive to the population and accelerate the depopulation elsewhere while creating a mini-population boom in the cities themselves?
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Old 08-07-2019, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by iiandyiiii View Post
https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-ho...at-11554210002

Tokyo is one of the greatest and most advanced cities in the world. The average monthly rent for a 2 BR apartment in Tokyo is under $1000. Compare that to NYC, SF, DC, or the big European metro areas.
How many square ft. in the average Tokyo 2 bedroom apartment?
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Old 08-07-2019, 12:01 PM
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According to this article the average Tokyo three-bedroom apartment is 753 square feet, which actually compares favorably to the majority of apartments in places like New York City.

With more and more "micro" apartments being built, the price of renting in such a hive place should become more reasonable over time.
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Old 08-07-2019, 12:36 PM
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I haven't read the article because it is behind a paywall, so I am going off your post alone. I don't know whether we can attribute Japan's low housing costs to their housing policy. Japan has a major population problem and CNN recently ran an article saying the country had to start giving away houses for free (Jozuka, 2019). In addition to the shrinking population it seems that many people are moving to the cities, which means demand for city housing is unhealthily high. Combine this with the fact that they are offering free housing in rural areas, I would say it is very possible that urban housing is low due to abnormal and undesirable conditions, not necessarily the "housing policy". I quote,
It sounds like people want to be in the cities. If there are free houses in rural areas that no one is taking, then those are the undesirable conditions that people are avoiding.

I don't know if I can follow your logic here that people wanting to live in the cities indicates that they are undesirable. Could you explain?

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-ho...at-11554210002

Tokyo is one of the greatest and most advanced cities in the world. The average monthly rent for a 2 BR apartment in Tokyo is under $1000. Compare that to NYC, SF, DC, or the big European metro areas.

They functionally don't allow NIMBY-ism, and their housing market is relatively unregulated in terms of zoning.

We (big American cities and metro areas) should be more like Tokyo in housing policy. Lower housing prices due to market action (rather than rent controls) would greatly benefit the economy.
I agree. ETA:, and I meant to say more, but the edit window is closing.

I'm all for even micro apartments. Anywhere you can lay your head that is safe and out of the elements.

If people want to have big houses, they can buy them for cheap in rural areas, and spend their weekends of vacations there.

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The article is paywalled, can you summarize the policies that you think we should implement? It seems to me that the market would be perfectly content building 10 luxury apartments to sell for $2.5m a pop versus building 83 much smaller units at $300k a pop. Same amount of money for the developer, fewer headaches.
There may be only 8 people who want to and can afford to live in a 2.5m apartment, while there are 100 people that are in the market for housing around 300k.

Would make the most sense for a developer to do both, to saturate both markets.
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I think two things are generally true -- residents have worked with local governments to prevent large quantities of housing being built in expensive areas, and building large quantities of housing is the best idea for making expensive cities affordable. I'm just not sure that getting those local governments out of the way would fix it; rather, I think those local governments need to force residents to accept new housing developments that they otherwise wouldn't want, and I'm not sure how that works in a democracy. I'm curious how the article suggest we overcome that.
You have it exactly backwards, the people aren't being forced into anything, they just would no longer given the ability to block it.

If your neighbor wants to sell their house to a developer who will replace the 3 acre estate with 12 1/4 acre lots, then what is stopping him is not the free market, it is you and your other neighbors who would work to block the sale and development. Currently, the govt is on your side, and would work to prevent your neighbor and the developer from putting in the developments that they want. The change would not be forcing you to live in a housing development that you don't want to live in, but to accept that other people may live where you didn't want them to.

Last edited by k9bfriender; 08-07-2019 at 12:39 PM.
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Old 08-07-2019, 12:44 PM
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You have it exactly backwards, the people aren't being forced into anything, they just would no longer given the ability to block it.

If your neighbor wants to sell their house to a developer who will replace the 3 acre estate with 12 1/4 acre lots, then what is stopping him is not the free market, it is you and your other neighbors who would work to block the sale and development. Currently, the govt is on your side, and would work to prevent your neighbor and the developer from putting in the developments that they want. The change would not be forcing you to live in a housing development that you don't want to live in, but to accept that other people may live where you didn't want them to.
This seems like a distinction without a difference. Right now local governments block development because that's what the voting residents want those local governments to do. If the government tries to get out of the way and allow development against the wishes of the residents, they would be voted out and replaced with people who would go back to blocking development...
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:03 PM
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This seems like a distinction without a difference. Right now local governments block development because that's what the voting residents want those local governments to do. If the government tries to get out of the way and allow development against the wishes of the residents, they would be voted out and replaced with people who would go back to blocking development...
Then what did you mean by:" I think those local governments need to force residents to accept new housing developments that they otherwise wouldn't want, and I'm not sure how that works in a democracy. "?
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:21 PM
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Then what did you mean by:" I think those local governments need to force residents to accept new housing developments that they otherwise wouldn't want, and I'm not sure how that works in a democracy. "?
That means I don't know how to solve the problem. Housing prices are high because residents by and large want to keep supply low. The free market isn't solving this problem by providing more supply because the government is "in the way," but the government is in the way because that's how democracy works.
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:23 PM
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This seems like a distinction without a difference. Right now local governments block development because that's what the voting residents want those local governments to do. If the government tries to get out of the way and allow development against the wishes of the residents, they would be voted out and replaced with people who would go back to blocking development...
Sorry, I've thought about this statement a bit more now.

A couple things, first, this assumes that the majority of people who live in an area want to maintain their property values on their 3 acre estates. The majority of people in the area probably do not live in such, and therefore, they are also voters who would not seek to replace the politicians who allowed development.

Also, if development is allowed, then that brings in a whole new population of people who also vote, and will be inclined to vote for the politicians who allowed them to move in.

No, the problem isn't with the voters, it is with the donors.
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:33 PM
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Sorry, I've thought about this statement a bit more now.

A couple things, first, this assumes that the majority of people who live in an area want to maintain their property values on their 3 acre estates. The majority of people in the area probably do not live in such, and therefore, they are also voters who would not seek to replace the politicians who allowed development.

Also, if development is allowed, then that brings in a whole new population of people who also vote, and will be inclined to vote for the politicians who allowed them to move in.

No, the problem isn't with the voters, it is with the donors.
I only know my own local politics but I don't have a 3 acre estate, in fact I bought the cheapest house on the block and I've still benefited mightily from rising housing prices. Residents here are very much opposed to new development, and the only people who actually want new development are people who can't afford to live here but would like to.

However, I see your point. I live in an upscale suburb where 95% of voters are also homeowners. The calculus probably changes when the majority of residents are renters -- they benefit nothing from rising housing prices. In that case, the push against development would be real estate barons.

It looks like the home ownership rate is somewhere between 40 and 45 percent, and I imagine those folks are more active in local politics than renters.
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Old 08-08-2019, 07:54 AM
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Originally Posted by k9bfriender View Post
Sorry, I've thought about this statement a bit more now.

A couple things, first, this assumes that the majority of people who live in an area want to maintain their property values on their 3 acre estates. The majority of people in the area probably do not live in such, and therefore, they are also voters who would not seek to replace the politicians who allowed development.

Also, if development is allowed, then that brings in a whole new population of people who also vote, and will be inclined to vote for the politicians who allowed them to move in.
Maintaining property values on 3 acre estates is not the only reason people block development. I know lots of renters who are against "development" in their neighborhood of approximately 2-3000 sq foot lots.The development they are opposed to involves such things as replacing a two unit building with a four-unit building. Remember, they're renters, so they don't care about property values - they care about traffic, the availability of street parking etc.
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Old 08-07-2019, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by k9bfriender View Post
It sounds like people want to be in the cities. If there are free houses in rural areas that no one is taking, then those are the undesirable conditions that people are avoiding.

I don't know if I can follow your logic here that people wanting to live in the cities indicates that they are undesirable. Could you explain?
By "abnormal and undesirable circumstances" I meant national circumstances, specifically the shrinking population and forecasted extinction of rural communities. The cities are not undesirable.

~Max
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:10 PM
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1) Shrinking population.
2) Earthquakes - Eyeballing it from satellite view, probably about 20% of the island is concrete. Crossing Tokyo takes about 2 hours on a train with no stops. They simply can't build tall and pack people into a small, confined area. The cities of the country have to be giant sprawls of small apartment buildings and the economy has to operate around the principal of decentralization because any tall buildings would get destroyed by their earthquakes. There's no "downtown Tokyo". The whole city is a kaleidoscope of office buildings, apartments, convenience stores, red light districts, schools, temples, and hospitals. New York has expensive real estate because you need to get into Manhattan. There's no similar pinch point for Tokyo, it's all relatively even across the whole sprawling mass. Your offices could be almost any direction from where you live no matter where in the city you live.
3) Japan has a history/culture of disposable construction. They used to build using paper and minimalist wood structures on the basis that the people expected their houses to be mostly demolished by the next earthquake, typhoon, fire, or war between daimyo. Their construction philosophy was not to create structures that could withstand that all, it was to build something that would simply melt under the abuse and could then be easily patched back together with some paper and (figurative) duct tape. From what I have been told, that philosophy continues over to modern day. They destroy and construct new buildings like they're tissue paper. You'll turn a corner and a mall that was there for 4 years will be a perfect flat patch of dirt, one day. The mall was there last week, now it's pristinely gone and you could start a corn field in the place that it had been. In another month, there could be a full and complete apartment building in its place. It's relatively amazing, but a large component of it is that they build cheap and they don't do custom, it's all prefab parts and stamp-out designs that have been done before thousands of times by the same company.
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Sage Rat View Post
1) Shrinking population.
Not in major cities, and definitely not in the Tokyo metro area (see my post above).

Quote:
2) Earthquakes - Eyeballing it from satellite view, probably about 20% of the island is concrete. Crossing Tokyo takes about 2 hours on a train with no stops. They simply can't build tall and pack people into a small, confined area. The cities of the country have to be giant sprawls of small apartment buildings and the economy has to operate around the principal of decentralization because any tall buildings would get destroyed by their earthquakes.
This is the area I grew up in. The 3rd building from the left is a department store, the others are all apartments and condos.

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There's no "downtown Tokyo". The whole city is a kaleidoscope of office buildings, apartments, convenience stores, red light districts, schools, temples, and hospitals. New York has expensive real estate because you need to get into Manhattan. There's no similar pinch point for Tokyo, it's all relatively even across the whole sprawling mass. Your offices could be almost any direction from where you live no matter where in the city you live.
The Special Wards is the downtown area. Granted, that area is about 10 times larger than Manhattan, but there is a definite flow of people into it during the day.

Quote:
3) Japan has a history/culture of disposable construction. They used to build using paper and minimalist wood structures on the basis that the people expected their houses to be mostly demolished by the next earthquake, typhoon, fire, or war between daimyo. Their construction philosophy was not to create structures that could withstand that all, it was to build something that would simply melt under the abuse and could then be easily patched back together with some paper and (figurative) duct tape. From what I have been told, that philosophy continues over to modern day. They destroy and construct new buildings like they're tissue paper. You'll turn a corner and a mall that was there for 4 years will be a perfect flat patch of dirt, one day. The mall was there last week, now it's pristinely gone and you could start a corn field in the place that it had been. In another month, there could be a full and complete apartment building in its place. It's relatively amazing, but a large component of it is that they build cheap and they don't do custom, it's all prefab parts and stamp-out designs that have been done before thousands of times by the same company.
The condo building I grew up in inTokyo was built in the mid 1970s, and it's still there. So is the 8-story apartment building across the street which is even older. The department store I used to go to was renovated a few years ago, and they added a few floors on top of it, but the lower floors are mostly the same. They did completely rebuild the train station, but mainly because the train tracks used to be at ground level, and they elevated the whole railroad to improve traffic.

I should also point out that Japan is home to the oldest wooden buildings in the world.
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:58 PM
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Not in major cities, and definitely not in the Tokyo metro area (see my post above).
Urban flow is not unique to Japan. Is it liable to be more or less extreme when you have an expanding population or a shrinking population?


Quote:
This is the area I grew up in. The 3rd building from the left is a department store, the others are all apartments and condos.



The Special Wards is the downtown area. Granted, that area is about 10 times larger than Manhattan, but there is a definite flow of people into it during the day.


The condo building I grew up in inTokyo was built in the mid 1970s, and it's still there. So is the 8-story apartment building across the street which is even older. The department store I used to go to was renovated a few years ago, and they added a few floors on top of it, but the lower floors are mostly the same. They did completely rebuild the train station, but mainly because the train tracks used to be at ground level, and they elevated the whole railroad to improve traffic.

I should also point out that Japan is home to the oldest wooden buildings in the world.
None of this is false, but none of it really counters anything that I said. There are exceptions. Tokyo isn't a perfect kaleidoscope - there is an area with actual skyscrapers, for example, but there's also Hitachi Island off in the middle of nowhere and millions of small businesses, tens of thousands of bank outlets (at least, when I left), and tens of thousands of medium-sized businesses spread out all over the hell.

I took a guy from Seattle to Kichijoji and his mind broke because he realized that we'd just rode 30 minutes "outside" of the city and the Kichijoji area around the train station plus all of the apartment buildings, schools, etc. in the neighborhood were basically as large and economically important as the city of Seattle. (I have no idea if that's true, but that was his impression.) And there's probably 200 or so places like Kichijoji within Tokyo (including everything within the concrete swathe - Hiratsuka to Shibukawa to Hitachinaka - not just the legal boundaries). And that's excluding everything within the Yamanote circle. From an American view, looking at how an American city is organized, Tokyo is flat. It's ten stories of people for as far as the eye can see in every direction.

Last edited by Sage Rat; 08-07-2019 at 02:00 PM.
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Old 08-07-2019, 09:51 PM
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Capitalist apologists and assorted libertarians opine that an absolutely unregulated free market innately and implicitly creates the best results for everyone involved because... something something. In the real world, self-defeating greed and dishonesty both exist, as do profiteering and price-fixing.
I don't think anyone says that. In a completely unregulated market, Manhattan would find Central Park quickly covered in 90 story supertall residential towers.

However bad or poorly thought out zoning laws can also stifle growth and lead to unintended consequences. I'll try and find the link, but there was a recent article about many cities doing away with laws restricting housing to single family homes. Yes, everyone loves a house, but single family homes with yards quickly leads to urban sprawl. OTOH, a neighborhood of 20 story luxury yuppie ghettos can quickly tax local infrastructure and transform communities in ways that not everyone thinks is better.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Sage Rat View Post
2) Earthquakes - Eyeballing it from satellite view, probably about 20% of the island is concrete. Crossing Tokyo takes about 2 hours on a train with no stops. They simply can't build tall and pack people into a small, confined area.
This buildings look pretty tall to me.

Actually, properly designed skyscrapers can often be better for resisting earthquakes than shorter masonry and concrete structures. Whereas a lower structure can shake apart and crumble like a house of cards, tall buildings are already designed to sway with the wind somewhat. A lot of skyscrapers in earthquake zones are built on springs or with large weights acting as dampers to prevent the building from oscillating at its resonance frequency.
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Old 08-07-2019, 11:07 PM
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Nor is Kansas flat:

https://images.app.goo.gl/mt7KndoN6cwAH3nx9

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Actually, properly designed skyscrapers can often be better for resisting earthquakes than shorter masonry and concrete structures. Whereas a lower structure can shake apart and crumble like a house of cards, tall buildings are already designed to sway with the wind somewhat. A lot of skyscrapers in earthquake zones are built on springs or with large weights acting as dampers to prevent the building from oscillating at its resonance frequency.
http://thehungrysuitcase.com/why-is-...ine-so-boring/

It's the conventional explanation, regardless of whether (in the 21st century) it's a required answer or an answer that would make sense under Japanese construction culture.
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Old 08-07-2019, 10:04 PM
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Yeah then you'll be able to reject tenants based on their race, and say it to their face.
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Old 08-08-2019, 11:05 AM
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Of course there's the two body problem. Or more if the kids work. Unless we can both find jobs close to each other, one of us will be commuting. Although that's better than both of us.
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Old 08-08-2019, 11:21 AM
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Of course there's the two body problem. Or more if the kids work. Unless we can both find jobs close to each other, one of us will be commuting. Although that's better than both of us.
Higher density means a higher chance that there is a suitable job for both of you in a shorter distance.

My sister used to live in a rural area. She had to drive 15 minutes just to get to town, and then another 15 to get to work. Her husband did the same, but in the opposite direction. Those were the only jobs that were available in the area. Certainly no traffic, but it was still a hell of a commute.

Then they moved to a city, and they could share a car to get to their respective jobs within a couple minutes.
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Old 08-08-2019, 01:54 PM
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Higher density means a higher chance that there is a suitable job for both of you in a shorter distance.

My sister used to live in a rural area. She had to drive 15 minutes just to get to town, and then another 15 to get to work. Her husband did the same, but in the opposite direction. Those were the only jobs that were available in the area. Certainly no traffic, but it was still a hell of a commute.

Then they moved to a city, and they could share a car to get to their respective jobs within a couple minutes.
"A hell of a commute"

We commute 6 and 3 miles, taking 50 and 35 min, respectively, on public transit. Even if people aren't going far, dense means the going is slow. Manhattan has a population density that far exceeds Tokyo, but the average commute (for people living there) is still half an hour, which is about average for the US.
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Old 08-08-2019, 02:36 PM
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I read that as "a hell of a good commute" but now you have me wondering...
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Old 08-08-2019, 08:44 PM
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The average monthly rent for a 2 BR apartment in Tokyo is under $1000.
This is wrong. That's the average rent for a one-room apartment with a small kitchen - usually just a small counter along one side of the room - in Tokyo's central 23 wards. The average for a two-bedroom apartment with a kitchen and dining room (that probably doubles as the living room) in the 23 wards is just shy of $2,000.

If you include all of Tokyo, you could probably find a small two-bedroom apartment for around $1,000, if you don't mind a 90+ minute commute in to work - yes the public transportation system is very very good, and most companies pay for transportation, but it's extremely crowded. Spending three hours a day crammed like a sardine is exhausting.

Housing in general is definitely cheaper in Japan compared to major cities in the US or UK - I paid cash for my four-bedroom house just outside of Shinjuku, for roughly what a down payment would have been on a three-bedroom house in north London, with a longer commute into the City vs a commute into central Tokyo.

One downside to lax zoning laws in Japan - neighborhoods are ugly. There are some exceptions, but in general - neighborhoods in the major cities of Japan are not pleasant to look at. Minimal space for parking, minimal green areas - even open spaces for kids to play are usually covered in dirt, not grass.

But the OP is correct in noting that housing supply in Tokyo has definitely kept up with demand, and with household sizes getting smaller in Japan, average space per dweller has increased, and is now essentially on par with most major European cities. It's certainly easier for young adults just entering the workforce to live on their own vs what you see in New York, Hong Kong or London (people sharing apartments).

I've lived in Japan on and off for over 30 years and have never been rejected by any place I was looking to rent.
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Old 08-08-2019, 09:04 PM
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I've lived in Japan on and off for over 30 years and have never been rejected by any place I was looking to rent.

That is amazing. Do you look Asian? How many places have you rented? When I was renting 25 or so years ago I got turned down because I was not Japanese about 70% of the time I made inquiries.
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Old 08-08-2019, 10:29 PM
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That is amazing. Do you look Asian? How many places have you rented? When I was renting 25 or so years ago I got turned down because I was not Japanese about 70% of the time I made inquiries.
I'm 100% French in terms of ancestry. Caucasian, blond hair, blue eyes.

Let's see - I've rented around a dozen apartments ('mansions' as they call them here) and detached houses in Japan over the years, in rural Mie prefecture, the suburbs of Osaka and all around Tokyo.
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Old 08-08-2019, 10:45 PM
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I'm 100% French in terms of ancestry. Caucasian, blond hair, blue eyes.

Let's see - I've rented around a dozen apartments ('mansions' as they call them here) and detached houses in Japan over the years, in rural Mie prefecture, the suburbs of Osaka and all around Tokyo.
Did you use agents specifically for gaijin, or just normal agents?
Oh wait, I think I get it - you didn't peruse the ads then find one you liked and walked in to ask about it. You just walked in and said show me some places?

Last edited by Isamu; 08-08-2019 at 10:48 PM.
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Old 08-08-2019, 10:49 PM
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Did you use agents specifically for gaijin, or just normal agents?
I've usually just walked into the local real estate place near where I'm looking to rent.
They've shown me the full listings, not the 'here are the gaijin-friendly' places. I know because I've usually asked about notices in the window.

A few times I've called about ads about places (newspaper flyers etc).
Always got a viewing right away, and there was never 'oh, sorry you're a gaijin'.
Not saying it never happens in Japan. But if it was that common, I'd think I would have run into it at some point given my sample size.

Never heard of agents 'specifically for gaijin'; sounds like a rip-off if you're simply paying for the language service?
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Old 08-10-2019, 12:34 AM
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That is amazing. Do you look Asian? How many places have you rented? When I was renting 25 or so years ago I got turned down because I was not Japanese about 70% of the time I made inquiries.
I hear you. Tokyo made me emotionally preview what living while black in American might mean. I landed my first profession job in the early 1990's for a Swiss Investment Bank making about $80k/year. I didn't have a gaijin package but I could easily afford a $1500/month 6-mat apartment. My Japanese was not great, but I could cover the basics.

One place just freaked when I tried to walk in "no, no, no gaijin". Other's put up with me but knew it was a waste of time. One that found me a place would start out saying "I've got a special situation here. Works for a Swiss Investment Bank, has a guarantee from the bank, speaks some Japanese, nice guy, has the deposit ready, by the way is a gaijin (white guy). He landed my place and I was thankful.

Rental agency #1 also got a rock thru the window. Fuckin' A, I don't think I have ever been so pissed off in my life. Here I am with a professional job, cash and you won't even give me the time of day. And I did realize it was just a small taste of what many people of color live every day in the US. YMMV.
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