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One argument people will bring up when someone points out that urban and walkable areas are more expensive is that they are more expensive because they are in higher demand. This is the fallacy of conflating price with demand. For example, my Sony Xperia phone I paid a substantial premium for over other brands of phones, but there is clearly more demand for other brands than there is for Sony Xperia phones. Likewise private jets and private railcars are substantially more expensive than private cars, but there is substantially more demand for private cars.
We can look at actual market research, which while not perfect, can give us some understanding of what people are looking for.
According to the National Association of Realtors, most people, 52%, want single family detached homes with large yards. Which indicates single family on large lots and possibly deep setbacks. https://plannersweb.com/2014/03/national-realtors-survey-indicates-strong-interest-walkable-mixed-use-neighborhoods/
Studies have also shown a consistent preference for cul de sacs over integrated street patterns. One part of new urbanist and walkable communities is replacing cul de sacs grids or some other form of an integrated street patterns.
From the study "Reconsidering the Cul De Sac" https://www.accessmagazine.org/spring-2004/reconsidering-cul-de-sac/
"A comparative study of street patterns indicates significant homebuyer preference for the cul-de-sac and loop patterns. We examined nine California neighborhoods in terms of safety performance and residents’ perception of their street’s livability. The neighborhoods were matched demographically but represented three different street layouts—grid, loop, and cul-de-sac. The findings suggest that cul-de-sac streets, and especially the lots at the end, perform better than grid or loop patterns in terms of traffic safety, privacy, and safety for play."
"Residents also preferred the cul-de-sac as a place to live, even if they actually lived on a through or loop street. People said they felt cul-de-sac streets were safer and quieter because there was no through traffic and what traffic there was moved slowly. They also felt they were more likely to know their neighbors."
There is also a general disliking of higher densities. Surveys show that many Americans believe that density produces crime and congestion. https://today.yougov.com/topics/politics/articles-reports/2022/04/13/high-density-worse-environment-traffic-and-crime
Another feature of urban sprawl, a strict separation of uses is also to some extent a reflection of market preferences.
Houston, because it lacks zoning, doesn't require the separation of uses or intensity of uses, would allow you to place commercial development basically anywhere. Houston's other regulations, often called "zoning by another name" wouldn't enforce the separation of uses or their intensity. However absent zoning, some, though not all homeowners, implement deed restrictions to separate uses. You could argue that it is illegitimate that the city of Houston enforces deed restrictions and restrictive covenants, however the covenants and deed restrictions themselves are a product of the marketplace. Either the developer puts the restriction in response to market demand or homeowners do so themselves. Plus even before Houston enforced deed restrictions, they existed in other places. Absent government zoning for separation of uses, many people would still choose to do so themselves.
This article, Land Use Regulation and Residential Segregation: Does Zoning Matter?, makes the case that much of the land use patterns zoning creates can be replicated privately by deed restrictions. https://www.jstor.org/stable/42705390
From: How Overregulation Creates Sprawl (Even in a City Without Zoning) https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=837244
"Instead, Houstonians separate homes from businesses through restrictive covenants that specify the appropriate use for each lot in a subdivision"
Michael Gans points out that there was a strong preference among residents of Levittown for the separation of uses.
From: The Levittowners: Ways of Life and Politics in a New Suburban Community
"The residents were primarily concerned with status protection and wanted to make sure that commercial establishments did not infiltrate residential areas."
To the extent that there is a separation of uses, some of it driven by regulation and some of it is driven by homebuyer preference.
The very things that urbanists dislike about suburbia such as cul de sacs, being low density and spread out, separation of uses and large lot single family detached homes, are the very thing many homebuyers prefer. I am not saying everyone wants those things, but most of the market place does.
Beyond just homebuyer preference there is also a preference from businesses for strip malls with abundant parking. There are hurdles to mixed use retail beyond just zoning. America also has, thanks to zoning and subsidies, an overabundance of retail space, so filling up any mixed use retail might be hard to do. Because absent some sort of transit retail needs a fairly high amount of density to be supported or it needs a large amount of parking. Low rise dense buildings such as small apartments and townhomes can support some smaller shops with modest parking. However supporting something like say a whole foods or sprouts would probably require either 5 over 1 or taller or require a fairly wide apartment building. If you look in the past, large stores like department stores were located in downtown, places with high residential densities and convenient access to transit. Large retail requires either abundant parking, motorized mass transit or very high densities. You could provide parking on street or in a parking garage, but business owners want abundant front parking, which is part of what produces strip malls. There is a market for restaurants, barbers, small grocery stores or other smaller retail, but the market for large retail is very strong. In short big retail, in order to be walkable and mixed use requires very high densities or must be support by cars and transit. One could argue that autocentric development makes people drive, but realistically development is autocentric because people drive. Even if you were able to build something with a walkable main street and some mixed use retail, like San Elijo hills, many residents would still have to drive to get other things from larger stores.
San Elijo Hills here https://www.ambientcommunities.com/portfolio/san-elijo-hills-town-cente
For example Pleasant Hill mixed use development struggled to support a high amount of retail, because of low densities and not enough parking. https://www.mercurynews.com/2013/07/19/pleasant-hill-mixed-use-development-at-bart-station-still-mostly-vacant/
There is also other factors that can drive cost differences. A higher price can actually itself be a result of lower demand. If the market for a good is smaller, there is greater risk in producing it and you can't sell or build as much at a time. A smaller market for a good can reduce its economies of scale and thus the seller might need higher profits in order to reduce risk and there would be fewer sellers willing to enter the market and compete and drive down profit margins.
Another factor that could make at least, urban areas, more expensive is the cost of construction.
In the case of low rise construction, be it small apartments, low rise mixed use retail, rowhouses and what not, there would be no construction cost difference between low rise dense development and single family sprawl. Low rise dense development could be cheaper than sprawl if it is done on greenfield. Rowhouses for example use less land per unit and potentially there is infrastructure cost savings. Though something like say a higher quality single family home with more intricate architecture would be more expensive, it wouldn't be gigantically so. To the extent that walkable areas are more expensive, some of it can be due to red tape and a smaller market segment and not necessarily demand.
However dense infill development is intrinsically more costly even under the best of scenarios. The infrastructure costs of infill are higher because you have to remove existing infrastructure and upgrade it. There is also teardown costs. If the infill is a former brownfield site, then you have to spend large sums of money on environmental clean up. Today's regulatory regime adds insult to injury by adding even more cost to infill development. If land prices are high enough, high rise construction becomes necessary and high rise construction is more costly than low rise construction and if high rise construction is prohibited higher land prices will make the city unaffordable.
For example to get 1000 square foot apartment with a break even rent of 2300 dollars, requires a minimum of 12 floors, less floors requires a break even rent of 4000 dollars. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3674181
Land prices themselves do reflect demand, but that demand isn't necessarily the majority of people. The price of land reflects high demand, but that demand just has to be high enough to make the land scarce, it doesn't have to be high enough that the majority of people aspire to urban living. Prices also reflect scarcity, if most of an area is built out, the remaining land owners are going to charge higher prices for it. In some cases urban land prices reflect artificial scarcity, such as Portland's urban growth boundary, which raised prices in the boundary and lowered prices outside. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233477118_The_Effects_of_Portland's_Urban_Growth_Boundary_on_Housing_Prices
"Although the evidence is not overwhelming, there are many empirical studies indicating that UGBs and other means of urban contain-ment lead to higher land prices by limiting the supply of developable land (Black& Hoben, 1985; Knaap, 1985; Nelson, 1985,1986; Segal & Srinivasan, 1985)"
To some extent urban areas are more expensive due to demand, but they are also expensive due to diseconomies of scale, higher construction costs and higher red tape.
Urban Land Prices https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-02/america-s-urban-land-is-worth-a-staggering-amount
Teardown costs https://www.hometowndemolitioncontractors.com/blog/structural-demolition-cost-guide
The EPA puts brownfield cleanup cost at 600,000 dollars https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-07-29/how-much-cleaning-up-brownfields-is-really-worth
The redtape disadvantages of infill https://hbr.org/1995/05/the-competitive-advantage-of-the-inner-city
Fixr puts high rise construction cost at 235 - 450 per square foot https://www.fixr.com/costs/build-apartment
Single family home construction cost can be as low as 50 - 200 per square foot https://www.fixr.com/costs/build-single-family-house
Construction cost guide for Canada https://estimationqs.com/building-costs-per-square-foot-in-canada-altus-group-statistics/
From: Regulation for Revenue: The Political Economy of Land Use Exactions
"the cost of creating an additional unit of sewage or water-carrying capacity may be much higher than the unit cost of existing capacity if the old sewage or water lines must be dug up and replaced with larger ones."
Edward Glaeser himself points out that urban living will always be more expensive, not necessarily due to just demand, but the cost of providing that urban living, at least in high demand area.
From: Triumph of the City, By: Edward Glaeser "In New York City, the price of building an additional square foot of living space on the top of a tall building is less than $400. Prices do rise substantially in ultratall buildings, say over fifty stories, but for ordinary skyscrapers, it doesn’t cost more than $500,000 to put up a nice, new 1,200-square-foot apartment. The land costs something, but in a forty-story building, a 1,200-square-foot unit is only using 30 square feet of Manhattan, less than a thousandth of an acre. At those heights, the land costs become pretty small. If there were no rules restricting new construction, then prices would eventually come down to somewhere near construction costs, about a half million dollars for a new apartment. That’s a lot more than the $200,000 that it costs to put up a nice 2,500-square-foot house in Houston but a lot less than the $1 million or more that such an apartment now costs in New York"
Under ideal circumstances living a big city would mean choosing between a high quality and spacious 1000 - 1500 square foot apartment 300,000 - 600,000 dollars or living in 1000 - 3000 square house in the suburbs or some other greenfield, for 150,000 - 300,000 dollars. The suburbs or greenfield development will always provide more house for your money.
We can look at Houston Home prices.
A very new 2018 1100 square foot high rise condo costs 500k or roughly 454 dollars per square foot. https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1211-Caroline-St-UNIT-1508-Houston-TX-77002/305340369_zpid/?fbclid=IwAR2DXcSzl-8V3G2J-NcNVjNyY0R2-jx26y3XBYdt3ZzvVEKxQeUgBeQHi2g
Where as a brand new Single family home on a large lot costs 295,900 dollars or roughly 150 dollars per square foot. https://www.zillow.com/community/sandrock-station/2060836521_zpid/
Prices become better with depreciated and older high rises, but an older and depreciated single family home will still be cheaper.
The long and short of it is that walkable and urban areas aren't necessarily expensive due to higher demand. Walkable new urbanist styles areas are more expensive due to red tape and to some extent due to a smaller market with less economies of scale. Urban areas are more expensive due to red tape, the higher cost of high rise construction, and the higher costs of greenfield vs infill construction. Something being more expensive doesn't mean people want it more. Randal O'Toole denied there is any unmet demand for walkable and urban areas or denies zoning has any effect, but while I think this is wrong, I think people exaggerate demand for urbanism and walkability.
See title. This applies to all assets, but I'm mostly interested on the impact on multifamily (and especially affordable/LIHTC). I've spoken with several brokers and lenders who have indicated that more or less every deal (multifamily) they are looking at is debt service constrained. My read is that this is because the industry has not yet adjusted to the reality of increased rates or accepted the impact that rates will have on purchase prices. I don't think cap rates of ~3.5-5.5% (strong market, multifamily) make sense when agency debt (FNMA/Freddie/HUD) are north of ~6.5-7%. Recent appraisals appear to justify cap rate conclusions on a historical basis and market participant expectation surveys (also heavily influenced by historical performance under low market rates). Given that we have an entire generation of CRE positions that have enjoyed low interest rates their entire career (myself included) I am not confident the MAI crowd or their market participants have accepted that cap rates need to climb in response to rising interest rates. I find myself wondering how this will unwind and what this correction will look like. submitted by
I'd welcome anyone to challenge my thinking here or provide additional insight.
Is it correct to make the direct assumption that countries which have higher fuel reserves had higher flora and fauna, i.e. higher bio-matter in the dinosaur era(excuse the layman terms sorry). submitted by
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