Tuesday, November 5, 2019

"Sub-National Actors" in Concert Can be Effective on Climate

One persistent complaint about the prospects here for a City Climate Action Plan is that it's too small. These complainers note that any action by Salemites is a mere drop not just in a bucket, but in a swimming pool. It will take coordinated Federal action on climate to make a real difference, they are fond of pointing out, and until that happens they think doing anything locally is dumb and possibly even disadvantaging.

While it was not hot here, it was hot elsewhere - via twitter

Front page of Oregonian today
Today's Oregonian has a piece from the LA Times that addresses the doubt and concern-trolling fairly directly:
More than 400 city leaders have joined the Climate Mayors association, and 17 states and territories have joined the U.S. Climate Alliance. Both organizations have vowed to uphold the country's Paris pledge.

Many city, county, state and tribal governments have also signed the "We're Still In" declaration, which reiterates support for the accord. So have 2,200 businesses and investors, 350 universities and 200 faith groups.

Together, these players account for almost 60% of the U.S. economy, half the country's population, and 37% of its greenhouse gas emissions, according to an assessment by America's Pledge, an initiative focused on sub-national climate actions led by former California Gov. Jerry Brown and ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

If this collection of governments and organizations were their own country, they would be the world's third-largest emitter....

[A 2018 analysis] found that existing commitments by sub-national actors could achieve two-thirds of the emissions reductions called for in the U.S.'s Paris pledge. Broader participation and additional measures, like rapid retirement of coal-fired power plants, could bring that number close to 90%.
Any action by the City of Salem and by Salemites collectively is small relative to global goals. But as part of a collection of "sub-national climate actions," it has great value and should not be dismissed as trivial or pointless. The structure here is both/and: We need action at the level of household, city, state, and nation. All the above. Small actions can prompt larger actions, and larger actions coordinate smaller actions.

Preview and summary for proposed code amendments
on missing middle housing and Public Hearing on November 19th
Of course, we still have to do in real deed what we say we will do in glorious words. One opportunity coming up is to support policies that support a transition to abundant housing away from our current scarcity of housing. Giving people more home choices at more price points will help generate nearby customers who will support an increasing number of 15-minute neighborhoods and diminish the need for driving trips. Making it easier to build missing middle housing is an important part of this. Improving our land use laws and development codes is a central ingredient in our work for climate and for equity.

Addendum for Susann (see comment below):

I will try to come back to this in more detail, but your argument is not fully supported by data. People think we have built enough in places and should have seen reduced housing costs in those places, but we aren't actually close to having filled the deficit. It's big! We still have to build more to return to historical averages and a better equilibrium.

(click to enlarge for comments added in red)


Susann Kaltwasser said...

The assumption that these smaller and more compact houses will sell for less has not yet been proven. In East Salem there will be a new subdivision (PUD technically so they can have smaller lots) is going to be comprised of 650+ houses on 3500 sq ft lots. Much of the open space is actually a creek that will not really be 'open' or green, but anyway.... The developer projects that the homes will sell for about $300,000 to $350,000 and be from 1300 to 2000 sq ft. I am not sure many people working at Amazon are going to be able to afford these houses. All this new development does is increase the price of existing homes, because people are willing to pay more for an older home than they are now because it "is all they can get into." I shouldn't care because I own one of those older houses that has gone up in value by $75,000 in the last few years, but it does bother me on a moral level.

In Portland where they have tried this 'providing a variety of housing types and choices' it has not resulted in lower rents or housing costs. All it has done is disrupt neighborhoods and increased the profits for the developers.

I know people say we have to accommodate the 60,000 new people who will be moving to Salem in the next 15 to 20 years, but I don't see how we are going to decrease demand, which is the only way to get prices down, by just building closer together. Yes, we will be using the land more intensely and maybe not going outside the UGB (formally at least).

Here's my prediction....more and more outlying communities are going to be adding housing and more and more people will be commuting into Salem to work. Plus, Marion County will allow more development just outside the UGB where water is available. I wish someone could prove me wrong, but....

Not sure I will be around in 15 or 20 years to see if I'm right, but so it goes....

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Your comments deserve a longer answer and I will try to come back, but for the moment I added a chart with historic housing starts to illustrate why I think you are wrong to conclude that Portland (or pretty much anywhere) has tried and failed to add enough additional housing to realize rent reductions.

Anonymous said...

We aren't building nearly enough housing, including in Portland.


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

That's a good citation from the State Economist! See also "Housing Underproduction in Oregon." Anon is right, we aren't building enough. The preference here is for redevelopment in the central city on the old streetcar grid as well as transit-oriented development farther away.

We should build many fewer detached homes in the mid-century driveway-and-lawn configuration on greenfields far away from things.

This helps with housing affordability and homelessness, with reducing carbon pollution, and with road safety. All our current needs converge on this.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Re:"All this new development does is increase the price of existing homes..."

This seems to be a myth. A recent California study, "Housing Production, Filtering and Displacement: Untangling the Relationships" found that market-rate housing was about half as effective as subsidized housing:

"we found that both market-rate and subsidized housing development can reduce displacement pressures, but subsidized housing is twice as effective as market-rate development at the regional level."

The reason new market-rate housing hasn't seemed to do much - or even appears to raise prices - is that we just simply haven't built enough yet. But new market-rate housing will, once we build enough of it, have filtering effects to reduce prices elsewhere.

There exists a tendency to demonize new market-rate construction, but it is necessary. Of course it is not sufficient, and good housing policy will also address the need for subsidized housing.