More from Downs

Anthony Downs wrote Neighborhoods and Urban Development in 1981, yet this quote is as applicable today as it must have been then.

Each city’s strategy must balance two sometimes conflicting objectives. The first is encouraging renovation, since it upgrades residents environments and benefits the city government fiscally. The second is minimizing harm to low-income renters. In loose housing markets, city policies can encourage maximum revitalization, since displaced households can find alternative accommodations without suffering much harm. But tight housing markets pose a cruel policy dilemma, because revitalization may then cause severe hardship for poor displaced households. They probably cannot easily find alternative accommodations without paying much more for them–if then.

A tension exists between two groups of housing consumers, each interested in the same option: the bargain-priced property. What isn’t discussed in time. If transitions are in sync with the natural timing of residents giving up their homes, then it is a win for the city to benefit from stronger housing stock, and the poor who has moved to better circumstance.

My concern is that there is a little public commentary about helping the disadvantaged to match with neighborhoods best suited to meet their public goods needs. The conversation always seems to be about keeping people put, …in dilapidated housing.

Let’s go for the double win. We have the capacity.