Found in 17 comments on Hacker News
mrDmrTmrJ · 2023-07-23 · Original thread
72M people in New York would be AMAZING for many reasons. Each person living there would have higher productivity than they have today. Which means they'd take home more income, and spend less on rent, (if zoning restrictions were removed) than they do today.

Cities have an incredible property in that they have "increasing returns to scale" - they make their residents more productive the larger they grow. [1] A 72M person NYC would be the most productive city in human history.

Now that may require the city government to improve the productivity of trash collection, and the subway - but those are great things to improve! And such a city may not be efficiently served by cars - so bring on the electric bikes!

Every day that a 72M person NYC does not exist, is a day that roughly 72M people are being robbed of the life they could have. Please recognize that denying the efficiencies of agglomerations has real world consequences!


davidf18 · 2019-07-13 · Original thread
This is the kind of article that is written by someone totally lacking in domain expertise, as for example, compared with Harvard Economist Edward Glaeser,

A 2014 Op-Ed by Glaeser:

The writer clearly did not look at housing trends in Manhattan (where I live), Boston, DC, Seattle, SF, or (parts of) LA.

If he had domain expertise or actually read something by a domain expert like Glaeser, the author had the opportunity to communicate correct information.

That information is that because of Democratic City Councils (NYC, Boston, DC, Seattle, SF, LA), that have artificially created in scarcity of land primarily through zoning density restrictions but also through overuse of historic landmark status, overregulation, and more that cost of housing is very high.

Japan solved the problem by having federal laws that override zoning density restrictions in Tokyo. The result: in 2014, 20,000 housing units built in NYC, about 90,000 for all of California, and 140,000 for Tokyo.

Honestly, it takes little time to read domain experts like Glaeser and to report the law in Japan used to fix the housing shortages caused by local government.

Yet, for reasons that I don't understand, people (I guess are too lazy) to actually spend a short time investigating the problem.

neom · 2016-11-23 · Original thread
Highly recommend Ed Glaeser's book if you'd like to further understand the socioeconomics and urbanisation aspects of this trend:
yonran · 2016-07-21 · Original thread
The book Left Coast City ( describes the characters of the anti-highrise “growth wars” of the 1980s. In short, San Francisco’s 1980s-era progressives believe that the private market is greedy and irrational (since big business redeveloped slums in the 1950s and overbuilt vacant downtown offices in the 1980s) and can’t be trusted to build what people need, and therefore we need community veto power and strong eviction protection. These activists also grew up back when the media taught that urban life was un-environmental (see the chapter on ditching the Lorax in Triumph of the City, so they support height limits too. The same anti-development activists of the 1980s (e.g. Tim Redmond, Calvin Welch, Sue Hestor) are still active today to oppose all big development including housing.
jseliger · 2015-08-17 · Original thread
Because zoning codes mandate it: see The Rent is Too Damn High ( and The Triumph of the City ( for more.

The short version is this: Property owners now have shocking amounts of control over what their neighbors do with property. Owners, especially of single-family houses, elect officials who restrict development through zoning and similar means. Height limits and parking requirements effectively mandate single, detached housing in most of the U.S.

This only really got started in the 70s (see, and it didn't get really bad until the 2000s, when the shift back to cities ran into insane urban zoning rules to produce huge affordability crises. By now, most developers who dare to build condos or apartments have to build luxury apartments: because that's the only way to make the economics work.

In the meantime, much of the population growth has shifted to Sun Belt cities in Texas, Arizona, Georgia, and Florida where development is easier and/or simply sprawls more.

jseliger · 2015-04-01 · Original thread
Someone living in New York has half the energy footprint of the average American

This is absolutely true and some of the daughter comments are missing the point; see Edward Glaeser's The Triumph of the City ( for more details, but people in urban environments tend to drive less and drive shorter distances; they're less likely to own cars in general and more likely to take mass transportation or bike; and their overall energy usage for heating and cooling is much lower because they share those costs (and walls) with neighbors.

Everyone has to live somewhere, and every time a five to fifty story building gets blocked in a city, dozens or hundreds of high-energy-cost, detached single-family houses get built in Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta.

jseliger · 2015-03-15 · Original thread
If a political party outlined how they'd fix spiralling house prices they'd get my vote.

It's really not that hard: remove height limits and parking minimums, per Yglesias in The Rent Is Too Damn High: Glaeser's The Triumph of the City is also good on this subject and discusses the UK more: This is a simple issue of supply and demand: rising demand in the face of limited supply means higher prices. Want lower prices? You need more housing or fewer people who want it. The former is easy to accomplish with century-old technologies, like steel and elevators.

jseliger · 2014-11-09 · Original thread
As more people move to Berlin, the costs of living will be more like those of London in 10 years from now.

Not necessarily. Rising prices in desirable cities is not a law of nature; it's a political principle, because most Western cities restrict development, leading to supply shortfalls and price rises. Edward Glaeser's The Triumph of the City describes both the political dynamics and their problems well:

jseliger · 2014-06-28 · Original thread
Boy, if there's one thing I always find myself saying when I visit a big city, it's "hey, this is nice but you know what it needs? More people."

You're being sarcastic but it's actually true, per Triumph of the City (

jseliger · 2014-04-06 · Original thread
Great comment. I'll add an observation:

we should be encouraging people to drive fewer miles

To do this we basically need denser neighborhoods, as Edward Glaeser points out in The Triumph of the City ( he points out, as does Matt Yglesias in The Rent is Too Damn High, that the big problems are with local zoning requirements, which by and large forbid density increases.

There are lots of local battles going on regarding density, and I agree that these are good things: "living closer to where you work, using mass transit, biking, and walking more," but they can all be encourage or discouraged by zoning. In most of America they're discouraged.

In the meantime better mileage is at least an improvement.

arjunnarayan · 2013-06-17 · Original thread
Citations that back up JVM's excellent post:

The Gated City - Ryan Avent (on how restrictive zoning and NIMBY policy has ruined San Francisco, Washington D.C. and other American cities)

The Rent Is Too Damn High - Matt Yglesias, (Similar to the Gated City in content)

Triumph of the City - Edward Glaeser (on how cities are better than suburbs for their inhabitants, how cities foster innovation, how slums are not as terrible a thing as they seem, etc.)

The High Cost of Free Parking - Don Shoup (on how free parking (and free roads) distorts the market, causing an excess of driving and distorts the construction of cities. It also goes into other market distortions such as mandatory garage spaces, which end up as car subsidies, which ruin the layout of cities in the long run.)

natrius · 2013-01-09 · Original thread
If you're very interested in your question, I highly recommend Ed Glaser's Triumph of the City[1]. Short answer: Density is valuable, and developing a new dense area is difficult. No one is going to pay for a skyscraper or a cute, tiny Victorian house in the middle of nowhere because the demand isn't there. You have to build where people are, but neither San Francisco nor the peninsula suburbs want to let that happen.


jseliger · 2012-09-26 · Original thread
People need to understand this and often don't. If you're interested in the research behind the environmental friendliness and economic importance of density, see Edward Glaeser's book The Triumph of the City:
jseliger · 2011-10-21 · Original thread
This is a perspicacious comment; if you're curious about more, see Edward Glaeser's book The Triumph of the City (, which is quite good on 1) how density promotes idea transmission, 2) the environmental consequences of cities, and 3) transportation problems, which affect (2).
jseliger · 2011-10-02 · Original thread
Why are you/we trying to force density when it's so obvious that most people want the exact opposite?

The problem is that the playing field isn't level: as Edward Glaeser points out in his book, The Triumph of the City (highly recommended;, there are numerous institutional barriers to urban living, including, in no particular order:

1) Mortgage interest tax deduction; since urban life favors multi-unit dwellings but condos have externalities single-family houses don't (it's hard to deal with a noisy upstairs neighbor when you both own), this favors suburbs.

2) Substantial car-based infrastructure investment that means car owners pay around half of the "total" or social cost of their driving.

3) Barriers to entry in urban areas, especially in the form of zoning height limits.

4) Tying education and education funding to geographic location.

I believe there are a couple others I've forgotten.

It's pretty obvious that a lot of people want density—if they didn't, housing prices in NYC, DC, Seattle, San Francisco, and others wouldn't be so high. Hold supply relatively constant while demand increases, and you get prices that zoom up. I would, in many ways, draw the opposite conclusion from yours.

jseliger · 2011-06-26 · Original thread
By this definition, any real estate is a "giant Ponzi scheme," since it depends on people after you buying the asset.

Cities are great, but suburbs have their place (in large part because of a) building codes that prevent tall buildings and b) how schools are funded), which the author gets to some extent. If you're interested in the issue, try Edward Glaeser's book The Triumph of the City: .

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