Episode from the podcastAnarchitecture

ana030: The ABC's of Market Urbanism | Scott Beyer Interview

Released Friday, 26th June 2020
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"Market Urbanism is the intersection of urban issues and free market philosophy."

We interview Scott Beyer of the Market Urbanism Report to introduce the ideas of Market Urbanism and discuss a broad sweep of issues in housing, transportation, and governance.

Use hashtag #ana030 to reference this episode in a tweet, post, or comment

View full show notes at http://anarchitecturepodcast.com/ana030.


  • Contrition

  • Joe's urbanism crash course

  • Tim met some OG Market Urbanists

  • Scott Beyer and the Market Urbanism Report

  • Demystifying urbanist jargon

  • Market Urbanists are down in the trenches

  • We are explicitly ideological, Scott is more pragmatic

  • Urban issues have a natural affinity for libertarian solutions - becuase they work

  • Three broad categories - Housing, Transportation, and Governance

  • The Anarchitecture Podcast All-Star Game (details in links below)


  • What is Market Urbanism?
    • Cross between free-market policy and urban issues

    • Theory - how would decentralized private cities work?

    • Practical set of policy reforms

    • Market oriented reforms

  • How did Scott get interested in these ideas?
    • Living in cities, interested in urban issues

    • Why are projects hard to get approved?

    • Why do downtowns empty out at 5PM?

    • Research led to more libertarian understanding

    • Influential writers
      • MarketUrbanism.com

      • Jane Jacobs

      • Ed Glaeser

  • We see urbanism as a conduit to bring libertarian / free market ideas to a broader audience
    • People think of cities as complex infrastructure managed by big government

    • A more granular look is more libertarian - the "Street Ballet" of voluntary exchange

    • "When cities follow that libertarian impulse, they do really well."

    • Nobody has planned the allocation of specific businesses and residences

  • Housing
    • Market Urbanism approach - a free-flowing, unregulated, market-oriented process

    • Theory - How would cities develop under a free market?

    • Practical - specific problems and policies in cities

    • Restrictive Zoning
      • Single Family Zoning in hot markets

      • San Francisco - around 75% zoned for single family or duplex

      • "The city cannot change."

      • Setback Requirements

      • Lot Coverage Requirements

      • Parking Minimums

      • Density Requirements

      • Minimum Lot Size - an historic 6-unit building restricted to 2 units

    • Counterintuitive zoning - do the planning boards even understand these impacts?
      • The empty husk - 8-story building limited to 12 units means the units will be large and unaffordable

      • No, they don't understand

    • What has motivated zoning requirements?
      • Early 20th century; cities grew using a combination of private deed restrictions and municipal zoning

      • Racism and classism - "they thought that was a good thing!"

      • Separating industry from housing

      • Euclid v. Amber - "Euclidean Zoning"

      • Late 20th century; more subjective and aesthetic, more complex

    • Do cities have a responsibility to preserve property values?
      • No - zoning should not be a protection for special interests

      • The irony - absent the regulations, property values would increase


      • If a potential buyer can subdivide my lot, that increases my property value - capturing the location value twice

    • Policy success - "by-right" incremental development allowed in some states

    • ADU - Accessory Dwelling Unit; an additional unit on a single family property
      • Attached: basement apartment

      • Detached: backyard cottage, granny flat

      • "We won't build proper housing for the Millenials, but we'll put them in the basement."

      • ADU - a fiction created by zoning ordinances - the state taketh, then giveth back but a mere morsel

      • It's better than nothing, but we need new housing

    • Filtering
      • The more new houses you build, the cheaper old houses become (in elastic markets)

    • Gentrification
      • Less than 10% of people get displaced, and relocate to a similar quality neighborhood (see links below)

      • Existing owners tend to benefit from positive externalities

      • Middle ground - allow the new developments, give housing vouchers

      • You can't prevent neighborhoods from changing

    • Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) - "Rent Control 2.0"
      • Allow developers to build to a certain level if they allocate a percentage of "Affordable" units

      • IZ tends to reduce the overall supply of housing by making projects less feasible

  • Transportation
    • Theory - Can a market provide sufficient transit efficiency?

    • Examples of privatizated transport
      • Mexico City - Paseros - "The Uber of Driving!"

      • Uber - The Paseros of America

    • "Who will build the roads?"
      • Alain Bertaud - Order Without Design - Does the government need to build key infrastructure?

      • Right-of-ways in developed places

      • Brightline High Speed Rail (HSR) - Miami to Fort Lauderdale

      • Proposed bullet trains hitting right of way issues

      • Acela train - slows down through every Connecticut NIMBY town

      • Trade-offs between nuisances and benefits

      • Direct negotiations vs. government mediated negotiations

      • Coase Theorem - if you want to obstruct development, you need to pay for that right

      • Pigouvian tax

      • Mitigation rather than obstruction

      • If you live in NYC, you should expect tall buildings around you

      • High speed rail can increase property values - sell it for a windfall and move away from the nuisance

    • Transit Oriented Development (TOD)
      • Value capture - train companies own and develop surrounding land plots to fund the rail

      • In USA, regulatory hurdles prevent TOD

      • For state owned transit agencies, there is no profit motive to develop

    • How do you manage a complex street grid?
      • Pricing different uses; NO FREE PARKING

      • Bus operators could out-bid cars for street space

      • Privatizing public space

      • Market pricing for street space could entice further investment

    • Pricing sidewalks and curb space
      • Buses and bike share could carve out their spaces

      • Scattered scooters - tragedy of the commons

      • Prohibition and monopoly contracts for scooters

    • There is no free parking
      • No market incentive to build a small commercial garage

      • Charge market rates for on-street parking

      • Balancing the interest of local business owners - "We'll see how valuable it is to him"

      • In urban contexts, most customers aren't driving to your store

      • Increasing the cost of parking makes other transit options more attractive

      • "Drivers in Boston are jerks, but drivers in Manhattan are just insane"

      • The less space you allocate to parking, the more space you have for street beautification

    • Car-free streets
      • Social distancing promotes outdoor seating

      • "Let the market work; let the consumer decide"

  • City Governance
    • City services shouldn't be government-run

    • Charter Schools

    • Privatizing (or "divesting", or "DESTATALIZING") public space

    • Value Capture

    • Land Value Tax - recoup value of improvements for reinvestment

    • Government provision - no pricing feedback loops

    • User Fees - direct market feedback

    • Tax Increment Financing (TIF) - tax on incremental value of a specific amenity

    • What about people who can't afford fees?
      • Guaranteed minimum income

      • Voucher model - rather than funding an MTA, give people transit vouchers and let the market determine transit modalities

      • Let wealth redistribution be a separate, more efficient system

      • Neoliberalism - "Fund People, not Beauraucracy"

      • Obstacles are political - vested interests, patronage mills

  • What impact is Market Urbanism having?
    • It's more in the "ideas" stage

    • YIMBY movement pushing similar message

    • Strong Towns movement

    • Congress for New Urbanism (CNU)

    • Anarchitecture

    • State level bills to make housing legal by-right

    • We've seen a good response among libertarians


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