Day: June 2, 2022

The U.S. wants to relax exclusionary zoning to combat housing crisis. We should, too

Increasing the housing stock puts downward pressure on prices and fosters economic growth

At both the federal and provincial level, Canadians and their legislators often look down their noses at American policy and politics, and sometimes with good reason: gun control and the abortion debate come to mind. But when it comes to tackling the housing crisis Canadian politicians could learn a thing or two from what is unfolding south of the border.

Earlier this month President Joe Biden announced that the federal government would be seeking to tackle the root cause of the housing crisis, which it believes to be exclusionary zoning — local rules that prohibit multi-family housing from being built and instead favour single-family units. In a White House statement, the administration said “Exclusionary land use and zoning policies constrain land use, artificially inflate prices, perpetuate historical patterns of segregation, keep workers in lower productivity regions, and limit economic growth.”

All of that is true. Increasing the housing stock puts downward pressure on prices and fosters economic growth. Research on zoning rules in the U.S. has shown that, by freezing workers out of high-rent areas like New York and San Jose where their productivity would be higher, local zoning rules lowered U.S. economic growth by fully 36 per cent between 1964 and 2009. There is no reason to assume similarly exclusionary zoning laws aren’t having the same negative impact in Canada. Toronto, for example, has nearly 70 per cent of its land zoned exclusively for single-family homes, making it illegal to build anything with increased density.

Elevating the conversation and targeting zoning reform are things Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland could have done in their last budget. Right now, only two Conservative leadership candidates are talking about zoning on the campaign trail, Scott Aitchison and Pierre Poilievre.

But lessons about zoning reform aren’t just useful at the federal level. The U.S. offers plenty of examples of state and municipal legislators carrying out dramatic zoning reforms. In Oregon, for example, any land previously zoned exclusively for single-family homes can now, as of right, build a duplex on that site or even a four-unit dwelling if it is in a municipality larger than 25,000 people.

The same goes for Minneapolis, which abolished exclusionary zoning before the pandemic. The city now appears to be bucking the trend of rising rental prices. Rents for one- and two-bedroom units are actually lower in 2022 than they were in 2019. Some of that presumably can be chalked up to having made it easier to build for increased density.

Finally, the small town of Auburn, Maine, shows how local councilors can embrace “YIMBYism” (which stands for “Yes, in my backyard,” as opposed than “Not in my backyard”) to increase affordability. Auburn’s Mayor Jason Levesque, originally elected in 2017, ran on a pro-development platform that gave voters in his town of 24,000 three options: drastically raise taxes, cut public services, or bring in new residents. Having chosen growth, Auburn plans to increase its housing stock by upwards of 25 per cent, gutting zoning rules and taking an “all of the above” view on housing types.

That type of bold ambition is exactly what is needed in Canada’s major cities and the communities that surround them if we want to tackle rather than just talk about the affordability crisis. Nationally, average rents rose nine per cent in April compared to a year earlier. In Toronto and Vancouver, arguably the two Canadian cities most in need of increased density, rents rose 23 and 27 per cent, respectively. On the buying side, the national MLS benchmark price for a home was $882,000 in April, a 27 per cent increase year-over-year despite interest rate increases beginning to dampen demand.

Much of Canadian political culture is framed in opposition to what exists in the U.S. but on zoning reform, we should look southward and learn. It’s time to build but exclusionary zoning is in the way.

Originally published here




「為甚麼不乾脆戒菸?」對那些非吸菸者,可能會覺得戒菸事在人為,只要有決心的話,誰都可以立地成佛。然而事實證明,過去幾年容許吸菸者有替代品可供選擇的國家,吸菸率的降幅尤其明顯。以英國為例,自從 2013 年英國公共衛生署積極建議吸菸者改用電子煙,英國整體吸菸率下降了 25%。相比之下,世界上電子煙法規最嚴格的澳大利亞,同期的吸菸率僅下降了 8%。

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Time to Dispel Pollinator Mistruths

May 20th marked the annual World Bee Day of the United Nations, an excellent occasion to debunk the myth that the bees are dying because of modern agriculture. This common misconception has been making the rounds through environmentalist activism and the media for almost two decades.

When California beekeepers in the 2000s experienced losses in their bee colonies, environmentalists first blamed who they’re used to blaming: genetic engineering. But unlike an episode of South Park, there is no Dr. Mephesto creating continuous disasters with outlandish experiments — in fact, the idea that GMOs were to blame for what was dubbed “Colony Collapse Disorder” was quickly rejected by the scientific community.

Green groups in the United States then turned their attention to pesticides, who for long have been an enemy of environmentalists who advocate for a return to traditionalist farming methods. Neonicotinoids as well as alternative products such as sulfoxaflor, have been targeted ever since as “bee-killing pesticides,” despite their significant importance for modern farming.

The scientific community however also rejected those claims for sulfoxaflor as recently as July last year. Claims that the said compound was also negated by both the European Food Safety Authority EFSA and the EPA, which calls it “better for species across the board.”

However, it isn’t just that the crop protection products blamed for bee declines aren’t responsible, but also that colony losses overall are a temporary phenomenon.

All it takes is a look at the statistics of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. The data (which can be found here) shows that for 2020 numbers, there is an increase of beehives by 17% since 2010, 35% since the year 2000, and a 90% increase since the data was collected in 1961.

The most common threat that bees are supposedly subjected to by humans are neonicotinoid insecticides, known as neonics.

However, the popularization of neonics and its alternatives in the mid-’90s doesn’t trigger a collapse of bee populations. In the United States, the numbers of bee colonies have been stable for 30 years, while in Europe – where farmers also use these insecticides – the number has increased by 20%.

Yet environmentalists are expected to continue painting modern agriculture as a scapegoat, even in times when food inflation and supply shortages show us that we cannot afford a model that reduces productivity (as organic farming or agroecological processes do).

Despite the fact that farmers need crop protection products to assure that food products are affordable, safe and available, green activists call for an agricultural model that would all but outlaw them, thus making consumers worse off.

The European Union is slowly walking back its plans that would have cut pesticide use by 50% in the next few years — a rethink sparked by the war in Ukraine, which has created significant supply chain disruptions.

The United States should be proud of its agricultural success. Over time, with innovative technology, farmers use less and less crop protection products that leave fewer residues.

Meanwhile, consumers can continue to choose to buy alternatives, even though those come at a premium. This system makes up the beauty of an open economy: choices for consumers and stability for farmers.

Originally published here

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