Markets & Economy

Houses, houses everywhere — but nary one to buy

What's urban sprawl got to do with the housing shortage?
  • Cities have not just grown in population, but expanded outward.
  • Cities thrive on the coasts of seas and sea-sized lakes, not just because of beaches, but shipping -- the lowest friction, lowest cost to ship anything.
  • A coastal city can expand at only half the pace of an inland one, unless it grows its radius inland twice as fast. River-based cities have it easier but are still limited.
  • Outward expansion has run its course, outrunning diameter and the cost of public or auto transportation.

Future-Proof: Navigate Threats, Seize Opportunities at ICNY 2018 | Jan 22-26 at the Marriott Marquis, Times Square, New York

We all see now the shortage of new construction in good markets. Every observer says that sales are suppressed by nothing to sell. Theories abound: development fees, open space reservations, regulation -- and there's always the cost of land, labor and materials. Consider another: geometry. Please don’t run away! I’ll do the math. What's sprawl got to do with it? Metro areas all over the country have expanded in the 70 years since the big war, and the U.S. population more than doubled. We are city folk -- I’m not, but a good three-quarters of the population gravitates to cities, at least for opportunity, if not traffic jams. Cities have not just grown in population, but expanded outward. [graphiq id="hJW5UpleYNn" title="Urban sprawl" width="500" height="491" url="" link="" link_text="Visualization by Graphiq" ] Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed so many banks, and he replied, “Because that’...