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  #61  
Old Posted May 19, 2008, 5:55 AM
Bert Bert is offline
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First, a quick link for jhausner (with respect to energy efficiency being an easy solution, not necessarily hybrids as the headline states): http://www.alternet.org/story/84982/?page=entire

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Originally Posted by quobobo View Post
Small impact? Maybe in some cases, but think about how much the housing market here is artificially limited. Just take a look at any zoning map (freestanding houses everywhere), and remember that density bonuses are worth an awful lot (so there's clearly a lot of demand for more housing that isn't being met). There's a LOT of room to add extra housing supply.

Edward Glaeser of Harvard has estimated that regulations (mostly zoning, height limits limiting density) inflate the cost of housing in Manhattan by 50%, I wouldn't be surprised if we were higher as we have much more room to grow.

http://www.economics.harvard.edu/fac.../Manhattan.pdf
Fascinating paper, quobobo - you always come through with the economics stuff.

Admittedly, there was no analysis behind my claim. I was just extrapolating (like others here) the rising density in Vancouver over the past, say, 15 years, in particular, appears to have had no impact on affordability. Metro Vancouver is likely, for the moment at least, the most expensive metro in North America (given recent price declines in expensive US metros).

After reading the paper, I'm going to have to agree that, on balance, the removal of height limits would increase affordability by more than a "small amount" as I said before. How much is very, very unknown, but I'd be pretty sure it's at least 15%, which is more than I was thinking by a "small amount".

For those who don't want to read the paper, the overall conclusion is that NIMBYs create regulations to protect the (perceived) value of their investments, causing prices to be higher than they'd be in a free market. The most important regulations from an economic standpoint are those that limit the size of the building, like height limits (which restrict marginal revenue). The authors argue that the 50% premium for prices in Manhattan compared to construction costs of the top floor (the marginal cost units) is essentially due to regulation. Now, basic economics dictates that developers set marginal revenue equal to marginal costs to maximize profits. A height limit stops developers from ever reaching this point, since marginal costs increase quite slowly with each additional floor, and therefore we're left with a significant price premium and far shorter buildings compared to what a free market would produce.

Note this 50% cost premium number is before taking into account the social costs of removing regulations, which the authors estimate at up to 17.5%, which would leave a conservative 32.5% price premium due to height limits.

While generally in agreement, I have a number of criticisms for this paper, particularly in applying it to Vancouver:

1. Market prices reflect densification potential, even when density is regulated; for example, just because a SFH near a growing town centre is zoned single family today, it is very likely that it will be upzoned in the future, and the market responds to that, which probably makes up a chunk of the difference between marginal revenue and marginal costs (for non-high rises, at least). These effects are magnified in urban areas where smart growth policies and urban boundaries are in place (like Metro Vancouver).

2. While reasonably perfect competition may indeed be the case in Manhattan, I'm not sure if the same assumption can be made elsewhere, like Vancouver. I just don't know. If not, then some of our price premium comes from monopolistic profit.

3. The paper says, "... the cost schedule does not rise steeply with building height. Specifically, ... average costs typically rise by 0.5 percent for each added floor between 3 and 30, and then by 0.4 percent for each floor above 30." I accept that from the marginal cost side. But there is also the impact on decreased marginal revenue from reduced saleable floor space as building height grows due to requirements like needing more elevators (this is especially important with Vancouver's skinny towers). However, I'm not sure what the marginal revenue penalty would be exactly. Also, Vancouver condos have something like a 1.5% per floor view premium which might offset that marginal revenue reduction.

I wish the authors would go so far as to say how tall buildings should be. Using the paper's numbers, I gave it a shot. Figuring in a $250 psf marginal cost for the 30th floor, for a standard suburban tower here, and a marginal suburban revenue of $330 per built square foot (assuming it rises constant with height, with sales of a little over $500 per saleable square foot, and a 0.64 saleable-to-built ratio like in the paper), our suburban condos would be 100-floor buildings if there were no height limits, as the 100th floor would cost $330 psf.

Or, let's say it costs $400 psf to build Shangri-La's 30th floor due to higher quality; it then costs $450 psf to build its 60th floor, and assuming saleable prices around $2,000 psf (that is, $1,300 per built square foot) with enough demand to sell the entire building, Shangri-La would be 325 floors high, as the 325th floor would cost $1,300 psf.

4. The authors assume that no amount of additional density would alter the characteristics of Manhattan, which is already quite dense. Certainly, Vancouver would be transformed much more substantially if all regulations were lifted, which may bring more negative externalities than they calculated, especially with respect to the congestion externality.

The authors also did not account for some negative externalities of density that regulation protects against. The one that particularly jumps out at me in the Vancouver context is sunlight/shadowing. Our planners have gone to great lengths to ensure a livable city by maximizing natural light, although I'm not sure what the economic value of that would be. Also, we have more natural views to protect than Manhattan, and the authors say natural views are more valued.

Also, a huge one they overlooked in general is meeting minimal health/environmental/safety standards. If the building is unhealthy, the additional residents cause a disproportionate burden on our health care system. If the building is an energy hog, the additional residents create disproportionate pollution per capita. If the building is unsafe (i.e. it'd collapse in an earthquake), there are obvious negative externalities there as well.

5. The section on SFHs looks lazily put together and throws the entire paper into question. These places would seem to have more to gain from relaxed regulation (in some places at least) than Manhattan towers, but the authors don't have any data which shows that.

6. The analysis is really too narrow in scope, since it mainly looks at Manhattan. For it to be more persuasive, it needs to study a market where regulations/NIMBYs have a much smaller effect on restricting building heights. Was it the case that HK had no height limits for a period of time? Yet I don't see any 500 floor residential buildings there... Maybe Dubai is something to look at?

----
That's all I have to say about it. Still, a very insightful paper overall.

One last thing I found interesting was that in 2002, the mean/median price in Manhattan was $500/sq. ft. That's what Jewel in Metrotown (and other suburban developments) started selling for yesterday, and there was even an overnight lineup at that price, though I'm not sure how well it actually sold.

Last edited by Bert; May 19, 2008 at 4:02 PM.
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  #62  
Old Posted May 19, 2008, 6:10 AM
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If your suburban towers are all 100 floors, and your Shangri-la was 325 floors, this is what would happen. the Cost per floor (your estimates are on the low side, very low) would stay the same, lets say $350psf. The problem is the demand side is not there to absorb these 100 story towers at $400psf, you would have to limit supply until there were enough people willing to pay that $400psf, that's the situation we are in today.

If you opened the floodgates it would crash the market as the amount of product that would enter would bring the prices down below what it would cost to make it. The market does a pretty good job in the long run of controlling supply/demand. Trying to regulate because of short term effects usually screws up the market more, it should be left to it's devices.
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  #63  
Old Posted May 19, 2008, 8:14 AM
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Quote:
If your suburban towers are all 100 floors, and your Shangri-la was 325 floors, this is what would happen. the Cost per floor (your estimates are on the low side, very low) would stay the same, lets say $350psf.
The $250 psf for 30th floor suburban construction cost was roughly the number for an average development in Manhattan in 2002, and given their $500 psf prices at the time match our suburban prices now, that's where I estimated that # from (obviously that's a really rough, horrible way of estimating, but I don't know the local construction market). Shangri-La's psf numbers were admittedly completely made up - they're actually higher than the luxury construction number provided in that paper. It'd be interesting to know what our local #s are though... can you provide any? I know we do have a wee bit of a labour shortage.

Quote:
The problem is the demand side is not there to absorb these 100 story towers at $400psf, you would have to limit supply until there were enough people willing to pay that $400psf, that's the situation we are in today.

If you opened the floodgates it would crash the market as the amount of product that would enter would bring the prices down below what it would cost to make it. The market does a pretty good job in the long run of controlling supply/demand.
I am aware how ridiculous the building heights I came up with sound, but that's with a completely free market. If we still maintain regulations which cover social costs at the optimum 17.5% level, as estimated by the paper, we'd be looking at 60-floor suburban condos and a mere 285-floor Shangri-La. And, yes, that is making the unrealistic assumption of inelastic demand at current prices. But more realistically, if regs were suddenly lifted, supply might rise too quickly due to imperfect market information among developers, and prices would be driven down, potentially crashing the market, as you say. After the crash, well... it's too late for me to use my brain to sort out what would happen, but maybe moderately taller (i.e. shorter than all my estimates), more affordable towers built at a slower pace is a decent guess.

Quote:
Trying to regulate because of short term effects usually screws up the market more, it should be left to it's devices.
Mind you, the point here *is* to relax some regulation, to the point where only social costs are covered, to achieve a socially optimal outcome. Not that I'm saying it'd work out perfectly... but after reading that paper, I have done an about face, and now believe that affordability would benefit somewhat significantly from relaxing regulations. The hard part is calculating how much to relax regulations, and the impossible part is getting that by the NIMBYs.

Edit: a more sobering morning look with a clearer head tells me that the authors of the paper significantly underestimated social costs of building and other factors (as per my critiques in post #61 above), while at the same time, jlousa is saying I significantly underestimated construction costs. Putting 2 + 2 together, heights should only be a little bit taller, and I'm not certain prices would come down by very much at all. I say towers would definitely be a little bit taller, because developers today routinely build to height limits, so marginal costs can't be meeting marginal revenue already, but I'm closer to my original position of density only having a small impact on affordability than I was yesterday night.

Last edited by Bert; May 19, 2008 at 5:26 PM.
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  #64  
Old Posted May 19, 2008, 6:16 PM
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I agree with no regulation we would see a little more height in some areas, and much more height in others, ie Kits, Point Grey, etc.

I would state that no regulation would greatly increase affordability, but no because of the increased supply, more because of the reduced demand. The reason that makes Vancouver so expensive and desired is the ammenties provided. Seawalls built by developers, parks provided by them, public art, revitalization of ammenties (Capitol/Orphuem) DCLs paying for libraries, community centres etc. If we took away regulations and those things would no longer be required, the appeal of Vancouver would diminish over time. Leading to that extra supply and less demand to absorb it, prices would surely come down, but would it matter? Would we still want to live here?
We have created our own problem but it might just be better then the alternative.
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  #65  
Old Posted May 19, 2008, 6:45 PM
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I thought about the amenities perspective earlier as well, but I initially figured it wasn't much of a factor in marginal cost. Yet, obviously, with higher density, more amenities are required to maintain quality of life, so it too is a factor. At the same time though, amenities are bonused for already, and I understand the bonusing is determined in part by the scale of the amenity (though I could be wrong). So, I think that's why I excluded discussion of amenity bonusing before - amenities, although regulated, are already compensated for through relaxation of regulation, and so have negligible impact on restricting marginal cost from meeting marginal revenue compared to the supply caps imposed by building size limits.

I think what the paper and myself are trying to argue applies to a scenario where demand remains constant, since all external social costs of building would be covered by regulation, so more building wouldn't necessarily reduce demand. In contrast, it's the NIMBY-based over-regulation (i.e. view cones) and additional, non-regulated, socially irrational NIMBY opposition that we're talking about getting rid of, since it limits supply by more than a socially optimal amount (i.e. protecting mountain views isn't worth it, since, if it was, the market rates offered for views would be higher). This supply relief will obviously make things a little more affordable, but I don't think we'd see the big 32.5%+ difference in pricing as the paper states, especially in our market (with a higher construction cost-to-price ratio, and more legitimate need for regulation compared to what the authors accounted for in Manhattan in the paper).

Last edited by Bert; May 19, 2008 at 7:16 PM.
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  #66  
Old Posted May 19, 2008, 6:57 PM
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Prius > Corolla

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Originally Posted by jhausner View Post
Toyota Prius:
Gas Mileage = 8.46L / 100KM (lower better)
Average Price = $23,370 USD

Toyota Corolla:
Gas Mileage = 7.92L / 100KM (lower better)
Average Price = $17,655 USD
My parents' Prius generally gets way better mileage than this — 6 L / 100 km city and 4 to 5 L / 100 km highway.
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  #67  
Old Posted May 20, 2008, 12:36 AM
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Smile

Thanks for reading the paper so thoroughly, Bert - I didn't expect such a good discussion. You're right that it may not be completely applicable to Vancouver, but it's by far the best analysis of zoning and housing cost I've seen to date. Glaeser is my hero, he’s done a lot of really interesting work on urban economics.

http://www.economics.harvard.edu/fac...papers_glaeser

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bert View Post
2. While reasonably perfect competition may indeed be the case in Manhattan, I'm not sure if the same assumption can be made elsewhere, like Vancouver. I just don't know. If not, then some of our price premium comes from monopolistic profit.
Good point. However, I think that as the amount of regulations/paperwork required for development was reduced, it would make entry into the housing development market easier, resulting in more competition.


Quote:
3. The paper says, "... the cost schedule does not rise steeply with building height. Specifically, ... average costs typically rise by 0.5 percent for each added floor between 3 and 30, and then by 0.4 percent for each floor above 30." I accept that from the marginal cost side. But there is also the impact on decreased marginal revenue from reduced saleable floor space as building height grows due to requirements like needing more elevators (this is especially important with Vancouver's skinny towers).
Agreed, I hadn't thought of that. I imagine that this would be insignificant in most buildings under 20 stories or so, but it should definitely be factored in for others.

Quote:
4. The authors assume that no amount of additional density would alter the characteristics of Manhattan, which is already quite dense. Certainly, Vancouver would be transformed much more substantially if all regulations were lifted, which may bring more negative externalities than they calculated, especially with respect to the congestion externality.
Agreed, we would be more affected by congestion than Manhattan. However, I believe this would be somewhat short-lived, as better transit would be implemented for the increased density. Also, car use would likely go down with the removal of off-street parking requirements and subsidized (i.e. below market price) street parking. It might hurt a little now, but I believe we’d reap the benefits later.


Quote:
The authors also did not account for some negative externalities of density that regulation protects against. The one that particularly jumps out at me in the Vancouver context is sunlight/shadowing. Our planners have gone to great lengths to ensure a livable city by maximizing natural light, although I'm not sure what the economic value of that would be. Also, we have more natural views to protect than Manhattan, and the authors say natural views are more valued.
True, but they also aren’t accounting for some related positive externalities like improved access to shops/services in densified areas and busier/more vibrant neighbourhoods. I recognize that not everyone would trade some sunlight for that, but I certainly would.

It would be nice if someone could find a way to quantify how much people value additional sunlight, but I imagine that would be a nightmare to figure out.


Quote:
Also, a huge one they overlooked in general is meeting minimal health/environmental/safety standards. If the building is unhealthy, the additional residents cause a disproportionate burden on our health care system. If the building is an energy hog, the additional residents create disproportionate pollution per capita. If the building is unsafe (i.e. it'd collapse in an earthquake), there are obvious negative externalities there as well.
For health, I assume you’re talking about ventilation and hazardous construction materials. However, I imagine any developer would be very wary of class-action torts even without the regulations, so I doubt that building standards would slip much. Same for earthquake-proofing - I can’t imagine many new buyers wanting to live somewhere that didn’t meet some construction standard, and developers don’t want hundreds of civil suits against them. For these reasons, I doubt that these regulations have a very significant impact on pricing.

Energy use might be a problem without a proper Pigovian tax to correct the negative externalities... but that’s not limited to buildings, one could say that about nearly anything. It seems to me that limiting development because we have problems with our energy pricing is wrong - fix energy pricing instead.

Quote:
6. The analysis is really too narrow in scope, since it mainly looks at Manhattan. For it to be more persuasive, it needs to study a market where regulations/NIMBYs have a much smaller effect on restricting building heights. Was it the case that HK had no height limits for a period of time? Yet I don't see any 500 floor residential buildings there... Maybe Dubai is something to look at?
Agreed. Glaeser has another paper where he analyzes this for many other US cities: http://www.economics.harvard.edu/pub...2/HIER1948.pdf

Unfortunately it only analyzes the time required to obtain permits, but I think that's probably an okay proxy for many zoning policies and it’s still worth a read IMO. I would really like to see something similar to the Manhattan paper for other cities though.

Last edited by quobobo; May 20, 2008 at 2:02 AM.
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  #68  
Old Posted May 20, 2008, 1:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jlousa
I would state that no regulation would greatly increase affordability, but no because of the increased supply, more because of the reduced demand. The reason that makes Vancouver so expensive and desired is the ammenties provided. Seawalls built by developers, parks provided by them, public art, revitalization of ammenties (Capitol/Orphuem) DCLs paying for libraries, community centres etc. If we took away regulations and those things would no longer be required, the appeal of Vancouver would diminish over time. Leading to that extra supply and less demand to absorb it, prices would surely come down, but would it matter? Would we still want to live here?
We have created our own problem but it might just be better then the alternative.
I don't see why less regulations has to mean fewer amenities - simply pay for the same level of amenities with everyone's property taxes instead of charging developers. This way new residents will still pay their share of the cost for amenities, and the system will be much more transparent. It's easy to vote/lobby for amenities when it seems like someone else is paying the entire cost, but people might think twice when faced with the real costs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bert View Post
Edit: a more sobering morning look with a clearer head tells me that the authors of the paper significantly underestimated social costs of building and other factors (as per my critiques in post #61 above), while at the same time, jlousa is saying I significantly underestimated construction costs. Putting 2 + 2 together, heights should only be a little bit taller, and I'm not certain prices would come down by very much at all. I say towers would definitely be a little bit taller, because developers today routinely build to height limits, so marginal costs can't be meeting marginal revenue already, but I'm closer to my original position of density only having a small impact on affordability than I was yesterday night.
Keep in mind that construction costs here are somewhat inflated because of all the Olympic projects.. but I don't know how significant that is. If someone here knows more about this, please fill me in.

Also, what about most of Vancouver outside the downtown core? I wouldn't be terribly surprised if towers downtown were somewhat close to their optimal heights, but if single-family homes are anywhere near optimal height/density in most parts of the city I would be shocked. I'm not sure how to calculate this, so any help would be appreciated.
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  #69  
Old Posted May 20, 2008, 1:26 AM
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Parking would be built in any medium/high end or suburban building regardless of regulation, but for lower end buildings, especially ones that are close to transit or downtown, those regulations make housing much less affordable.

Are pools/pool tables/gyms actually required?
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  #70  
Old Posted May 21, 2008, 2:04 PM
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Very valid points on the unaccounted for positive externalities and the effect of litigation, although I'd tend to think common law litigation, even with insurance backing it, is only a fraction as effective as good regulation (i.e. see how many insurance bankruptcies there were in the aftermath of Katrina - I don't know how much people would be able to collect due to shoddy development in the aftermath of an earthquake, whether the developers were adequately insured or not, but at least regulation stands a better chance of preventing the shoddy development in the first place). The paper appears not to have accounted for positive externalities on purpose, to give an appearance of a really low-balled over-regulation figure: "we have taken every possible precaution to guard against our regulatory tax estimates from being biased upward".

For the value of natural light, there's probably some decent researched ways out there to measure its value, in terms of energy savings, physical/mental wellness benefits, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by quobobo View Post
I wouldn't be terribly surprised if towers downtown were somewhat close to their optimal heights, but if single-family homes are anywhere near optimal height/density in most parts of the city I would be shocked. I'm not sure how to calculate this, so any help would be appreciated.
At today's prices, and relatively low wood frame construction cost, I'd be fairly sure that many, many SFHs in Vancouver (and throughout the metro) would be replaced by the maximum height wood frame condo feasible if regulation allowed. But, of course, wood frame construction has a practical/technological height limit. Six storeys is the newly raised maximum in BC, and, as this story claims (which actually also links density and affordability), 8 storeys is as high as it gets in Europe. After that maximum, you have to look into switching to more expensive concrete (or steel), if it would maximize profit.

As Glaeser's paper eludes to (what an excellent resource that site you provided is, by the way), the market for SFHs is not as straightforward as condos due to the need to separate land costs in order to get at the true regulatory burden. Still, as his paper shows, even in San Francisco, the hedonic value of land is only $4 psf. On the face of it, that figure seems ridiculously low, but their hedonics methodology seems decently OK. However, figures showing how strong the correlation was are not presented in the paper, which is worrisome to me; instead, we get a footnote which says: "All regression results are available upon request". The fact that small, decrepit, old houses in the right neighbourhoods of Vancouver sell for 7 figures seems bewildering with a maximum $4 psf land value. I would suggest that either the variables were insufficiently isolated, as the paper notes is possible, the unpublished regression results were actually quite weak, or, less likely, "Vancouver is different". That's why I didn't like the SFH part of the paper - there seems to be so much more to it... perhaps the fact that some cities have constraints on metro land supply is a factor?

Stepping back and assuming Glaeser is correct on land value though, it'd be completely negligible in the face of our house prices, so we can ignore it in our calculations. We can then apply the same general model as for highrises.

---
Starting with highrises, the profit maximization model equates marginal cost (MC) with marginal revenue (MR), MC = MR, which I specify as:
MCthirty * (1 + 0.004)^x = spsf * 0.64

where
0.64 = the saleable-to-built ratio
0.004 = the increase in MC for each floor above the 30th (that is, 0.4% per floor), as that's where this number applies
x = additional floors above 30 required to maximize profit (so, total floors = 30 + x)
MCthirty = marginal cost psf (includes all non-regulatory marginal costs: construction, marketing, sales, etc.) for the 30th floor ($)
spsf = saleable psf price ($)
- this assumes spsf stays constant as you move to higher floors (which it doesn't due to better views, but, for simplicity, I just assume that the increase in spsf would be exactly offset by the decrease in the saleable-to-built ratio)

We do a little natural log algebra to get the formula for highrises:
x = ln ( spsf * 0.64 / MCthirty ) / 0.003992

where 0.003992 = ln (1 + 0.004)

So, using my suburban example, with $500 per saleable square foot as the price (spsf), and a construction cost of $250 per square foot for the 30th floor (MCthirty), we get:

x = ln ( $500 * 0.64 / $250 ) / 0.003992 = 62

So the total # of floors to maximize profit is 30 + x = 92, which I fudged upwards slightly (these equations are hardly exact, anyway) to 100 for impact, justifying that by claiming a price slightly above $500 psf.

For wood frame construction, I have no idea at what rate marginal costs increase with additional floors. Let's just say 0.4% remains valid (though it's possibly too low). Saleable-to-built ratio? I don't know, I guess 75%, in some cases? Here's my stab at a wood frame construction equation (which is nowhere near as robust as the highrise one, not to say that even that one was necessarily particularly sound):
total floors = ln ( spsf * 0.75 / MC ) / 0.003992

Prices depend on neighbourhood. Let's say $750 psf in Kits (not sure if that's reasonable). I think the MC is maybe $200 psf there, for high quality.

In that case:
total floors = ln ( $750 * 0.75 / $200 ) / 0.003992 = 259 floors (which, as I said, is why many Vancouver homes would blast through wood frame limits if regulations allowed, even if this equation is quite poor and several of the figures used are unrealistic).

Last edited by Bert; May 22, 2008 at 3:36 AM. Reason: Corrected definition of MCthirty (shouldn't be only construction costs, but ALL non-regulations-associated marginal costs)
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  #71  
Old Posted May 21, 2008, 9:24 PM
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I have one small issue with the math... i have limited experience with economics (but the math doesn't scare me)

1) If I've got this right, you're finding x, the floor over 30, where the cost-per-sf equals the revenue-per-sf. The cost increases by 0.4% per floor, but floors don't compound (much to the dismay of many forumers, i'm sure).

Replace MCthirty * (1 + 0.004)^x = spsf * 0.64 with MCthirty * (1 + 0.004x) = spsf * 0.64

with this change it turns out you don't need to fudge your result at all! x = 70
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Old Posted May 22, 2008, 3:10 AM
Bert Bert is offline
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Originally Posted by fever View Post
I have one small issue with the math... i have limited experience with economics (but the math doesn't scare me)

1) If I've got this right, you're finding x, the floor over 30, where the cost-per-sf equals the revenue-per-sf. The cost increases by 0.4% per floor, but floors don't compound (much to the dismay of many forumers, i'm sure).

Replace MCthirty * (1 + 0.004)^x = spsf * 0.64 with MCthirty * (1 + 0.004x) = spsf * 0.64

with this change it turns out you don't need to fudge your result at all! x = 70
Well, that's good news!

I was reading it as each additional floor costs 0.4% more than the previous floor, rather than an additive 0.4% per floor. Working backwards, on a spreadsheet, with Glaeser's Marshall & Swift numbers in Table 3 on p. 44, he seems to have read it the same way I did, since his marginal cost estimates based on average costs match the compounded rather than additive numbers.

Regardless of which reading is more correct, it makes relatively little difference to the results (until we get into the multi-hundred floor skyscrapers, anyway). I say let's go with yours, since it's cleaner, and these are just quick and dirty estimates for unregulated building heights, anyway.

Last edited by Bert; May 22, 2008 at 3:39 AM.
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  #73  
Old Posted May 31, 2008, 3:57 AM
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Look at Vancouver's density change:
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  #74  
Old Posted May 31, 2008, 6:40 AM
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Keep an eye on the spreading light yellow too...

Also, thanks for the great posts Bert and Fever! That really puts things into perspective. Assuming 70 floors is the right height, and even making a wild guess that necessary regulation and extra costs cut that down by 50% we're still limiting buildings to less than a tenth of their optimal height in a lot of places. That's the most depressing thing I've heard in a long while.

I really wish some local economist or think tank would put some effort into studying this - would put some more weight behind the claims and could possibly encourage some positive zoning changes. I'm not sure what else would, at this point.

Last edited by quobobo; May 31, 2008 at 6:58 AM.
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  #75  
Old Posted May 31, 2008, 7:28 AM
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MistyMountainHop MistyMountainHop is offline
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Those who haven't seen it might want to take a look at my essay on densification here.
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  #76  
Old Posted May 31, 2008, 8:07 AM
Punkster Punkster is offline
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While the 'yellow' areas on the map are expanding, I think that they are simply filling in the last developable areas in the gvrd. Those are all upland forested areas. Everything after that is in the ALR.

If you go to Surrey's website, they have pretty intense development plans to manage growth and sprawl and encourage town centres. I think the real rogue in the region is Maple Ridge who threatens to leave the regional district if it doesn't get its way. At least the others are making an effort. Although I was shocked to see the massive development and town centre Langley is planning around 208 and 72nd I believe it is?
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  #77  
Old Posted Jun 3, 2008, 5:34 PM
quobobo quobobo is offline
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Also, a huge one they overlooked in general is meeting minimal health/environmental/safety standards. If the building is unhealthy, the additional residents cause a disproportionate burden on our health care system. If the building is an energy hog, the additional residents create disproportionate pollution per capita. If the building is unsafe (i.e. it'd collapse in an earthquake), there are obvious negative externalities there as well.
I just had a thought, isn't this already included in the marginal cost estimation already? I would imagine that it is, since it mostly incurs cost in the design and materials.
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  #78  
Old Posted Jun 12, 2008, 10:57 PM
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EcoDensity here to stay
Despite Mayor Sam Sullivan's electoral loss, the plan to increase city densities has widespread support

Frances Bula, Vancouver Sun
Published: Thursday, June 12, 2008

VANCOUVER - For the past two years, EcoDensity has been ridiculed as a marketing ploy, an empty phrase for self-promotion by now-deposed Mayor Sam Sullivan, a giveaway to developers, and a recycled version of existing Vancouver policy.

But it was also praised as a much-needed and exciting kickstart for Vancouver in thinking about how to build a more sustainable city.

Today, the controversial initiative to increase density and boost environmental city-building is official city policy. And it's one no political party appears likely to dismantle, since the approval vote, except for a disputes on a couple of points about affordability, was unanimous.

One of its most popular elements, likely to become visible reality soon, is laneway housing, which may get rolling by early 2009.

Also, effective retroactive to March 13, all buildings being built under a rezoning and all large-scale projects have to meet the highest environmental standards in North America. And city planners now have authority to negotiate various kinds of affordable housing with the developer.

Coun. Raymond Louie, one of the three mayoral candidates for Vision Vancouver, says if elected, he'd ask planners to go back to a couple of items and put in defined goals for affordability in new major projects, rather than leaving it up to planners to bargain with developers.

But otherwise he'd demand no major changes.

Non-Partisan Association Coun. Peter Ladner, who defeated Sullivan for his party's mayoral nomination Sunday -- in part by saying EcoDensity had been too much about slogans -- said he's very happy with the program, which was finally approved on Tuesday.

He wouldn't ask for affordability targets. The one tweak he might make, if elected, would be to get planners to push measures related to affordable housing to the top of the action list.

Besides getting approval in its home town, EcoDensity is now a name and a plan that is admired in other cities.

Development consultant and council candidate Michael Geller was just in Ottawa talking to politicians and planners there about how to create more compact housing.

"They asked if they could use the name. They liked the ideas," Geller said, but he had to tell them it was trademarked.

That became a political hot potato when the mayor applied for a trademark under his name rather than the city's. Sullivan said he was just protecting the name for the city and the trademark was duly handed over, but the incident stuck in people's minds and the plan was sometimes referred to as EgoDensity.

Geller, one of the circle of people whose advice Sullivan sought before announcing EcoDensity at the World Urban Forum in 2006, said the way Sullivan's team launched and carried out the initiative created problems that worked against it.

Geller had pushed Sullivan to include a stronger emphasis on affordability. That advice went mostly by the wayside. Instead, Sullivan put his emphasis on saving the planet through density.

That brought out groups of protesters who had been quiet for years. Both irate west-siders and put-upon east-siders were convinced their neighbourhoods were to be overwhelmed by massive towers.

More than 150 people registered to argue passionately for and against in a record seven nights of public meetings.

Even planning director Brent Toderian, who devoted much of the last two years to developing and promoting the idea, admitted at one point that the controversy sometimes made it difficult to get people to talk about the actual ideas.

In the end, the plan attracted only about 30 protesters -- who wore black bands on their mouths to indicate they'd been silenced -- to the final meeting.

"It was an exhaustive process," says Toderian. "But we got to a draft that all the political parties and all stakeholders could see themselves in."


Geller is more blunt about the problematic process.

"The label was clever and it was a well-intentioned initiative," he said. "But it led to a lot more harm than good.

"There was a great deal of misunderstanding and a lot of unnecessary fear," said Geller, who has been developing the UniverCity project at Simon Fraser University. He pioneered ideas like creating locked-off rooms in condos so that apartment dwellers could help pay the mortgage by renting out space as homeowners do with their basement suites.

In the end, both Geller and Ladner think the plan pushed the city into more aggressive action than it might have under the status quo.

Louie disagreed, saying if Sullivan hadn't bogged the city down in political controversy and endless process, the city might have moved faster to new environmental building standards, laneway housing and new forms of secondary suites.

fbula@png.canwest.com
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  #79  
Old Posted Jun 15, 2008, 7:44 AM
Bert Bert is offline
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Originally Posted by quobobo View Post
I just had a thought, isn't this already included in the marginal cost estimation already? I would imagine that it is, since it mostly incurs cost in the design and materials.
A million years later (sorry, been swamped lately)... but yeah, you're probably right about that one - much of those would be absorbed in higher required costs of design/materials.
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  #80  
Old Posted Jun 16, 2008, 6:19 PM
twoNeurons twoNeurons is offline
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Great density map, deasine. I think on the whole, Burnaby is more dense than Vancouver. I'd rather see all dark orange, like Burnaby, than a few red spots like Vancouver. And this is despite a lot of Burnaby having larger lots. However, if you drive around Burnaby, one thing that you'll notice is that in neighborhoods with SFH, there is a complex of townhouses, or a bunch of low-rise walk-ups interspersed.
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