I’m with the Brand


Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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35 Responses

  1. Avatar Murali says:

    The key problem, it seems, is the prevalence of renters. If most residents owned the property outright instead, the increases in land value would benefit them instead of harming them.

    Municipal governments for a number of reasons, don’t like slums. (One reason is because they are eyesores. Another reason is that they get little tax revenue from them. Its a combination of lower land, property and income taxes).

    Before pursuing urban redevelopment, municipal governments need to ensure that there is some way in which residents who might get displaced have alternative living arrangements. Public housing might be an option here.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Yeah, what’s one of the big factors driving this is the Toronto housing bubble, which was driven largely by speculation (house flipping, etc.) but hasn’t shown signs of serious cooling. So, houses there that were $150 k in living memory are now $1.2 mil and so forth. What this means is young people who work in their job market and want to buy a house have to come out to here. As a result, our houses went from something like $160 k to half a mil. very very quickly. And, as a result of that, most millennials I meet these days just assume they won’t ever be able to afford a house. So, they rent. Which then drove up the price of condos, but after that, the price of apartment rentals.

      Will the government step in? I have no idea. It looks good on paper- lots of people are making money and the tax base should be higher than before. On the other hand, you know, it’s not clear where we’re at in say ten years from now.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        Are there lots of unoccupied houses/ buildings? Land prices go up when productivity of land increases or demand, relative to supply increases or people falsely think at least one of the two is happening but that’s just a bubble. Productivity increases should usually translate into higher wages for you so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The problem as it were is when it is the latter 2 possibilities.

        If land prices are increasing, then the state needs to either build more houses or free up land use restrictions/height restrictions so that the private sector can build more houses/apartments.

        If its a bubble, I don’t know what to say except that this can’t last.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          Those things would help, but I’m not sure it’s going to be that easy. The housing thing has been “largely a speculator driven bubble” as this article explains. So, there are still plenty of unoccupied houses closer to Toronto. Here, it’s hard to say. There’s a lot of maybes about whether or not the boom here is going to bust. We’re building a ton of condos, but it’s too soon to tell how many of them actually get filled. As far as home sales, as long as Toronto homes are still getting up to $1.4 mil. the ones here that are about $600 k look cheap.

          Anyway, more background:

    • Avatar Dark Matter says:

      If most residents owned the property outright instead, the increases in land value would benefit them instead of harming them.

      Only when you sell. Paying swelling prop taxes can be a serious problem for people in some types of situations.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        Higher rates of property ownership will depress the rental rates which will in turn depress Annual Value and hence property taxesReport

        • Avatar Dark Matter says:

          Higher rates of property ownership will depress the rental rates which will in turn depress Annual Value and hence property taxes…

          This seems more like the outcome of the solution than a solution. I’m not sure it’s even possible to increase property ownership rates without increasing supply. Increased supply depresses rental rates. For that matter increased supply also increases what’s out there to tax so taxes can be lower.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. says:

            I’d love to see that happen. Are there any examples at hand? The only place I can think of where rents are actually dropping right now is Chicago, or so I’ve read, but that’s most likely because their population has been dropping pretty sharply. Lots of people moving out. I imagine that could happen here too, but I know the population of NY is dropping and I don’t know anyone there whose rent is dropping.Report

          • Avatar Murali says:

            What I’d do, at least if I were dictator, is firstly waive property taxes for properties which are also the residential mailing addresses of the owners. This will mean that people who are flipping a house or are renting it out will have to pay property taxes.Secondly the property tax rate must increase for each additional residential property registered to your name but which is not your mailing address (over and above issues about land area).Report

  2. Avatar Kolohe says:

    The Arkells are specially cited for “settling in and beginning their careers here”. The emphasis in these articles is always, always, fishing always on people who moved here from elsewhere and settled this wild frontier, bringing culture to the savages. The kids who grew up in Hamilton are continually marginalized, forgotten, “displaced”, and replaced by their social betters. Wonder why.

    To be blunt, the first thing I thought of after reading this paragraph was “You Will Not Replace Us!”

    Tell me why this is different, how the sentiment expressed here is different than that expressed by those guys.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Yeah, *THAT* won’t eventually backfire.Report

    • Avatar Maribou says:

      @kolohe In one word: Power.

      In two words: Power and Money.

      Resenting the moves of the *actually*, rather than imaginarily, more powerful and more rich, is IMO an entirely valid response by the less powerful and less rich.

      It can get utterly out of hand (cf: Cultural Revolution in China) and it can become twisted into something else, but the basic resentment is what’s led to any sort of progress we’ve made (however fragile) toward non-feudalism. (Feeling cynical about that given the link in the linky to people wanting their boss to make lots of money compared to other people’s bosses…)Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      In all honesty, I really do think you’re smart enough to see why the sentiment here is different than that expressed by those guys.Report

        • Avatar Maribou says:

          @kolohe Power matters. Colonization is not (simply) immigration.

          And, as an aside (at this point merely an aside), it’s hella rude to pose this to Rufus in the way that you are doing, given how much context you have available to you for his actions and beliefs. Which I am making an aside mostly because I have a lot of context available to me for your actions and beliefs, so I’m willing to believe you might have a “more” there.

          If so, I’d personally appreciate you being more self-explanatory and less confrontational.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          You are attributing an argument to me that I haven’t made, that doesn’t reflect my beliefs, and which I’ve explicitly argued against in like 5 posts now! That paragraph, as well, doesn’t say anything like: people shouldn’t move here, they should move back to where they came from, or let’s keep them out and freeze the city in amber. It’s not even really close to that. It’s a comment on the classist bias in these booster articles. That’s it.

          The fact that someone put a sticker on a sign for a condo project three years ago, as well, doesn’t say jack about my beliefs! Clearly the sticker worked, though, because that developer hasn’t managed to put a shovel in the ground in three years since then.Report

  3. Avatar J_A says:

    At the risk of totally missing the point, I see significant differences between gentrifying a neighborhood and gentrifying a city (*).

    The American Conservative has recently run a series of articles about revitalizing (or something similar) some of the former industrial behemoths of Ohio, with a special focus in Akron. The author, a Jason Segedy, has very interesting ideas that would make all the sense in the world if he was talking about “that part of the city past downtown, down Constitution Av., but still north of the highway, you know what I’m talking about, do you?”, but make no sense when extended to a whole city.

    Cities are, first and foremost, economic entities. They are born, grow, and die, based on economic realities: fertile land, mines, rivers, ports, bridges, trading routes, factories, beaches, etc. The Law of Comparrative Advantages rules the lives of cities. People won’t live in Akron if there’s no economic activity in Akron. And, no matter how cheerful Mr. Segedy is about the great bones of Akron, he can’t get to explain why would someone move to Akron, or stay there.

    It seems to me that something similar is happening in Hamilton. Why is people moving there? A bedroom community? A retiree community (**)?

    Until we understand what Hamilton’s place is supposed to be in economic terms, it’s difficult to understand where all this is supposed to go. And there’s the risk that there’s nothing there, and it will all end badly ?

    (*) It might be (and I think Will Truman has sort of addressed this) that if you gentrify all of the neighborhoods you have succeeded in gentrifying the city, but it is definitely not the same thing

    (**) if you have never been to Naples FL, you can’t understand the concept of a city devoted to catering at retired millionaires (badly) driving their Porsches along the beach. And what a stunning success!Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

      if you have never been to Naples FL,

      When I list my blesses for which I am grateful, the fact that I have never been to Naples FL, nor have any likely prospect of ever going there, is high on the list.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      I think that’s right about gentrifying a neighborhood vs a city. What “gentrification” usually means is transforming like five streets in the downtown core. In Hamilton, it’s really like three streets that are drastically different and another where the handful of expensive restaurants aren’t changing much. A lot of it’s just hype and nonsense at this point, and really it’s like a zombie economic process- apply the same formula everywhere and hope for the best. It’s sort of mindless.

      The real irony is that, against all odds or logic, STELCO is now hiring something like 500 new people (I’m going to apply), which means they’re about to really ramp up production. This is both great- some of the jobs start at $37/hour- and hilarious because it’s exactly the opposite of what the political class wants, but they can’t exactly block it either.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Try to not look at it from the point of view of one of the plebs. Try to look at it from the point of view of the people in power. Look at it from the point of view of the elite.

    It’s this really nice city with a good downtown and a lot of authentic cultural flavor and they are finally making money and looking to live someplace hip like Seattle or Brooklyn. For some reason, the tricks actually worked in Hamilton. The hipness is getting hipper. Which means that more elites actually want to live there. You should be flattered!

    What you need to figure out is how to bottle this hipness and see if you can’t make some other city sexy and authentic. “Okotoks has heart!” or something like that.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      That was probably too flippant.

      Dude, you’re in a situation that sucks. It’s probably not going to get better.

      The only way to make it better is more housing. Like, Cabrini-Green levels of housing.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        Except no one ever wants Cabrini-Green kinds of housing.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        Yeah, and see I wouldn’t be surprised if there won’t be a growing contingent on the left in the future calling to socialize housing the same way that Canada socialized health insurance and for roughly the same reasons. The problems with social housing are pretty well documented, mind you. But the lack of any serious stabs at solutions from the Liberals or the Progressive Conservatives- really the unwillingness to acknowledge the problem- is going to drive more radical factions to come up with their own “answers”, something that doesn’t tend to go well either.Report

        • Avatar Dave says:

          That’s an understatement. Given my background, the very mention of socialized housing pretty much eliminates them from being taken seriously on the subject.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. says:

            That’s fine. The point is the housing issue is going to be much more of a problem for the left than the right, at least for the foreseeable future.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I’m not understanding how it will be a *PROBLEM*, though. It seems like it’d be one heck of a recruitment tool. “Vote for me and I will subsidize your housing!”

              People will then imagine a life pretty much exactly like what they have now, only with lower rent.

              Why in the heck would you not vote for that? (I mean, other than the fact that it wouldn’t work.)Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                I mean a problem because the left is going to fight over how to solve the housing issue and the right doesn’t really see it as an issue. I imagine there will have a faction on the left that wants subsidized housing, a faction that wants moderate rent control, and a faction that thinks the government should do more to encourage builders to build more housing but otherwise stay out of it. Then, they’ll all fight and nothing will happen.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:



                That’ll suck.Report

  5. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    It’s Huffpost, so be wary of bias and priors, but…Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      Singapore does it too.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Holy smokes, I had no idea Vienna did that. I mean, I guess given their history, it’s understandable. It came up in the Toronto Star as well recently:

    • Avatar j r says:

      I was just in Vienna for the first time a couple of weeks ago. It’s really a beautiful city all around. I walked through what appeared to be social housing and my wife commented that Austrian housing projects aren’t at all like American ones. Most of the people I saw there appeared to be of Middle East or North African descent, which suggests some segregation. But it certainly wasn’t anything close to a North American slum or a French banlieue.

      Vienna is a very pleasant city and, from what I was told, very affordable. Someone who had relocated to Vienna after about a decade in New York also told me that people in Vienna are not very ambitious by comparison; this likely has something to do with high tax rates, low rents, and a generous welfare state. Is that a better way to live? It’s not my preference, but I see the appeal. If it works for the Viennese, good for them. I’m just not sure how replicable that model is. For one thing, Vienna is kind of a sleepy city. It’s in a rare kind of stasis, neither in decline like the rust belt cities nor booming like the areas that are experiencing gentrification. My sense is that Vienna is affordable because they have a lot of fairly nice housing stock relative to number of people there and those people’s purchasing power.Report