The Chicago Model

Now that I’m here in Chicago, it occurs to me that this is a city that’s worth talking about more in terms of THE RENT IS TOO DAMN HIGH issues. In particular, Chicago is a big-time city with a lot of the attributes of your coastal metropolises, but it’s a good deal cheaper to live here than in a coastal metropolis:

To a first approximation, that’s because Chicago, though by no means perfect, is largely doing real estate development policy right. It’s a city that’s both sprawling and dense. It has its share of heavy rail transit serving the center of the city, and downtown where land is expensive the buildings get very tall. At the same time, it also spreads out a great deal since lots of people have a perfectly authentic preference for single family homes and varying degrees of low density neighborhoods. If I ran the zoo, I wouldn’t have built all these intra-urban freeways and I would have built more train lines and things would look somewhat different. Like all American cities, Chicago would have benefited from not adopting these minimum parking regulations and would benefit today from scrapping them. But it’s a good example of how you don’t in fact face a stark “Manhattan or Houston” choice where it’s either all like this or all like that. Any substantially sized city is going to have different parcels of land that are very differently priced. By adopting a relatively relaxed attitude toward how land can be used, you can develop a diverse range of neighborhoods and relatively affordable housing.