As you undoubtedly know, Matthew Yglesias is a leading economist. But you may not know that he’s also a leading city planner and housing policy expert.
One of his favorite cities to cite as an example of good housing policy is Berlin (see here, for example).
I’ve been waiting for him to admit that this was a joke or for someone else to say something, but it seems like everyone else is just going to let all these comments go. I guess I have no choice but to spell out precisely what it would mean for another city to emulate Berlin’s “housing policy.”
Here is a step by step list:
1) This is crucial step and the most difficult to execute. In this step, you must thoroughly destroy your city via massive aerial bombardment. This can’t be the old fashioned, military-targets-only sort of bombing. We’re talking about the sort of bombing that leaves no buildings of consequence in tact. People that come to the city 70 years later should occasionally have to evacuate high-traffic parts of the city due to bombs that they find in those areas that are still undiscovered and unexploded.
Obviously, this makes building a city with an ideal housing policy much easier, since you can start from scratch. On other hand, if properly executed, this step is much more expensive than having people pay a little bit more for housing.
2) Divide the city in two. This step is also difficult, because the dividing line has to be a serious one. We’re not talking about a “wrong side of the tracks” type of dividing line that can be found in many cities. Instead, this dividing line should be such that if you cross it, you get tortured and then shot. Or perhaps just tortured and then sent off to do hard labor.
3) In this step, you need to make one side of the city much richer than the other side.
4) Next, it’s time to cut off the rich side of the city from the rest of civilization by all routes other than a narrow corridor. If done properly, the rich side of the city should now be surrounded by a poor country.
5) In this step, you abruptly tear down the dividing line between the two sides of the city. When this happens, you should also reunite the poor country with a much richer country.
6) It’s crucial that this step be performed at the same time that step 5 is performed. In the poorer side of the city and in all the territory immediately surrounding the city, you should abruptly switch economic systems.
These last two steps in combination, will ensure that most of the population in the surrounding area leave for wealthier areas of the newly unified country.
7) Enjoy cheap rents due to the fact that you used to have a big and crowded city, but now you have a big city with no people.