July 27th, 2011

People Agreeing With Us

Today, R. sent me email with the above subject line and this link:

http://www.boston.com/realestate/news/blogs/renow/2011/06/gentrification_1.html

Several towns within Route 128 have "gentrified": the housing stock got more expensive and/or upgraded and the people living in those houses shifted in terms of the kinds of jobs they had and how much they are paid.

The author asks, who is next? and proposes a series of characteristics to look for:

Good enough schools, commuter rail, a range of housing stock (starters and high end) and "personality": "Things like festivals, farmers markets, and a decent downtown are all part of this."

The comments thread is a little weird. Someone brings up white flight (which did happen in Boston, but has been operating in reverse for quite a while now). People talk about the credit bubble (which was obviously real, but there are areas within 128 that were impacted very, very minimally by the collapse, which suggests it wasn't that much of a bubble there. Of course, there were areas within 128 that took a big hit, too.).

The biggest confusion in the comments is the difference between "will it gentrify within the next 10 years) and "has it already gentrified". Arguments of the form, but it's had these characteristics for a while and hasn't gentrified yet are missing the point. Boston-Cambridge-Somerville gentrified before, say, Arlington, because distance is an overriding factor (walkable is best). If towns closer than Arlington are gentrifying later than Arlington, it's worth trying to understand _why_; several of the towns being pointed at (Revere, Lynn) are really obviously in the process of gentrifying, but have (and may still) suffer(ed) from airport proximity issues.

http://boywithgrenade.org/2011/04/21/living-under-logans-flight-path/

In general, towns and neighborhoods near Boston which have not "benefited" from the return to the city of People of Means with Children have not "benefited" because of issues like this.

There is debate in the comments about the actual impact of an MBTA station. The idea seems to be if the station has been there all along, why would it suddenly matter now? Which sort of makes me want to go, wtf? Been to a gas station lately? When people were buying a decade ago, gas prices weren't anywhere on their list of concerns and commute distance only mattered in terms of time. Not the Same World Now.

There's a lot of ambiguity in the term "suburb" as used in the comments especially. People are using it to mean places that I would call "city neighborhoods" (the East Boston remarks, for example), as well as separate towns.

studies of teardowns

I'm reading my second one (links to be posted later), but I feel compelled to say that many times I read studies and am just outraged by the ridiculousness of the assumptions that went into the models. Of course, _those_ studies I'm tracking down because I was outraged by the ridiculousness of the conclusions. GIGO, right?

These studies, by contrast, just make me smile, over and over again, at the reasonableness of the assumptions that are going into the models. And, bonus, the conclusions are reasonable as well.

This means that my metric for reading studies could use a little work. I should spend less time reading studies that say foolish things and more time reading studies that are constructed well. I'm learning more from the good ones, too.

http://www.lincolninst.edu/pubs/dl/1683_897_Bean 2 Final.pdf (Teardowns and Land Values in New York City, Vicki Been, Ingrid Gould Ellen and Michael Gedal).

http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/publications/markets/w11-1_charles.pdf

I'm still trying to find a copy of the 2007 study both of these reference.