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December 27, 2007

Richard Florida

Happiness and the City

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It's more complicated than you think according to this great little essay in The Walrus magazine's Cities issue (pointer via Where Blog). BTW, I'm a huge fan of the Walrus, which if you didn't know it already, is literary magazine from Toronto - sort of similar to the New Yorker or the Atlantic.


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My favorite quote from this article is, "The city of Bogotá used research on status to underpin a restructuring of its road system, taking prime space away from cars and giving it to buses, bikes, and pedestrians so poor commuters could feel more equal. Optimism shot up." If we can make transit users feel 'superior' to the poor slobs stuck in cars, perhaps we can increase transit usage.

cupcake man

Love that article - the walrus rocks! Keep the cool links coming

Zoe B

Great article! I have been thinking about the renter idea for awhile. The share-a-house business is how I could afford to move east after college. Can't say which was more important: the cheaper rent, or the chance to hang out in the kitchen (especially when I knew no one else in town). It also has good potential to create more affordable housing (for both the owner and the renter) without any new/renovated building or public funding.

An important issue here: how much power do you have to decline to rent to someone who has applied for your space? Anti-discrimination laws generally are a great social good, but they have taken away a lot of landlords' power to decline to rent to someone who looks like trouble. If the person has a passable credit record and no arrests, you might have no other legal grounds to deny rental to someone who gives you the creeps. I have a friend who could really benefit from renting out a piece of her house. She has 13-year-old daughter. She will not risk endangering the girl for the sake of extra income.

The important element here may be: do you have greater legal rights to discriminate if you are renting a space in your home (vs a separate house or apartment)? Does that greater right apply if the rental space is an attached but otherwise private apartment (and how do you operationally define ANY arrangement that gives greater discriminatory power to the owner)? If the living arrangement goes sour, what recourse do you have (either as owner or as renter)?

This is a good area where public policy could improve social capital in the coming decades. Clarify the boundaries of renters' vs owner's rights in a shared home. Strengthen the incentives AND the sanctions. Get civil rights and civil liberties groups to sign on to a compromise. AARP might be interested - it could help retirees stay in their own homes. I think this could be a do-able agenda.

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