The Rent Is Too Damn High
What To Do About It, And Why It Matters More Than You Think
This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.
From prominent political thinker and widely followed Slate columnist, a polemic on high rents and housing costs—and how these costs are hollowing out communities, thwarting economic development, and rendering personal success and fulfillment increasingly difficult to achieve.
Rent is an issue that affects nearly everyone. High rent is a problem for all of us, extending beyond personal financial strain. High rent drags on our country’s overall rate of economic growth, damages the environment, and promotes long commutes, traffic jams, misery, and smog. Yet instead of a serious focus on the issue, America’s cities feature niche conversations about the availability of “affordable housing” for poor people. Yglesias’s book changes the conversation for the first time, presenting newfound context for the issue and real-time, practical solutions for the problem.
Exceptionally good argument from left and right about housing
As a dedicated urbanist, I've thought about many of the issues Yglesias covers, yet he digs out so many unexpected observations in 80 pages that I felt I hadn't even started to think or read about the topic.
After discussing the many ways in which zoning restrictions (including things that aren't usually considered zoning, like parking requirement) not only inhibit people from living where they want, but force them to move to "cheaper" cities where they, on average, will earn less money.
This is not an attack on suburbia or a glossy-eyes tribute to urbanity, but rather an insightful treatise on how zoning restrictions hurt people in almost all sectors of the economy and places in the nation. While Yglesias is a self-identified liberal, libertarians and free-market proponents will recognize the logic in his suggestions. The same is true for those who fear gentrification and new development as a tool for displacing the poor. Yglesias notes that without new development, a newly gentrifying area becomes even more expensive, driving out more lower-income people.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in urban planning, city and suburban economics or just a well-reasoned policy piece.
A clear treatment of an opaque subject
The author presents a clear, straightforward look at the ways in which zoning regulations distort the housing market and ties that in to how that distorted housing market ripples across the larger American economy.
I also like the fact that he uses the ebook format effectively; freed from the tyranny of page count, he delivers just enough text to lay out and support his argument, without padding or tangents designed to stretch the space out.
I look forward to reading more books by Matt in future.
Free market liberalism
One thing I've long enjoyed about Matthew Yglesias is his clever way of describing liberal ideas and liberal outcomes in free market terms usually reserved for conservatives. The beauty of this line of argument is that conservatives would truthfully be first in line to complain if they ever had to live in a free market.
That said, I've read this book before, in a hundred blog posts. I would recommend this as an introduction to Matt for readers not familiar with his thought and style.