A round-up of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the last seven days. Leave your picks for next week in the comments, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Real Estate Boom in Phoenix Brings Its Own Problems," Fernanda Santos, New York Times
PHOENIX — Here, where the housing market endured one of the hardest crashes anywhere during the recession, the rebound has come faster than in most parts of the country, fueled by a vigorous job market, a sturdy rise in home values and an all-around sense that the worst of times is in the distant past.
“It’s hard to find a lot of fault with the recovery in Phoenix,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, a California company that tracks housing sales, reciting a list of positive indicators, like the area’s shrinking inventory of foreclosures, its healthy population growth and the steady decline in the number of homeowners who owe more on their mortgage than their property is worth.>
But those changes have brought a whole new set of challenges.
"Think Living in Suburbia's Cheaper? Think Again," Rob Carrick, Toronto Globe and Mail
There’s no refuge in the suburbs from Canada’s housing affordability problem.
You can buy a house for less money in the suburbs than you can in a big city, but the cost of commuting may kill almost all your savings. Some number-crunching by a public-spirited mortgage broker in the Toronto area makes this point quite clearly.
"Does Satan Worship Lower a Las Vegas Mansion's Value?" Andrew Khouri, Los Angeles Times
They came to the Las Vegas mansion in waves, chasing tales of ghosts and murder. Some came to gawk or snap photos in front of its black metal gate. Others came to worship Satan. Thrill seekers broke in and drew pentagrams and carved upside-down crosses throughout the house.
The vandals came after "Ghost Adventures" featured the mansion on an episode that warned of a "nasty, evil spirit" that lurked inside. The homeowner fumed and sued. He wanted the Travel Channel show to pay damages.
But how do you calculate the effect that demons have on property value?
You ask Randall Bell.
"Tackling Climate Change: Copenhagen's Sustainable City Design," Elisabeth Braw, The Guardian
"We've looked at how climate change will affect Copenhagen in the long-term future", says Lykke Leonardsen. "For Copenhagen, the most serious effect of climate change will be increased precipitation, so we've developed a plan that addresses how to catch all the rainwater in the city." Leonardsen, a city planner, belongs to the 10-person team working solely on long-term climate change adaptation, planning ahead to the year 2100.
Like any city located by the sea, Copenhagen will face particular danger as sea levels rise and superstorms hit coastal areas with greater frequency. "In adapting to climate change, cities can choose either grey or green infrastructure," says professor Stuart Gaffin, a research scientist at the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University, who also advises the New York City government on climate change adaptation. "Grey infrastructure means building walls and barriers. In New York's case, we'd lose Long Island if we went for the grey option. The green option, which has growing support, includes green roofs, green streets that will capture storm water, and pavements that allow water to percolate through."
"4 Big Reasons Why People Are Giving Up Cars," Micheline Maynard, Forbes
The finding that car free families are on the increase coincides with an overall drop in driving for much of the past decade. While some of that is due to the high cost of owning and maintaining a car, there are a variety of other factors at play.
As the study reports, “Changes in alternatives to travel, such as communication substituting for travel and renewed interest in and availability of options such as transit, bike and walk, helped dampen interest in expanding auto ownership,” they wrote.
"Swinging in the City," This City Life
It is hard to write about swings without sounding cheesy, but there is something about being on a swing that offers the experience of pure joy and freedom. Swings can transform a mundane environment (like a bus shelter, abandoned alley, etc.) into an opportunity to play. This feeling is typically reserved for children, but architects, urbanists and artists are bringing swings to the city in creative, playful installations for everyone to enjoy. I was surprised to see how many examples of urban swings have been popping up around the world.