DC planners to create more group houses for millennials

Eric Fidler has the scoop at Greater Greater Washington:

The Office of Planning submitted the draft amendment for the Southeast Federal Center Overlay Zone, which covers about two blocks west of the Navy Yard. The proposal would let developers make buildings taller and with a higher Floor Area Ratio (FAR) as long as that 8% of the “bonus” area were three-bedroom units.

The Office  of Planning hopes that they can add more housing for families by adding regulations that create incentives to build more large units than they otherwise would.

So much room for activities

OP will probably be successful in adding additional three-bedroom units to the market, but it’s unlikely that the new regulations will achieve their stated goal.

As I’ve noted before, approximately 57% of D.C. households consist of a solitary person occupying a unit or home. However, our current housing stock doesn’t reflect our demographics.

Lots of D.C.’s young people live in what were designed as single-family units in a shared setting with other adults. A three-bedroom is substantially cheaper than three one bedroom (or studio) apartments in almost every case, so they can save money by teaming up for a lease. Families will still have to compete with people looking to live with roommates when seeking housing, and that fact won’t change because OP wants it to.

If the Office of Planning wants to create more places for families to live, it should allow developers to build what makes sense for each project. This probably means building smaller units for the time being, but each new unit is one fewer person competing with families for existing larger units.

Was taxi deregulation a failure?

Catherine Rampell has a new opinion piece claiming that taxi deregulation is bad for consumers, doubling down on a previous piece in which she made the same claim. The lesson she draws from this is that Uber will eventually be bad for consumers as well.

Her first post was written in response to an IGM Chicago panel of more than 40 leading economists asked to respond to the following statement:

Letting car services such as Uber or Lyft compete with taxi firms on equal footing regarding genuine safety and insurance requirements, but without restrictions on prices or routes, raises consumer welfare.

The ideologically diverse panel unanimously agreed.

 Her first post didn’t include any sources that contradicted the panel, but her more recent one included links to three papers: one from a taxicab lobbyist group, one written by city planners for the Department of Transportation, and one by a McGill law professor. All three said taxi deregulation was bad for consumers.

 According to Rampell, allowing Uber and Lyft is really a repeat of earlier,  failed attempts to deregulate the taxi market, and, according to her three sources, we should expect the same, allegedly bad outcomes. She suggests cracking down on ridesharing services with taxi-style regulation.

 Using a paper from a lobbyist might suggest she’s scraping the bottom of the academic barrel, and raises a question: is Catherine Rampell accurately conveying the research on taxi deregulation?

 The short answer is no, at least if you’re interested in what economists say. According to a literature review conducted by Adrian Moore and Ted Balaker, the majority of economists working on this issue think taxi deregulation is a good idea, and has worked out well in practice.

taxidereg

In addition,  the primary problem she raises on her own is the exact one ridesharing applications address:

“…fares were relatively opaque and unpredictable; and consumers were reluctant to price-shop or interrogate drivers about their insurance and safety records. They just hopped into the first available cab.”

Uber and Lyft make money because they are able to easily pair drivers and customers, establish fair rates, facilitate payment, and ensure safety and insurance.

The conventional wisdom that taxi cartels decrease consumer welfare and competition makes things better seems to be right. It’s probably why so many people enjoy ridesharing services.

Andy Harris doesn’t want marijuana in our backyard

A Maryland politician is trying to prevent District residents from implementing drug regulation in our own neighborhoods. I weighed in at the Washington Examiner:

Republicans campaigned during the midterm elections on a variety of issues, but every would-be senator and congressman also ran on the official party platform that includes a respect for federalism and individual liberty. When all the votes were counted, Republicans padded their lead in the House of Representatives and took control of the Senate for the first time since 2007.

On the same day, Washington, D.C., residents overwhelmingly voted to pass Initiative 71, which will legalize marijuana in the nation’s capital, assuming Congress doesn’t exercise its power to veto the legislation. One Republican congressman has already threatened to do so.

Instead of immediately betraying the values that led them to victory, Republicans should allow marijuana legalization to move forward in the District of Columbia, even if they wouldn’t support legalization in their home states.

Read the rest here.

DC laws give NIMBYs a lot of power to say no to any new development. We give District residents a way to say yes.