Blame Geography for High Housing Prices?


It’s not just land use restrictions that are responsible for steep rents in cities like San Francisco and New York.

It’s become something of a mantra among urban economists: Increasingly unaffordable housing prices in cities like New York, London, and San Francisco are very often the consequence of onerous and out-of-date land use regulations. Whether it’s restrictions on the height of buildings or the density of development, these regulations effectively constrain the supply of housing. This year’s Economic Report of the President flagged such land use regulations as a major factor in skyrocketing housing prices and growing urban inequality. Another study I wrote about last year estimates that restrictive urban land use policies cost the U.S. economy around $1.6 trillion a year.

But something much more enduring than zoning and land use is also contributing to the deepening housing affordability problems of leading superstar cities and knowledge hubs. According to a recent study by Issi Romem, chief economist at BuildZoom, part of the explanation lies in the geographic characteristics of cities and metros—mountains, lakes, coastlines, etc.—that make it all but impossible to expand and add more housing.

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GeoDev Meetup-Washington, DC May 11th

  • ESRI Meetup

    Wednesday, May 11, 2016

    5:30 PM to 8:30 PM

  • 1133 15th Street NW, Washington, DC (map)

  • We will be hosting an Esri GeoDev Meetup on Wednesday, May 11th. Food and beverages will be provided at the meet up.

    This event is a social gathering for developers to discuss the latest in mapping, geo technology, geo services, web and mobile mapping apps, app design, cloud solutions, map data or anything else related to solving real-world “geo” problems.

    Developers of all levels of expertise are welcome, from seasoned GIS professionals to those new to geospatial development. At these meet ups, you can: Meet cool people. Show us what you got by demo’ing your application or framework. Present a cool new/interesting concept or idea. Impress someone by sharing your experiences. Make BFFs for life – connect with other developers!

    Meet Up Schedule

    5:30 – 6:30 PM Registration and Social (Appetizers and Beverages served)

    6:30 – 7:00 PM Introduction, plus demos from Courtney Claessens and Andrew Turner, Esri R&D Center.

    7:00 – 8:00 PM Lightning talks

    8:00 – 9:00 PM Raffle, Networking and Social.

    Two great prizes:

    • 1000 ArcGIS Online Developer Subscription credits

    • DevSummit 2017 Registration

Researchers Find Earth May Be Home to 1 Trillion Species

May 3rd, 2016

Sensors & Systems

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—Earth could contain nearly 1 trillion species, with only one-thousandth of 1 percent now identified, according to a study from biologists at Indiana University.

The estimate, based on the intersection of large datasets and universal scaling laws, appears todayin the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study’s authors are Jay T. Lennon, associate professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Biology, andKenneth J. Locey, a postdoctoral fellow in the department.

The IU scientists combined microbial, plant and animal community datasets from government, academic and citizen science sources, resulting in the largest compilation of its kind. Altogether, these data represent over 5.6 million microscopic and nonmicroscopic species from 35,000 locations across all the world’s oceans and continents, except Antarctica.

“Estimating the number of species on Earth is among the great challenges in biology,” Lennon said. “Our study combines the largest available datasets with ecological models and new ecological rules for how biodiversity relates to abundance. This gave us a new and rigorous estimate for the number of microbial species on Earth.

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Satellite Spies Africa’s Oldest Desert and Largest Game Park

ESA’s Sentinel-2A satellite captured this natural-color image of central western Namibia, which includes the Namib Naukluft Park as well as the world’s oldest desert.

ESA’s Sentinel-2A satellite captured this natural-color image of central western Namibia, which includes the Namib Naukluft Park as well as the world’s oldest desert. (Credit: Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data [2016], processed by ESA)

A colorful image of central western Namibia, taken on Jan. 28, 2016, by the European Space Agency (ESA) Sentinel-2A satellite, details the world’s oldest desert: the Namib. Also present is the Namib Naukluft National Park, the largest game park in Africa and the fourth largest in the world.A typical west coast desert, moisture enters as fog, from the Atlantic Ocean, rather than receiving actual rainfall. The fog enables life in this arid region for snakes, geckos and insects such as the fogstand beetle, which survives by collecting fog moisture on its bumpy back, as well as hyenas, gemsboks and jackals.

Winds carrying the fog also create the sand dunes, whose age is rendered by the burnt-orange color as a result of the sand being oxidized. Also visible along the top-left part of the image is the Kuiseb River bordered on one side by some of the tallest sand dunes in the world and on the other by barren rock. The river blocks the movement of the dunes, which are blown northward by the winds.