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The Rent Is Too Damn High

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  398 ratings  ·  47 reviews
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 beyo
ebook, 80 pages
Published March 5th 2012 by Simon & Schuster
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Ryan Moulton
Yglesias makes a convincing argument for a surprising cause of US's worsening economic inequality : Pervasive low-density residential zoning.

The US economy is built out of a relatively small number of skilled workers and capitalists earning lots of money, with the rest of the employment in services supporting them (and in services supporting the people supporting them, and so forth.) High density living is prohibited by law in most of the country, so the people working in those support jobs can’
Matt Yglesias is a young journalist, formerly with The Center for American Progress, who is now writing on the economy for Slate magazine. Anyone who has followed his recent reporting or Twitter feed is aware that one recent focus of his work has been the supply-limiting effects of needless regulation, and particularly building and zoning codes. Now, taking his lead from Jimmy McMillan, the recent joke candidate for New York Governor on "The Rent Is Too Damn High" ticket, Yglesias lays out his a ...more
A fast, interesting read. One point Yglesias makes that I'd never considered: your primary home is not an investment. If its value goes up, great. You have more money on paper. But unless you plan to move onto the street or live out of your car, you won't realize those gains. At most you'll move to another house, which is also likely to have appreciated in value. The only way you come out ahead is if your property appreciates more than average, which there is no reason to expect.

Having read this
Rob Mentzer
Short, which is nice. More books should be short like this. You get to the end of the chapter and you're like, oh, great, that chapter is done. Substance? Well it is a good analytic argument in favor of urban density or more specifically against zoning regulations that limit urban density. I guess the argument is correct and it is certainly not an area of public policy that many people think much about which makes it worthwhile. I live in a small city so I wondered how the basic framework might ...more
James Smyth
A strong (and concise) argument for land deregulation to allow denser residential development in valuable urban centers. It's startling how byzantine zoning rules are but heartening that we could do so much good for the environment, economy, and quality of life by reforming them. "The country, for all its challenges, has massive untapped potential locked within its citizens and its prosperous cities. All we need to do to unlock it is to let people do what they already want to do: build more hous ...more
Krishna Kumar
The topic of the book, how local government regulation stifles the construction of new homes in opportunity-rich cities across the United States, is vital and pressing, unfortunately something that has been ignored by most politicians. The rent is too high because supply has not coped up with demand. And the supply has been low is not because we don’t have the ability to meet the demand, but because there is no free market in home construction as a huge web of regulations have thwarted builders. ...more
Mar 05, 2012 London rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Urban planners, public policy fans, anti-poverty activists, libertarians, free-marketers
Shelves: non-fiction, policy
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
This book is a fairly short (less than 70 pages) claim for the easing of building codes in America's urban spaces. The author is known primarily for being a neo-Liberal thinker and writer (he works for a left-wing think tank), but he argument her relies on standard economic rules of supply and demand to solve the problem of rents in desirable urban living spaces being too high for many people to afford. His prescription of a solution is pretty straight-forward: build more housing units in the de ...more
Justin Tapp
The Rent Is Too Damn High: What To Do About It, And Why It Matters More Than You Think does not deserve the disparaging ratings/comments posted on Amazon. It is a fine book written by a market urbanist who explains basic supply and demand very well.

I can sum the book up with a few quotes:

"The point is that there are many ways in which expensive land can contain large numbers of people. The question is whether we’ll adopt rules that permit this rather than sticking with rules that often ban row
Scott Wood
If there is any chance of a Progressive-Libertarian fusionism, Matt Yglesias will be its (Progressive) standard-bearer. Imagine an entire book, written by a self-proclaimed leftist, extolling the virtues of urban life, with nary a syllable devoted to using the government to prod people into living life his way? No grand plans. No haughty insults denigrating those who make different lifestyle choices (the wrong "different" lifestyle choices). Just a tightly argued, sensible, thoughtful public pol ...more
Carrie Szoke
This book is a quick read - rather short and sweet, though it could have been even shorter because it gets to be a bit repetitive. The premise is that there is too much regulation around things like zoning, high density housing, building heights, etc. This creates a housing shortage by limited the amount of housing in desirable neighborhoods, and therefore rents are higher than they should be. I agree that this is a big problem in American cities, and is hardly discussed. In the schools I have w ...more
Xavier Shay
tl;dr rent control and regulation distort the market and suppress creation of high density housing that would actually help fix rent issues. Gentrification unavoidable if you improve an area - as services, proximity to transport, etc improve then it becomes more desirable and kicks off a cycle.

Didn't get heaps out of this, but it was really short, more like an extended essay, so three stars.
Every urban designer and urban planner should read this book to understand the economic impacts of their decisions in building sustainable urban environments. Too often, we worry about aesthetics - which is very important - but we do not understand the economic consequences of development in the US.
It's nice to read a liberal blogger who recognizes that rent controls and zoning restrictions reduce the standards of living for the poor and middle class, but at times the book seemed a little too conclusory, just repeating this message over and over again.

I loved his idea that zoning restrictions on buildings' heights and occupancies actually help create the sprawl that progressives are so against: neighborhoods that are in desirable locations close to city centers that would otherwise be pop
A short (< 100 pages) description of housing problems in America and a libertarian argument about what to do about it. A couple of years ago, this would be released with a two-word title and an all-white cover and would be twice as long.

The book argues that misguided rent control laws and zoning restrictions are a big part of the problem. The well-disciplined conservative movement in this country should be able to change that but public policy and public preferences favor a fetish for suburb
Ryan Pangrle

A pretty solid Kindle single. I would recommend it for anyone interested in urban planning, especially for any transit nuts out there. Building more density is a key component in improving transit quality, especially on the west coast. Yglesias lays out a clear case against not just zoning restrictions, but also rent control and other mechanisms that interfere with providing great quantities of dense livable urban spaces. The American left is often uncomfortable with using free market libertari
Robert Morris
More people need to be thinking about real estate. Matthew Yglesias, a writer I don't generally agree with, has made a valuable contribution to the conversation. His central insight, which like all important ones seem blindingly obvious in retrospect, is that we should make it easier for people to live in our richest cities. People can make more money by living around rich folks. A doctor, yoga instructor, janitor or shoe shine boy will make more money in New York than he will in Peoria. By allo ...more
Really great. I'm a huge fan of Yglesias's writing in general, and I think he here outlines his arguments about growth in a clear and persuasive way. It's not that everyone needs to live in enormous apartment skyscrapers, it's just that existing residents of a neighborhood should not be able to make denser living impossible -- if they are able to block development, there are benefits to those residents (though also higher rents) but also costs for society as a whole, as I think Yglesias effectiv ...more
This short e-book did a great job bringing together some of the development issues that prevent cities from building housing efficiently. NIMBYism, zoning, parking requirements all slow down growth in city housing and thus inflate the costs of living in a city. His thesis is that cities are more productive places to live so the US would be better off economically if more people lived in them versus following cheap housing opportunities which usually are in less productive places.

He touches on a
Arena Reed
Excellent points, overly academic voice. Worth reading.
Thomas Gates
This is a very interesting topic that doesn't gets much coverage. The arguments and examples are good and this seems like something that could be genuinely bipartisan. Unfortunately I worry that it is bipartisan in the sense that redistricting is (as in bipartisan agreement to ignore it). I think Yglaesis really underestimates the political power of the NIMBYS. The solutions he lays out may fit well with different parts of both parties ideologies but pandering to your current electorate will alw ...more
A short book (or extended essay) about the virtues of density in our cities. In short, density is better for consumers, employers, the environment, public spaces and just about everything else in Yglesias' opinion. I agree with him and found his arguments logical and persuasive. He advocates simplification or elimination of zoning, no minimum parking requirements, much more judicious use of historic building statutes to reduce or eliminate the hurdles that prevent development in city centers and ...more
Dan Glick
Yglesias is one of the most lucid policy writers out there. The argument of this book won't be new to anyone who's read his blog, but it's a concise and approachable overview of an important problem.

Part of the reason it's so approachable is that it doesn't prescribe many detailed solutions, because land use is generally a local issue. But if it can just shift the anti-development bias among both liberals (with its arguments about equality) and conservatives (with its arguments about deregulatio
Jeff Hauser
Persuasive and to the point, Yglesias does an excellent job of arguing against "Big Zoning." Slightly awkward length--book probably could have actually benefited from some "padding" to provide some context for how the status quo came to be and some thoughts about a path forward (eg, what cities have revitalized themselves by rethinking embedded zoning assumptions, and what got them to that point? what political factors stand in the way of rational laws?), but on its own terms and at its length, ...more
Tony Scida
I read this on econ professor and blogger Tyler Cowen's recommendation. It's an interesting and persuasive argument for less regulation around the density and height of residential construction. It also makes the argument against parking space minimums, but not as extensively as even Yglesias's own blogging. I guess an 80-page ebook just didn't have room. One fun exercise is to read the book, then go look at the reviews and laugh at the people going on and on about a book they haven't read.
Another example of what happens when you don't right the review right after reading the book.

Clocking in at less than 70 pages, this is really more of an extended essay than a book. It focuses on well intentioned public policies drive high rents and sprawl. Although there are few solutions proposed, it is a good read for both conservatives and liberals because neither comes away unscathed.
Bret Aarden
A great, truly moderate public policy book that's a fast read, too. This is one libertarian argument that rings true, criticizing both progressives and conservatives for protecting established interests against greater economic integration. Recommended for anyone concerned about either local or national government.
Ygelsias makes some excellent points in this short treatise on housing. Worth reading, even if - or perhaps especially if - zoning policy is not your top area of interest. Our current federal, state, and local policies on land use likely have an impact on the issue or issues about which you are most passionate.
Tom Lee
Smart summation of an issue that more people ought to think about. If you follow Yglesias' work much of this will be familiar to you, but he makes good on his promise to use the ebook format to deliver clarity, pithiness, and avoid wasting the reader's time. I hope we see more books like this one.
Stuart Coleman
A short primer on why housing policy in this country is so stupid. Significant amounts of the material are addressed in his blog, but the full synthesis is elucidating nonetheless. You will leave infuriated at the inanity of our current policy, and convinced that it needs to change.
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