100 episodes

Join Abby Kinney, Chuck Marohn, and occasional surprise guests to talk in depth about just one big story from the week in the Strong Towns conversation, right when you want it: now.

Upzoned Strong Towns

    • Business
    • 4.7 • 93 Ratings

Join Abby Kinney, Chuck Marohn, and occasional surprise guests to talk in depth about just one big story from the week in the Strong Towns conversation, right when you want it: now.

    Corporate Investors Own Nearly Half of This City’s Residential Property

    Corporate Investors Own Nearly Half of This City’s Residential Property

    One hundred years ago, homes were primarily places for people to live, and weren’t considered as investments. Most Americans acquired wealth through income, and homes were only partially an investment consideration. For many reasons since the Great Depression, home ownership has begun to play a larger role than income in carrying generational wealth for Americans. “Housing has become (more of) a financial investment, not a place where you live,” Strong Towns founder Charles Marohn states in this latest episode of Upzoned. “And that changes everything about how we deal with housing.”

    Those changes include the role of institutional investors, who have become a much more significant player in many housing markets. 

    Upzoned host Abby Kinney and Marohn, her regular guest, talk over an article about research done by the Rutgers Center on Law, Inequality and Metropolitan Equity (CLiME). The study found corporate investors in Newark, New Jersey, now own nearly half of Newark’s residential property, the highest rate in the nation, researchers said. 

    Dig into the details of this discussion and hear an early notice about an upcoming Strong Towns book on housing on this week’s Upzoned.

    Additional Show Notes

    “Who Owns Newark? City Fights Back Against Corporate Home Buying Spree,” by Eric Kiefer, Patch (May 2022).



    Abby Kinney (Twitter)



    Charles Marohn (Twitter)



    Theme Music by Kemet the Phantom.

    • 44 min
    Philadelphia Is Launching the First Public Bank Owned by a City

    Philadelphia Is Launching the First Public Bank Owned by a City

    This week on Upzoned, host Abby Kinney wades into a proposal for a new Philadelphia-based public bank, a financial institution being created to provide new loans with reduced cost of capital in marginalized neighborhoods. Along with co-host Charles Marohn, president and founder of Strong Towns, Abby examines the concept of public banks as presented in a podcast by the progressive non-profit media outlet, Next City. 

    Next City Executive Director Lucas Grindley and Senior Economics Correspondent Oscar Perry Abello ask whether the first public bank owned by a city can be a “systemic gamechanger for the racial wealth gap,” according to the group’s summary of the podcast. Derek Green, a Philadelphia city council member championing the city’s public bank, joins the Next City hosts to explain that loans to small businesses can be a source of jobs in economically stagnant “bank deserts.” 

    This could be a creative option if you're looking for creative financing solutions in your place and find that local Community Development Financial Insitutions (CDFIs) are too strapped to make loans. Nevertheless, it might make sense for public bank shareholders—aka local taxpayers—to be watchful.

    Additional Show Notes

    “The First City To Launch Its Own Bank,” hosted by Lucas Grindley and Oscar Perry Abello, Next City (May 2022).



    Abby Kinney (Twitter)



    Charles Marohn (Twitter)



    Theme Music by Kemet the Phantom.

    • 33 min
    Are Cars Here to Stay?

    Are Cars Here to Stay?

    Are cars here to stay? This week on Upzoned, Host Abby Kinney leads a spirited discussion (joined by Strong Towns President Chuck Marohn and Strong Towns Board Member John Reuter) on just such a provocatively titled post written on the Persuasion Substack by Alex Trembath. 

    For Kinney and her guests, the summary or subtitle, “Real progress on climate change will require innovations that some on the left won’t like” was the poke in the ribs that got the conversation rolling and moods shifted. 

    Trembath writes that fossil fuel manufacturers and automakers are not responsible for the appetite Americans have for commuting to suburban developments. The author criticizes the urbanist and climate movements for not adequately reckoning with the enduring appeal of suburbs and car commutes.

    What's the Strong Towns take on this issue? Find out in this episode of Upzoned!

    Additional Show Notes

    “Cars Are Here to Stay,” by Alex Trembath, Persuasion (April 2022).



    Abby Kinney (Twitter)



    John Reuter (Twitter)



    Charles Marohn (Twitter)



    Theme Music by Kemet the Phantom.

    • 43 min
    Process Versus Visible Outcomes

    Process Versus Visible Outcomes

    The U.S. Department of Transportation was the administrative tool with which the Interstate Highway Act of 1956 was implemented, a massive public works program of a scope not seen since in the United States. It resembled the scale and transformative impact of the high-speed rail China built in the 21st century. 

    Now, the USDOT is rolling out a $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) over the next five years. Among its 539 amendments and 127 related bills is the law of the land for transportation funding for the next five years. Contained within are new requirements for equity in the way IIJA locates minority-owned contractors and conducts public hearings in underserved neighborhoods. 

    In their blog, Pedestrian Observations, Alon Levy takes issue with USDOT’s equity action plan. Levy’s April 15 essay, called “The Solution to Failed Process isn’t More Process,” says the plan “suffers from the same fundamental problem of American governance, especially at the federal level: everything is about process, nothing is about visible outcomes for the people who use public services.”  

    In this episode of Upzoned, host Abby Kinney points out that local knowledge and participation are critical to successful projects in her experience as an urban designer. But transportation budgets are more telling than rhetoric, Kinney argues. 

    Her co-host Charles Marohn of Strong Towns says in order to get $8 billion of equity funding, Congress had to pass a $1.2 trillion budget. That’s less than 1% for equity. IIJA funding for projects such as $1 billion dedicated to removing freeways built through poor neighborhoods of color in the 1960s (originally $20 billion) pale in comparison to the hundreds of billions which will be spent to expand the highway system in America in the next decade. 

    Since the Interstate Highway Act, massive DOT budgets and the highway projects they support have served to marginalize and pollute urban neighborhoods where poverty is concentrated. “Maybe we should just abolish the U.S. Department of Transportation?” Marohn asks.

    Additional Show Notes

    “The Solution to Failed Process isn’t More Process,” by Alon Levy, Pedestrian Observations (April 2022).



    Abby Kinney (Twitter)



    Charles Marohn (Twitter)



    Theme Music by Kemet the Phantom.

    • 33 min
    Can We Build Strong Towns from Scratch in the 21st Century?

    Can We Build Strong Towns from Scratch in the 21st Century?

    With the housing market still hot as a red poker despite an uptick in interest rates, Nolan Gray, in a recent article from Bloomberg’s CityLab, explores the idea of building brand-new cities (in the mode of 21st-century China or the Brasilia of the latter 20th century) to address the housing crisis. Alain Bertaud, a fellow at the Marron Institute for Urban Management and a former city planner at the World Bank, engages with Gray in this published interview to explain whether or not this is a realistic solution. 

    Host Abby Kinney and her co-host Charles Marohn of Strong Towns chew it over in this episode of Upzoned. 

    “Historically, infrastructure follows the market, not the other way around,” Kinney notes. “Huge public investments in infrastructure where there are no jobs are not really a very smart investment because the upfront costs of building an entire city's worth of infrastructure are so incredibly high. The public sector would have to be in a negative cash flow for a very long time.”

    Marohn talks about places where this has actually been done, with the government fronting the money for infrastructure and subsidizing individuals through mortgages and commercial real estate loans. “They fail in every financial metric that is longer than the immediate sugar high you get out of the transaction,” he says. 

    There are interesting examples, as both hosts discuss, but it’s hard to beat an organically grown, incrementally developed city, where historic trial and error has made places that work. Where do you fall on this question?

    Additional Show Notes

    “The Problem With Building a New City From Scratch,” by Nolan Gray, CityLab (April 2022).



    Abby Kinney (Twitter)



    Charles Marohn (Twitter)



    Theme Music by Kemet the Phantom.

    • 39 min
    Who Should Be Able to Veto New Housing Production?

    Who Should Be Able to Veto New Housing Production?

    Should states and counties push back against local governments to crack open more options for housing? Will that be counterproductive? How much do multiyear litigation strategies by “Neighborhood Defenders” affect new housing production in tight markets?

    A recent post in the DCist blog written by Ally Schweitzer got a lot of traffic from the housing, transportation and urbanist communities, who debated this nuanced question. A zoning battle ten years ago in the affluent Maryland suburb of Silver Spring was so contentious it’s still hot as a coal today and provides the infrastructure for this debate.

    “Fights like this play out every day in cities and suburbs across the country, “ Schweitzer wrote. “But in the D.C. region, where local governments are struggling to address a severe housing shortage that is driving up prices, elected officials are under growing pressure to push back against civically engaged homeowners who mobilize against new housing construction. Montgomery County, an affluent D.C. suburb that has experienced transformative growth and demographic change in the last 30 years, exemplifies how hard that can be.”

    Jenny Schuetz, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who examines the national housing shortage in her book Fixer-Upper: How to Repair America’s Broken Housing Systems, told Schweitzer: “We have this system where local governments are the gatekeepers for new housing production…local governments, in turn, have outsourced a lot of their authority to existing residents, so existing homeowners in particular have essentially veto power over proposals to build new housing.”

    Upzoned host Abby Kinney and her guest, Strong Towns Content Manager Jay Stange, discuss how to respect local neighborhood’s choices about where and how new housing options should be considered in tight markets. Top down solutions rarely work, but change has to be greater than zero or communities will stagnate.

    • 26 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
93 Ratings

93 Ratings

bellafearn ,

Climate change and development patterns expert suggestion

Hello Abby and Chuck, I’m a huge fan of the show and absolutely love Chucks book Strong Towns. At the end of your episode on climate change and development patterns, I heard the call for a suggestion of an expert on this subject. Jason Bradford, a biologist, farmer, co-host of the Crazy Town Podcast, and former board president of the Post Carbon Institute, I believe would be a phenomenal guest on the show. Primarily for his expertise on the subject of climate change and development. In 2019 he wrote a report called The Future is Rural. This report is a deep dive into what Chuck explained as the “village” model. It is an incredible read. Thanks so much for making such a wonderful podcast and for being champions of a movement I really believe in.

John w/ Active Towns ,

Never miss an episode!

Always a delight catching up w/ Abby and Chuck as they dive into an article each week. Keep up the great work y’all!

Me95691566 ,

One of my favs

One of my favs

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