Harvard’s Glaeser: Jacobs Was Wrong (About Preservation)
Eliot Brown April 29, 2010, 12:48 p.m.
The Kennedy School’s Edward Glaeser–urban enthusiast, economics professor, and Economix blog contributor–doesn’t seem to think much of the proliferation of historic districts. He recently published in City Journal an article that was highly critical of these restrictive districts in New York, arguing that they drive up prices and increase income stratification by limiting housing development.
Yesterday, he bolstered that argument during a wide-ranging lecture at NYU’s Wagner School, going after Jane Jacobs’idealization of preservation (which held up low-rise and historic Greenwich Village as a model urban neighborhood), and implying a preference for growth and density.
“I think of this is as where Jane Jacobs was wrong. Jane Jacobs had a very Greenwich village-based vision of what urbanism was like,” he said at the annual Henry Hart Rice Urban Policy Forum. “Greenwich Village is terrific. But it’s not the only urban model.”
“There’s no reason why high densities are, somehow, destructive to urban life. And she’s also dead wrong when she thought that preserving older buildings was going to make sure that affordable housing was possible. It’s actually the opposite. She got her economics completely wrong. Stopping the construction of new buildings is how you make sure that buildings are expensive.”
His City Journal article has data he crunched on the issue of rising prices (the development restrictive argument is a common one made by the real estate industry in its critiques of historic districts). On the other hand, preservationists might hold up such numbers to argue that historic district status helps a neighborhood grow economically.