Tag Archives: cities

Montreal’s low rents are a lesson for any city suffering the opposite

Le Plateau in Montreal

Rents in many cities are high and rental properties are becoming increasingly difficult to afford. One exception to this is Montreal, where “average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the Montreal metro area is $760. The Toronto average is $1,288. In Vancouver, it’s $1,368.” Why is that? Well there are a number of reasons, but as this The Globe and Mail point out, a key reason is the basic economics of supply and demand. But there is more to it that just that, and I’d recommend you read the piece to find out why.

I’m not sure if other expensive cities can replicate this, but it’s worth knowing it can be done and using this knowledge in cities where politicians and others try to limit rental stock.

The migration from rural to urban areas is going to continue for some time. People need more places to live. Let’s hope other cities can learn from Montreal.

(Quote from the article, image from Wikipedia)

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How to see parks in Toronto

Easy, with this beautiful map:

Map of Toronto parks

A link to a full sized version of the map is here.

More information on the map, here: New map charts parks near TTC stations

Another cautionary tale: this time regarding Bleecker Street in NYC

The story of Bleecker Street’s Swerve From Luxe Shops to Vacant Stores in the  NYTimes is one playing out in many cities throughout the world, though perhaps not as extreme as this. It’s a big problem when money comes flooding into neighborhoods and cities, disrupting the people that live there, and making those areas unlivable in some cases. Most people need somewhat stable places to live, but unstable social systems (capitalist or otherwise) can make that difficult unless other social systems (like local governments) come in and press back against such instability. As more of the world moves from rural to urban areas, the tools to make streets and cities livable need to be developed and put to use.

Anyone living in a growing city needs to read this piece. Recommended.

(PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHRIS MOTTALINI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)

And now for something beautiful: pictures of Venice in the fog

Venice in fog

I highly recommend checking this out: Pictures of Venice in the Fog – Fubiz Media. Beautiful images of a beautiful city in a form I have rarely seen.

A cautionary tale of what low taxes and libertarianism brings

Amish women on the beach
There can be many lessons that can be drawn from the story here: The Rise and Fall of the ‘Freest Little City in Texas’

The ones I drew were

  • You get the society you pay for. In this case, the people of this part of Texas were unwilling to pay for anything, and they got nothing in return. It’s hard to believe this even needs to be said in this age, but apparently it does.
  • Even basic services cost money. That money comes from taxes or service fees.
  • Those services are expensive to pay for individually: it makes much more sense for people to pool their money (in the form of taxes),  to make it cheaper overall for everyone.
  • Taxes are only part of what makes a society, but a society that is based on money and that does not have taxes is no society at all.
  • Only a society that does not depend on money can get away without taxes. Typically those a tightly knit,  cohesive, pre-money communities that depend heavily on sharing and barter. These communities are more socialist or communist in nature as opposed to libertarian. More like an Amish community or hippie commune or a religious community of some form.
  • The best way to have a libertarian society is to have one of great abundance. Scarcity requires people to share and work together if they want to survive.

It’s a good story. Read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

(Photo above is Amish women on the beach)

Is it okay for a city to track … and other thoughts

This: Is it okay for a city to track what’s in your poop? – Macleans.ca, is a provocative question that headlines a good article.

Now for most people, the answer would be a loud “no!”.  But as you can see in the article, smarter cities lead to municipal governments gathering more information about you. Certainly in the case of smart meters, the government agency can tell alot about you just from when you use power. Digital technology and the need to better manage government resources can lead to further tracking, including to what is in your waste water. Expect to see more such tracking in the future.

Ideally for any information being gathered about you, there would be strict control over who has access to the information and what they can do with it. As well, there would be some accountability with regards to that information. I would expect there is a mixed record for much of that information, but the fact that I can only speculate tells me there is more work to be done with regards to accountability.

Read the article. It helps to be informed about such tracking so you can know how you can be tracked and how you can ask questions about such tracking to government officials and elected politicians.

Something beautiful: Italo Calvino’s ‘Invisible Cities’, Illustrated

Artist Karina Puente is illustrating  Italo Calvino’s ‘Invisible Cities’ and the web site ArchDaily has a sample of some of her work, including the image you see above.

I hadn’t expected to like illustrations of this book. The writing itself is so evocative, I would have thought that illustration would limit it.  I make an exception for these works: they complement rather than reduce the writing.

I’d love to see an edition of Invisible Cities filled with Puente’s illustrations. For now, we can enjoy what we see at Archdaily.com.