“Words on the Street” highlights the best writing on urbanism we’ve encountered this week. Post tips at @NewUrbs.

Whether Thriving or Failing, Cities Need Investment

[T]he same citizens who grabbed the electoral megaphone to voice their displeasure must now begin to rebuild their own places. … Thriving cities need to lift barriers to keep housing affordable; struggling cities need to remove obstacles that make it hard for people to create value. And any federal infrastructure money would be better spent on maintenance and on undoing the mistakes of past urban-renewal boondoggles, not on building new vanity projects in front of which politicians can cut ribbons and receive plaudits. [More…]

—Jonathan Coppage, National Review

Are the Burbs Really Back?

… [T]here are some serious limitations to using municipal boundaries to distinguish between cities and suburbs. A common practice is to treat the largest municipality in a region as the “city” and everything else as “the suburbs.” In some places–Phoenix, Austin, Jacksonville–great swaths of low density development are in the city limits of the largest city. Its also the case that in some metro areas, the largest city represents only a tiny fraction of the metro area–the cities of Atlanta and Miami are only about 10 percent of their respective metros, for example. ….

Cities have grown faster than suburbs in the 2010-2015 period; close-in urban neighborhoods have attracted a disproportionate share of young adults, and cities remain more diverse, in the aggregate, than suburbs. [More…]

—Joe Cortright, City Observatory

The Cure for Costly Housing Is More Costly Housing

… [A]ll the evidence points toward development restrictions being a big reason for high rents. Allowing more market-rate housing in large established cities is a good way to bring down the cost of living, not just for high earners, but for the poor and working class as well. Progressives should support higher density, not more restrictions, if they want to help the most economically vulnerable city-dwellers. [More…]

—Noah Smith, Bloomberg View

How to Get By-Right Zoning Right

By-right zoning is getting a lot of buzz these days as a needed tool to help solve the affordable housing crisis many communities are facing. For those unfamiliar, a zoning code is considered “by-right” if the approvals process is streamlined so that projects that comply with the zoning standards receive their approval without a discretionary review process.

Housing advocates and developers rightfully claim that discretionary review processes are contributing to housing crises across the country by increasing the cost and delivery rate of housing, and often directly preventing needed housing from getting built. [More…]

—Karen Parolek, CNU Public Square

Why Moviegoing Matters

My all-time favorite moviegoing experience took place at Le Champo about six years ago. I was not then living in Paris but my father was, having decided to spend his first year and a half of retirement within walking distance of the Seine. When my brother and I visited in December, the weather was uncommonly cold. It’s unusual for it to snow so early in the winter, and yet, a few days into our visit, we woke to find pale petals softly falling into the courtyard outside my father’s window. Expecting that it would melt right away, we were shocked, upon stepping out the front door, to discover that the city was swaddled in a blanket of pure ermine white. Fluffy, virgin snow powdered the conifers in the Champ de Mars, piled on the balustrades of the Quai Branly, and carpeted the Pont Bir-Hakeim. By evening, the three of us were chilled to the bone, and so we ducked into Le Champo to get warm, resigned to watch anything but thrilled to find that the theater was playing The Dead (1987), John Huston’s adaptation of the short story by James Joyce.

I mention these details because they are, for me, inextricably linked with the experience of watching the movie itself, a perfect frame for it. Never, in all my trips to the cinema, have a day and a movie been so impeccably paired. [More…]

—Graham Daseler, LA Review of Books