It's Wednesday again! Welcome back to Axios Cities.
I'm just back from a quick trip to Minneapolis where I talked to a number of city leaders about affordable housing. More on that below.
Today's Smart Brevity count is 1,633, about a 6-minute read.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Residents of major American cities are constantly watched by ubiquitous cameras, mushrooming license-plate readers and a battery of new smart city sensors, Axios' Kaveh Waddell reports.
The big picture: It's not just the government keeping tabs. An explosion of private surveillance — set up by businesses, landlords and neighbors — is being driven by an increasingly cheap but powerful new wave of technology. And what these observers see could make its way back to law enforcement.
"We're seeing a growing adoption of home security technology as a part of a digital neighborhood watch," says Mana Azarmi, policy counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology. "These technologies can be abused by stalkers, criminals and suspicious spouses."
Driving the news: At least 10 neighborhood homeowner's associations in the Denver area have bought license-plate readers to monitor every car coming in and out, reports Elise Schmelzer for the Denver Post. The cameras also record the faces of passersby.
The data that private security systems gather are often open for law enforcement to dip into, potentially allowing police to get around restrictions on government surveillance that don't apply to private citizens, privacy experts say.
What's next: Some states, including New Hampshire and Utah, have passed laws limiting police access to private plate-scan databases.
Anne Mavity, executive director of Minnesota Housing Partnership (center), speaks at an Axios Expert Voices event in Minneapolis. Photo: Lucas Botz
MINNEAPOLIS — When this city became the first in the country to eliminate single-family zoning last year, the goal was to encourage developers to build denser housing. But new construction is often unaffordable for lower-income residents.
The big picture: Minneapolis is growing faster than it has since 1950, but its housing supply isn’t keeping pace.
Yes, but: To get a maximum return on their investment, developers tend to build high-end complexes that price out low- and middle-income buyers who face the biggest shortage of housing options.
So officials are looking at preserving existing homes to keep prices lower.
Federal funding for public housing has been shrinking. Minnesota’s current supply of public housing will need hundreds of millions of dollars in rehabilitation over the next decade, according to local housing officials.
As the share of affordable housing units continues to dwindle, homeownership stays out of reach for many people of color.
“What’s happening now is we can’t develop anywhere close to the affordability levels to serve, specifically, households of color,” Washburne said. "We've lost a ton of ground."
Go deeper: Read the full story
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Booming tech hubs with skyrocketing housing prices are also rethinking single-family zoning, Axios' Erica Pandey writes.
The big picture: Zoning restrictions limit cities from getting denser and, according to some experts, are the primary drivers of exploding housing costs in places like San Francisco, Seattle and Austin.
Adding apartments, condos and multifamily dwellings would start to drive prices down, these experts say, but the laws are often rooted in racism and are difficult to change.
By the numbers: San Francisco's average home price ballooned 69% from $800,000 in December 2013 to almost $1.4 million in December 2018, per Point2 Homes.
”We’ve been way too flatfooted on housing, and we still are,” says Seattle Council member Teresa Mosqueda. “But we can’t possibly keep up with this growth.”
Go deeper: Read Erica's full story
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
To address problems bubbling up from communities, some local governments are putting money directly into the hands of their citizens, Hollie Russon Gilman writes for Axios Expert Voices.
The big picture: Participatory budgeting (PB) enables residents to determine how a portion of taxpayer dollars are spent.
How it works:
What we're watching:
The bottom line: PB helps increase civic engagement for marginalized communities and involves young residents who aren't yet eligible to vote.
Illustration: Caresse Haaser/Axios
Electric scooters and bikes share the same huge challenge — operating in an environment that's not built for them, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports from San Francisco.
Scooters are more accident prone for a few reasons:
The growing popularity of scooters could force city planners to make room for them on the road. Bike lanes, for example, can be equally useful to scooter riders.
“This is my big hope for scooters: They’re gonna cause the traffic engineers to change how they do their job in a way that bikes haven’t been able to do."— Dave Campbell, advocacy director for Bike East Bay
The states with the lowest starter home prices👆(Dion Rabouin, Axios)
What restaurant reviews reveal about cities (Linda Poon, CityLab)
Can a new plan change New Delhi’s reputation as one of the world’s worst cities for women? (Niha Masih, Washington Post)
The future of cities is childless (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic)
Cities are good for the environment, but many city dwellers aren't (Justin Fox, Bloomberg)
Marvin Rees, mayor of Bristol, U.K. Photo: Screen grab from GZERO
In the latest GZERO video, Eurasia Group's Ian Bremmer asked a trio of mayors if cities should have more power on the world stage.
"As city leaders, I think there is an appetite and ability to work internationally in a way that maybe our national governments cannot. ... Our national governments talk in terms of discreet borders and zero sum success. What we’re looking at, as a growing network of cities, is our interdependence — around migration, around climate change, around democratic legitimacy. Cities are talking about connecting with each other."— Marvin Rees, mayor of Bristol, U.K.
Sorry, Jeff Bezos — the masses aren't quite ready to jump on board with your bold goal of colonizing the Moon.
Young adults are intrigued about visiting the Moon as tourists (if money were not a factor), according to an Axios-SurveyMonkey poll.
Yes, but: Americans across all generations are more reluctant about actually living and working on the Moon, if settlements were established there.
Thanks for reading! Have a great week.