What is Market Urbanism?
Market Urbanism is the cross between free-market policy ideas and urban issues. The term was popularized by Adam Hengels, of the blog MarketUrbanism.com. On the site, he calls for “bottom up solutions to urban issues, as opposed to ones imposed from the top down.” This refers to private-sector actions that create organic growth and voluntary exchange within cities, rather than government ones that are enforced by bureaucracy. Market Urbanists believe that if cities were liberalized as such, they’d have cheaper housing, faster transport, improved public services and better quality of life.
What is the Market Urbanism report?
The Market Urbanism Report is a media company whose goal is to advance this Market Urbanism idea, so that it becomes better known by the public and utilized within cities. Founded in July of 2017 by journalist Scott Beyer, The Report is a hub for market-oriented city writing. It publishes daily original content and reposts articles from elsewhere. The Report also has a video series where urbanists discuss the issues effecting their cities.
What are the main issues?
While there are countless urban issues, the Report especially focuses on three: housing, transportation, and public services.
The Report argues that housing would be cheaper, more abundant and closer to jobs if land was less regulated. The Report thus criticizes zoning, height limits, growth boundaries, parking minimums, rent control, and other anti-growth regulations. More importantly, it calls for streamlined construction approvals, so that projects don’t drag on for years.
For transportation, The Report argues that existing public systems would be cheaper and faster if they escaped government control and functioned on private-sector principles. The Report thus calls for user-fees on infrastructure; reform or privatization of public transit; growth of private transit entrepreneurship (as found in the rideshare and jitney industries); and devolution, so that cities better control how transportation money is spent.
Thirdly, The Report argues that other public services–including schools, public safety, park maintenance, and more–would improve from market-oriented reforms. This could include all-out privatization, or any number of measures that enhance efficiency and cut waste.
And last but not least, The Report also enjoys covering the general “urbanities.” It frequently posts on a broad range of city issues — how pedestrian infrastructure can improve, how immigrants revive neighborhoods, how niche urban cultures form, and much more.
Who are the market urbanists?
With that stated, the definition of a Market Urbanist would seem straightforward: it is someone who wants liberalization in cities. Market Urbansists often differ, however, in how they think cities would function under this model.
Certain contingents believe that cities, if driven by consumer demand, would grow more vertical and transit-oriented, reflecting the skylines of Manhattan and Hong Kong. They enjoy scholars such as Harvard economist Ed Glaeser, who has touted the economic benefits of such development. Other Market Urbanists believe that open land-use policy would create more incremental, mid-rise development—often dubbed “missing middle” housing. They admire thinkers like Strong Towns founder Chuck Marohn. And yet others, often labeled “Market Suburbanists,” think that land-use liberalization would create more diffuse development patterns, via roads and sprawl. The reality is that all three groups may be right–under an open system, major cities would likelier grow faster, become more populated, and offer more development styles that cater to a wider range of people.
Who is Scott Beyer?
Scott Beyer is a roving urban affairs journalist. Along with founding and managing The Market Urbanism Report, he writes columns for Forbes, Governing Magazine and HousingOnline.com, and gives regular speeches and radio interviews.
Scott was born and raised in Charlottesville, VA. In the fall of 2015, he began a 3-year cross-country tour, during which he’ll live in 30 U.S. cities, one month each, to cover urban issues from street level. He hopes by the end of the trip to publish a book on how Market Urbanism can revive American cities. After that, he wants to pursue a similar travel/book project covering the fast-growing cities in Asia, Africa and Latin America (for more info, visit ScottBeyer.org).
When not working, Scott likes to drink craft beer, play basketball and wander cities — although never simultaneously, of course.