When asked how can renting be encouraged as an economically viable model Chakrabarti remarked, “You could either make rent tax deductible, instead of trying to strip away the mortgage deduction, just try to put them on an even playing field, which would worsen our deficit, or you can basically strip away the mortgage deduction to level the playing field.” Underdome Interview Chakrabarti suggests “dismantling the false promise of the “ownership society” by putting renters, who are primarily city dwellers, on equal footing and on the forefront of a more agile, mobile labor force. Being Dense About Denmark
“You know it’s interesting because landlords and real estate developers, the more old-school real estate developers, hate condos. They don’t want to develop condos. They like the steady income that comes from a rental property. It’s when you have a frothy market that you get a condo market. What happens is land owners start to think, 'Oh, I can make a quick buck by selling.' You get a lot of amateurs who enter the real estate market and say, “I can sell condos like in New York for two thousand or twenty-five hundred dollars a square foot.” So you get a lot of new entrants into the market who drive up land prices because again the old-school developers don’t sit there and say, “I’m going to buy land based on the idea that I’m going to sell condos for some extraordinary amount of money.”
And if you look right now you’ll see that in a city like New York, the old-school developers, because they’ve got their rent rules and because they didn’t go out and buy land for ridiculous prices (they stopped buying land a couple years ago), are in much better shape than the new entrants to the market who are purely condo developers, who are largely speculators, who came in and bought land for extraordinarily high prices, and now can’t sell the condos that they either started to build or have built.” Underdome Interview
To Chakrabarti, green consumer behavior isn't enough: “I feel that the market has already responded to sustainability: hybrid vehicles, fluorescent light bulbs, and all these things that Americans feel that if they adopt as individuals – that if they recycle – that if they do all of these things on an individual basis, that they're going to affect the problem. And I think, by and large, it’s duping people. That's not because I'm against all of those sustainable technologies, but if you look at the numbers, it just simply doesn't seem to make much of a dent. It doesn't seem very scalable....
"I was talking to Nancy Levinson, … and she was saying that they’ve got research at ASU that's starting to show that you can put solar arrays on every house in Phoenix, and it just doesn't matter. It doesn't matter because the land form of Phoenix so completely devours energy that those individual efforts on the part of well-meaning people are really meaningless. ” Underdome Interview
“We are being told, in the end, that sprawl is just fine, that if we just weatherize our McMansions, drive hybrid Yukons, and change to fluorescent light bulbs, our gluttonous use of land is legitimate. It is from Silicon Valley, where sprawl is high art, that progressives fuel the mentality that technology will save us from ourselves. (As an aside, one only need to look at the viral spread of this approach to the physical landscape of the Indian IT sector, where smart minds, office parks, and malls prevail.)” A Country of Cities
Chakrabarti blames the myth of the ownership society for rampant suburbanization. “In terms of the Federal Mortgage Act---I'm a real estate professional, so people go crazy when I say this, but---where is it written that people get the right to deduct their mortgage interest from their houses? Yeah sure, people do that with condos in cities too, but if you look at the numbers it disproportionately impacts suburban dwelling versus urban dwelling, because the vast majority of people who live in cities are renters.
"Richard Florida has a lot of writing about why renting is better in the kind of economy that we live in: renters are more mobile and if their jobs change…That this thing, this Bush ownership-society thing is a complete fallacy in so many ways, and you can see it now where people are tied down to homes that are underwater financially.
"Basically in this whole drive toward home ownership, and again I think just like suburbs themselves, there’s a societal moral overlay that's put on this. It is, “If you're a successful person in America you own a house in the suburbs. You don't rent an apartment in the city, especially if you have a family.” I mean if you have a family, the notion that you rent is somehow considered really substandard: it’s something poor people do.” Underdome Interview
“I think you could create a popular sentiment that says 'How long does it take to get your kid to little league?' (Underdome Interview)
"How do you hit people at their most fundamental day-to-day issues, as opposed to having everything be at the ethereal level of policy? People are sick of the traffic. They're sick of that particular lifestyle." (Underdome Interview)
While suburbia might seem to be a place for privacy and individual freedom, Chakrabarti points to the loss of free time created by congested highways and overdependence on the car.
"There was a period in the ‘60s going through the ‘80s when people treasured their time in their car. It was the pre-Starbucks “Third Place” where you weren't at home and you weren't at work, and you actually had this time to yourself. And I think people for a while really treasured that, until it just got out of control and started impacting people's quality of life. ... If you watch Mad Men, it always amazes me when they're in their cars. They're always free flowing. There's this freedom to the way they drive. Don Draper has his elbow on the window, and he's driving like this, and there's never traffic, and they’re just moving along. It's just fundamentally different than the experience of driving in America in 2010, where you almost don't get to experience that anywhere except for maybe in the open roads of the West....
"There is a tremendous sense of this in the American psyche that's very strong and can't and shouldn't be undone. And it has to do with a belief in this kind of freedom where you can get in a car and go anywhere. And that no train line, no set of airports, no anything is dictating your final destination. And I actually think there's a real power to that, and that's important for people to understand as they start talking about this. I think if there isn't enough sympathy and sensitivity to it... Because it's part of what makes the country amazing. If you drive in the western part of the country especially, there's no other way to do that. You can't walk it, you can't sail it, you can't train it. There are certain things about that I think are valuable and go to the core of who we are as Americans.
"The problem is that you can't possibly equate that experience to commuting in downtown Atlanta. Those two experiences are radically different, and they need to be disassociated from each other. The notion of that ability to get in your car and go somewhere is just so different than what most Americans do or ever get to do. I mean, how many people who own minivans and live in the suburbs ever drive cross-country? I mean, people don't do that. So I think it's important to create these distinctions. When I talk about this, I'm not trying to strip away Americans’ ability to be free in their own country. To me, this is more free because it means that if you own a car you’re actually going to be on a clearer road and actually able to get where you’re going in a different way....
"We also live incredibly stressful lives in America. We have a higher proportion of two-income families. We have kids who are wildly overscheduled. You have this situation where you've got families with enormous amounts of their lives are spent in traffic. When you have that situation, what are both the quantitative and qualitative losses that occur from that situation? There's a quantitative loss in terms of workers who could be at work, children who could be at school, people doing more productive things than sitting in a car. There's a qualitative loss in terms of just quality of life. It's that much more time you get to spend with your child or your spouse. It's that much more time that you get to do something other than being in your car." Underdome Interview
"My litmus test [for density] is 'Do people have to get in their car to get a quart of milk?" Underdome Interview