First Peek at Population and Household Data During COVID & Caveats

co-authored with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath

In this post we look at the most recent population (and household) estimates to see if we can detect any signals concerning how the COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted how (and where) we live. This is inherently tricky; lots of things changed during COVID times, including how well our normal methods of estimation work. That makes time series less reliable, even as we’re especially concerned with how conditions have changed. So in this post we attempt to pay special attention to what we can and can’t glean from the signals we’re receiving so far.

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Satellites, Sprawl, and City Six-Packs

Co-authored with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath

We’re getting better and more accessible datasets for exploring land use change all the time. We have played with the Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL) data in the past, where we looked at the population data on a 250m grid to compare how different city’s population distribute spatially, as well as the 1975, 1990, 2000, 2015 time series to see how it changed over time. These GHSL population datasets take a variety of input data to build, one part is census or other population-based datasets, the other is the built-out area derived from satellite data that is used to estimate population data at the fine 250m grid.

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Lots of Opportunity: Estimating the Zoning Tax in Vancouver

(Joint with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath)

TLDR

We estimate the land value lost by lot subdivision restrictions in the RS (single-family) zoned lands of Vancouver. These restrictions, also known as the zoning tax, subsidize hoarding of land for the wealthy at the cost of those who wouldn’t mind sharing. We conservatively estimate the overall cost of preventing splitting of lots at $43 billion, or an average of 37% of existing lot land value. Alternative formulations enabling deeper subdivisions raise our zoning tax estimates to $146 billion. We provide examples of what subdivision could look like, tally up non-conforming lots by zone, and discuss some of the implications.

The zoning tax is real, and it is enormous. The exact amount of the zoning tax is hard to pin down because we are so far away from the equilibrium of where people would stop subdividing land or air parcels if they were allowed to do so.

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Henderson’s Guide to Pandemic History

What will happen when the Pandemic ends?

Will pre-Pandemic patterns, like people moving to Vancouver, go back to normal? Or will small towns, far-flung suburbs, and rural areas see a boost at the expense of cities, reflecting perhaps a new aversion to density and/or embrace of the rise in telecommuting acceptability? (we’ve seen such speculation in certain corners of City Hall).

Or indeed, might we see the opposite? Will people flock to cities like Vancouver as we return to mobility (including newly amped up immigration along with outreach to Hong Kong) and enjoyment of all the urban pleasures we’ve given up during the pandemic?

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Why People Move in Canada & the USA: Comparing CHS, AHS, & CPS results

Why do people move? I’ve taken up this question in a series of recent posts (some co-authored), and though the available data to address the question remains sparse, it’s getting richer all the time. Today I want to compare three different sources of information, highlighting how much it matters just how we ask people about their reasons for moving. Continue reading

Context for COVID-19 Mortality so far

co-authored with Jens von Bergmann & cross-posted over at MountainMath

Unfortunately, more and more people are dying due to COVID-19. We won’t know the full toll from COVID-19 for quite some time. But we can at least start to get a sense of its impact. One useful way of assessing the impact, of course, is just to plot deaths attributed to COVID-19. This highlights the real loss of human lives associated with outbreaks. But as any demographer can tell you, deaths are a normal part of life. Within a given population, we can reliably expect a certain number of deaths to occur over any given time period. So another way of visualizing COVID-19 deaths is also useful: How many deaths attribute to COVID-19 are occurring as compared to the deaths we would normally expect to occur? Continue reading

Overnight Visitors and Crude Travel Vectors

co-authored with Jens von Bergmann & cross-posted over at MountainMath

The spread of Coronavirus is reminding us of just how often people travel around, especially as various locations become quarantined and international travel corridors get shut down. So let’s take a look at some basic data on travel patterns here of relevance to us here in Vancouver. Then we’ll put them back in the context of Coronavirus.

TLDR: travel data is really interesting, don’t be frightened of travelers, and there’s still a lot we don’t know about coronavirus. Continue reading