Renn’s policy proposals are not too surprising, because the solutions to the problem, or at least the broad strokes of them, are not that difficult. The building restrictions need to be relaxed. Cities need to start thinking about growth-oriented infrastructure projects again — airports, rail, street improvements to give more space to pedestrians and buses.
The question of who decides is a lot harder. These matters are traditionally handled by local governments, and local governments are precisely the bodies that have messed all this up. Local governments serve the interests of current residents, not potential ones, and current residents often don’t want their cities to get even more crowded. Those who own property don’t mind if it gets more valuable, and while some renters would happily support these reforms to bring their costs down — I sure as hell would have, in my miserable New York days — a lot of them are on the other side of the issue, too.
Renn suggests that, in a targeted and careful way, states should step in and override the very worst policies. As a constitutional matter this poses no issues, because local governments are fully subordinate to state ones. (This is different from the relationship between the federal government and the sovereign states.) But of course there is always at least something to be said for local control. And while Renn doesn’t discuss a federal role, it should be noted that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has been working to discourage bad zoning policy as a replacement for Obama-era rules that tried to force localities to engineer the socioeconomic characteristics of their neighborhoods.