Craigslist and U.S. Rental Housing Markets

This is a summary of our JPER journal article (available here) about Craigslist rental listings’ insights into U.S. housing markets.

Small map of 1.5 million Craigslist rental listings in the contiguous U.S., divided into quintiles by each listing's rent per square footRentals make up a significant portion of the U.S. housing market, but much of this market activity is poorly understood due to its informal characteristics and historically minimal data trail. The UC Berkeley Urban Analytics Lab collected, validated, and analyzed 11 million Craigslist rental listings to discover fine-grained patterns across metropolitan housing markets in the United States. I’ll summarize our findings below and explain the methodology at the bottom.

But first, 4 key takeaways:

  1. There are incredibly few rental units below fair market rent in the hottest housing markets. Some metro areas like New York and Boston have only single-digit percentages of Craigslist rental listings below fair market rent. That’s really low.
  2. This problem doesn’t exclusively affect the poor: the share of its income that the typical household would spend on the typical rent in cities like New York and San Francisco exceeds the threshold for “rent burden.”
  3. Rents are more “compressed” in soft markets. For example, in Detroit, most of the listed units are concentrated within a very narrow band of rent/ft² values, but in San Francisco rents are much more dispersed. Housing vouchers may end up working very differently in high-cost vs low-cost areas.
  4. Craigslist listings correspond reasonably well with Dept of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates, but provide up-to-date data including unit characteristics, from neighborhood to national scales. For example, we can see how rents are changing, neighborhood by neighborhood, in San Francisco in a given month.

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How to Visualize Urban Accessibility and Walkability

Tools like WalkScore visualize how “walkable” a neighborhood is in terms of access to different amenities like parks, schools, or restaurants. It’s easy to create accessibility visualizations like these ad hoc with Python and its pandana library. Pandana (pandas for network analysis – developed by Fletcher Foti during his dissertation research here at UC Berkeley) performs fast accessibility queries over a network. I’ll demonstrate how to use it to visualize urban walkability. My code is in these IPython notebooks in this urban data science course GitHub repo.

First I give pandana a bounding box around Berkeley/Oakland in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area. Then I load the street network and amenities from OpenStreetMap. In this example I’ll look at accessibility to restaurants, bars, and schools. But, you can create any basket of amenities that you are interested in – basically visualizing a personalized “AnythingScore” instead of a generic WalkScore for everyone. Finally I calculate and plot the distance from each node in the network to the nearest amenity:

Berkeley Oakland California street network walking accessibility and walkability Continue reading How to Visualize Urban Accessibility and Walkability

America’s College Football Stadiums

stadiums-fbs-conf-barAlso check out this follow-up analysis of stadium attendance.

The 2016 college football championship game between Clemson and Alabama was held at University of Phoenix Stadium, where the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals play. Interestingly, this NFL (ironic, given its name) stadium is considerably smaller than the home stadiums of either Clemson or Alabama. In fact every NFL stadium is considerably smaller than the largest college stadiums. Outside of North Korea, the 8 largest stadiums in the world are college football stadiums, and the 15 largest college football stadiums are larger than any NFL stadium.

Americans are obsessed with college football, but how much is too much? Today most athletic departments are subsidized by their schools. Public universities increased their annual football spending by $1.8 billion between 2009-2013 while racking up huge debts to finance stadiums with little chance of profit. This interactive map shows each NCAA Division I college football team’s home stadium: collectively they seat 8.5 million people. Click any point for details about stadium capacity and year built:

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World Population Projections

Batman and Robin: By 2050, 70% of the world's population...The U.N. world population prospects data set depicts the U.N.’s projections for every country’s population, decade by decade through 2100. The 2015 revision was recently released, and I analyzed, visualized, and mapped the data (methodology and code described below).

The world population is expected to grow from about 7.3 billion people today to 11.2 billion in 2100. While the populations of Eastern Europe, Taiwan, and Japan are projected to decline significantly over the 21st century, the U.N. projects Africa’s population to grow by an incredible 3.2 billion people. This map depicts each country’s projected percentage change in population from 2015 to 2100:

UN world population projections data map: Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, South America

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Urban Design and Complexity

Corbusier Paris planI am presenting at the 2015 Conference on Complex Systems tomorrow in Tempe, Arizona. My paper is on methods for assessing the complexity of urban design. If you’re attending the conference, come on by!

Here’s the paper.

Here’s the abstract:

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Urban Informatics and Visualization at UC Berkeley

The fall semester begins next week at UC Berkeley. For the third year in a row, Paul Waddell and I will be teaching CP255: Urban Informatics and Visualization, and this is my first year as co-lead instructor.

This masters-level course trains students to analyze urban data, develop indicators, conduct spatial analyses, create data visualizations, and build Paris open datainteractive web maps. To do this, we use the Python programming language, open source analysis and visualization tools, and public data.

This course is designed to provide future city planners with a toolkit of technical skills for quantitative problem solving. We don’t require any prior programming experience – we teach this from the ground up – but we do expect prior knowledge of basic statistics and GIS.

Update, September 2017: I am no longer a Berkeley GSI, but Paul’s class is ongoing. Check out his fantastic teaching materials in his GitHub repo. From my experiences here, I have developed a cycle of course materials, IPython notebooks, and tutorials towards an urban data science course based on Python, available in this GitHub repo.

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