Could Spiderman Afford to Live in New York? | UFM Talks

Estefanía Campos  | 25 de noviembre de 2020  | Vistas: 53

In this UFM talk, Nolan Gray and Olav Dirkmaat analyzed the real estate market and the effects that government regulations have on housing affordability by studying the case of the fictional character Spider-Man under the question, could Spider-Man Afford to Live in New York?

Olav Dirkmaat gave a panoramic on housing policy in Guatemala and 5 huge issues that he sees in it.

  1. Political pressure to introduce new laws for affordable housing, through subsidies like the “Ley de tasa de interés preferencial”.
  2. Long delays in giving construction licenses reduce affordability.
  3. Zoning Laws (Plan de ordenamiento territorial) creates limits for the construction and building of more affordable housing units.
  4. Lots of retail investments in rentals and little institutional investment.
  5. Government mortgage guarantees (FHA in Guatemala)

Based on his video The Amazing Housing Politics of Spider-Man on the Pop Culture Urbanism series, Nolan shared how New York is the most expensive urban area in the cost of living index, the average income of citizens, and the economic situation of Peter Parker and his aunt May.

When we talk about the housing politics of Spider-Man, something I think is really neat about the early trilogy and a lot of the comics is that this really takes a toll on Peter Parker, this is key in his decision to actually give on being Spider-Man, he can stop bank robbers from robbing the bank, but he can’t stop the bank from foreclosing his aunt.” — Nolan Gray

Later he described the importance of Single Room Occupancies - SRO- for college students and other citizens with low income, and that the city doesn't allow enough housing to be built, which is one of the reasons that make it expensive to live in this city. Nolan also showed a map of the Borough of Queens - Peter Parker neighborhood - and explained the low-density zones that do not allow the creation of more housing.

For Nolan Gray there are three ways to help aunt May and Peter Parker:

  1. Legalize accessory dwelling units (ADU): it creates affordable units and helps local homeowners.
  2. Remove floor-area-ratio limits
  3. Get rid of low-density zoning

In other words, constructors and developers are not really thinking about the usability and the quality of life when they do these types of things. If you go around the city you see a few examples of this, of developers trying to optimize totally irrationally according to the zoning laws implemented by the city counselor.” — Olav Dirkmaat

Finally, in conversation with UFM’s Vice president, Roberto Quevedo, Dirkmaat and Gray discussed the major changes in the dynamics of housing after the COVID-19 pandemic and expanded on the case of New York as well as the reasons why the government doesn’t allow more housing, along with other final ideas on the subject.


Director de CADEP y Codirector de Market Trends, Universidad Francisco Marroquín

City planner at New York City

Decano, Facultad de Arquitectura UFM


Nuestra misión es la enseñanza y difusión de los principios éticos, jurídicos y económicos de una sociedad de personas libres y responsables.

Universidad Francisco Marroquín