Tuesday 19 March 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 19/3/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Time to build: Marcia Fudge, the outgoing US housing and urban development secretary

Image: Alamy

Urbanism / Gregory Scruggs

On the home front

The once-niche topic of housing is increasingly taking centre stage in US politics. Earlier this month, Joe Biden pitched a new scheme offering a $10,000 (€9,200) tax credit for first-time homebuyers in his State of the Union address – the most vaunted venue for a policy proposal. That should provide ample momentum for whoever fills the shoes of Marcia Fudge, the US housing and urban development (HUD) secretary, who officially steps down this Friday.

Time magazine once called the role “the most inglorious minefield of all cabinet jobs”. But with record levels of homelessness – and more than 60 per cent of Americans who don’t already own a property unconvinced that they will ever be able to buy one – the moment is right for a visionary HUD secretary to make their mark. And they could do so by taking two bold steps.

First, treat homelessness as a true calamity and mobilise the federal government’s disaster-response apparatus. Call in the National Guard, create emergency shelters offering drug-addiction and mental-health treatment, and clear the tent encampments that mar the streets of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle once and for all. Allowing people to sleep rough is unsafe for those on the streets; it also contributes to the urban doom loop that US downtowns are struggling to escape. The country’s 600,000-plus rough sleepers amount to a crisis of internal displacement. Big cities cannot tackle this surge alone, especially when they provide shelter while other jurisdictions shirk their responsibilities. A national crisis requires a national response – no different than the coronavirus pandemic.

Second, seize on the surprisingly bipartisan support for relaxing regulations on house building. There are both progressive and conservative arguments for allowing only townhouses and small apartment buildings to be built in neighbourhoods dominated by single-family detached homes. Stumping for a policy-wonk issue such as zoning reform might have once sounded like a political dead end. But for a generation of priced-out Americans, it carries the whispers of salvation.

Gregory Scruggs is Monocle’s Seattle correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Affairs / Global

Cross purposes

Despite mounting international criticism, Benjamin Netanyahu has reaffirmed his plan to launch an offensive in Rafah. This follows Olaf Scholz’s visit to Israel on Sunday, during which the German chancellor voiced his government’s opposition to the proposed operation and called for increased humanitarian aid to Gaza. In recent weeks, some of Israel’s traditional allies have voiced their increasing concerns over Netanyahu’s Gaza operation; notably, these include two of Israel’s staunchest supporters, Germany and the US.

“The problem that everyone has with Netanyahu right now is that we’re not sure what his goals really are,” Steven Erlanger, chief diplomatic correspondent for The New York Times, tells The Briefing. “He says that he wants two things: to destroy Hamas and to free the hostages. Some people think that these two aims are contradictory, which leaves Scholz in a quandary. But his criticism was mixed, as ever, with affirmations of his support for Israel’s right to exist and defend itself against terrorism.”

For the latest on Israel’s relations with the West, tune in to Monday’s edition of ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle Radio.

Fast track: Hokuriku Shinkansen arrives at Fukui station

Image: Alamy

Mobility / Japan

Need for speed

Travellers take note: Japan has a new bullet train service. As of this weekend, an extension to the Hokuriku Shinkansen means that the Fukui prefecture, which sits on the Sea of Japan, will have a high-speed link to Tokyo for the first time. This month the first train travelling from Tsuruga in Fukui prefecture to Tokyo sold out within minutes. The 300km journey, via the historic city of Kanazawa, takes about three hours (almost an hour less than before).

Fukui is famous for its crafts, food and coastline, and was hit hard by an earthquake on New Year’s Day. There are hopes that the speedier journey will bring travellers back to the area’s inns and hot springs. Japan’s commitment to high-speed rail is also viewed as an engine for rural revitalisation.


Picture perfect

With multiple Oscar and Palme d’Or winners to their name, Danes have long punched above their weight when it comes to cinema. Their government recently acknowledged this by boosting its already generous financial support for the nation’s film industry by DKK40m (€5.4m) in 2024. Instrumental in Danish cinema’s global success is Den Danske Filmskole, the country’s celebrated film school.

“It’s the most important institution in Danish cinema,” Tine Fischer, the school’s director, tells Monocle during a recent visit. It’s also Denmark’s most competitive educational institution, with more than 1,000 applicants for just 48 places every two years. According to Fischer, its small size is crucial to its success. “It’s like with elite sports,” she says. “Our students are looked after individually, with many hours of personal dialogue and feedback. They develop according to their own potential, artistic vision and ambition.”

For more on Den Danske Filmskole and other agenda-setting stories on culture and the arts, pick up a copy of Monocle’s March issue, which is out now.

Beyond the Headlines


Peak performance

Celebrated climbing magazine Summit Journal is back in print after an absence of more than 27 years. We speak to its editor, Michael Levy, who tells us about its latest issue, which caters to a new generation while retaining the best elements of the magazine’s past.

What was your relationship with the original ‘Summit Journal’?
I have always known about Summit. Founded in 1955 by two women, Jean Crenshaw and Helen Kilness, it was the first monthly climbing magazine in the US but it disappeared in 1996. The old issues had avant garde, chic cover designs and I loved the stories and imagery.

What’s in the new issue?
It’s definitely a new Summit Journal for a new era but it’s very much informed by the original title. We’re committed to print and our articles aren’t necessarily published online. We believe that sitting down to read them on paper provides a far better experience. In terms of climbing and outdoor journalism, there’s an increasing demand for more and more content. But we prefer to feature less content, curated really well. Good photography is essential. We also care a lot about our paper quality.

Do you feel that there’s a growing market for climbing as a subject?
Absolutely. Climbing has been making inroads into the mainstream for a number of years – think the Alex Honnold documentary Free Solo or Meru, which is about Conrad Anker and others. And then you have the proliferation of climbing centres in Europe, the US and elsewhere. But our focus is on outdoor climbing. Though we’re a US-based magazine, we have stories from across the globe. We are planning reports from everywhere from Ireland and Cuba to Japan.

To listen to the full interview with Levy, tune in to this week’s ‘The Stack’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Shutterstock

Monocle Radio / The Foreign Desk

Crisis in Haiti

The Caribbean nation continues to grapple with gang violence, political upheaval and a humanitarian crisis. How did we get here and is there a way out of Haiti’s nightmare? Andrew Mueller speaks to Jacqueline Charles, Harold Isaac, Christopher Sabatini and Georges Fauriol.


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