Zhengzhou East District in China by Mark Nan Tu licensed under Creative Commons.

Data from restaurant reviews can predict patterns in neighborhoods when planners lack other data. Digital twins, computer copies of actual cities, can help planners predict traffic conditions and air quality. Homes with two to nine units, also known as the “missing middle,” are still on the decline.

How restaurant reviews can help planners: MIT researchers looking at nine Chinese cities found that restaurant data can be used to predict key socioeconomic neighborhood attributes when there’s little other data available. Extracting data from reviews can help effectively predict an area’s daytime and nighttime populations, the number of businesses located in it, and the amount of overall spending in the neighborhood. (Peter Dizikes | MIT News)

Meet your city’s digital twin: Planners are beginning to utilize “digital twins,” computer-based replicas of physical cities that reflect the dynamics of real ones, including the people and vehicles that move through them. The tool helps combat public skepticism toward planning projects since these models can show how an area will be affected once the project is complete. Digital twins can be used to predict all kinds of things, like traffic conditions or air quality. (Wyatt Cmar & Stephen Goldsmith | Governing)

The shrinking missing middle: While US developers completed 211,000 new housing units in buildings of 50 units or more last year, the number of developments with two to nine housing units, known as the “missing middle,” has been steadily disappearing. There are many factors that are contributing to their decline, like growing regulatory burdens and rising construction costs. Consequently, cities have been left to choose between large-scale new housing developments, or no new housing at all. (Justin Fox | Bloomberg)

Rent control is back, maybe: The topic of rent control is gaining renewed interest recently as cities try to cope with an affordable housing shortage and rising housing costs. California, Oregon, and New York are all mulling rent control legislation aimed at creating or preserving apartments at below-market prices without government subsidies. (Jenny Schuetz | Brookings)

The I-45 widening plan in Houston could eliminate 25,000 jobs: A plan to remake I-45 in downtown Houston has recently been described as a “boondoggle” and a “Texas-sized mess of a highway plan” as the project is expected to eliminate 25,000 jobs from the displacement of existing businesses. The expansion also comes at a contentious time as more studies demonstrate that widening highways does not improve congestion for long. (Geoff Carleton | Houston Chronicle)

Quote of the week

“For really young people, the evidence is now of very early-stage damage both in the heart and the brain [from air pollution], we have a likely candidate [particle] able to access both organs, with the pathological evidence to show damage is happening.”

Barbara Maher in the Guardian discussing how billions of air pollution particles are getting into the hearts of city dwellers.

This week on the podcast, journalist Nate Berg joins us to talk about writing stories from Germany to Japan.

Thumbnail: GIOCO restaurant in Chicago by Alan Light licensed under Creative Commons.