Friday, October 24, 2014

Congratulations, Your City Is Dying!

Shrinking cities have stronger economies at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Ironic demography.

Subject Article: "Low birth rates can actually pay off in the U.S. and other countries."

Postscript: Most people are well aware of the legacy costs stemming from an aging population. Less discussed are the costs of a young and growing population. That a growing population is better than demographic decline is just assumed. Once again, folk wisdom drives policy instead of analysis.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Seattle, the Incredible Shrinking City

The gentrification of your single family home at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Gentrification and migration.

Subject Article: "Scrunched in Seattle: Is this hipster hovel the future of the American city?"

Other Links: 1. "Tech Company Wagons Ho! Geography of the Urban Land Rush."
2. "Overflowing Fairfax Homes Split Neighbors."

Postscript: Read the following this morning, thinking about the connection between concerns about gentrification and NIMBYism:

Your question posits whether there is a need for more housing in East Dallas, which I find somewhat off the mark. I suspect, rather, that developers are speculating on a potentially profitable market for people who want to live here. That said, I’m OK, in general, with some new apartment and condo development in East Dallas. My support depends entirely on what is being torn down and where, plus the size and appearance of what is to be built. If the wrecking ball and huge North Texas-style developments are headed for our older, traditional, single-family homes and neighborhoods, I object. A number of Dallas developers have been steadily decimating East Dallas since the 1950s. Once upon a time, Live Oak and Ross were known as Painted Lady Rows, a beautiful gateway to downtown … leveled for parking lots, gas stations and cheap, soon blighted, commercial buildings and apartments. We almost lost the incredible Swiss Avenue in the 1970s. Then the 1990s McMansion craze began its broken-tooth effect on previously charming streetscapes. If this is another wave of destruction headed for what’s left of historic East Dallas, please, let’s exercise caution before there’s little left. Guess what’ll happen once the developers have milked their short-term profits and the market for people willing to pay to live here disappears along with the old neighborhoods and the charm?

Passive residential displacement (is that gentrification?) can take two forms. The first, being priced out of a neighborhood, is the common understanding of the term "gentrification". Less common is the kind described above in the quoted passage. The quality of the neighborhood changes and no longer feels like home. The two forms of passive residential displacement weave together, but the common thread is a sense of place (how we define home).

Turning the concept on its head, consider preemptive gentrification. I want to move my family to a neighborhood where the schools are better and the streets safer. I can't because the rent is too damn high there. But I have no standing, no claim to that place because it isn't my home. I can't afford it. Tough luck.

Being priced out of a place is quite common. It would be more common if residents didn't go through extreme measures to stay put or move into the best school district. The main rub, outside of academic considerations, concerns quality of place and sense of home. But such changes could render a neighborhood more affordable. We balk because it no longer feels like home.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tech Company Wagons Ho! Geography of the Urban Land Rush

Tech companies build suburban campuses in the urban core at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Innovation geography.

Subject Article: "Space Shift: As Wealthiest Flock to Supertall Condos, Offices Go Horizontal."

Other Links: 1. "Are Millennials Willing to Spend Most of Their Income on Housing?"
2. "Why Technology Firms Are Moving Downtown."

Postscript: Millennial housing choices subsidize tech labor costs when firms locate downtown (while retaining a suburban-like footprint):

Seattle boasts the highest number of micro-dwellings in the country—3,000 at last count. It also permits the most audaciously minimal units, some as small as 90 square feet. That’s about the size of two prison cells put together.

It’s not for the claustrophobic, but it does come with perks—including the chance for millennials and those with modest incomes to settle in vibrant urban neighborhoods. Their presence, in turn, injects new energy to the heart of the city while tamping down suburban sprawl. Micro-housing reflects a growing zeitgeist—to stop accruing, go minimalist and reduce one’s footprint. Indeed, the name of Seattle’s leading micro-housing development company is called Footprint.

Tech companies, looking to employ well-educated millennials, are expanding their urban footprint. Millennials, looking for city-living and proximity to work, are actively shrinking their urban footprint to lower the cost of rent (or homeownership) forced up by in-migrating tech companies.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Solving the Hispanic Mortality Paradox

Place-based metrics make people seem poorer than they are at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Ironic demography.

Subject Article: "Why Hispanic-Americans live longer: The mystery that has puzzled researchers for decades."

Postscript: I've told this tale before. How does one figure out if global cities undermine state sovereignty when the data are national and not urban? Geographer Peter Taylor grappled with this question. Geographic units of analysis are social constructs. The bias is built into the metrics. What we measure tells us more than the measurements. Scholars studying domestic poverty have fallen into this place-trap.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

A Global City of Eds and Meds

Putting "Flyover Country" on the global mental map at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Globalization and urban redevelopment.

Subject Article: "Rochester downtown building sells for $10 million."

Other Links: 1. "The Geography of Foreign Investment in Real Estate."
2. "Are Millennials Willing to Spend Most of Their Income on Housing?"
3. "Urban Decline in Rust-Belt Cities."
4. "Increasing spatial and economic polarization in America’s older industrial cities."

Postscript: The problem with eds and meds global neighborhoods in Buffalo:

Henry L. Taylor Jr. has focused much of his work on reviving East Side neighborhoods, from the area around Futures Academy – in the shadow of the Medical Campus, but hardly benefiting from it – to the Commodore Perry neighborhood now being eyed for transformation.

Globalization will continue to pop up in the damnedest places. But the benefits won't trickle down to the poor located in isolate neighborhoods. Tremendous wealth will reside cheek by jowl with tremendous poverty. Looking at Rust Belt cities in aggregate washes out the few places where wages and rents look quite similar to those of thriving global cities, which is why gentrification in shrinking cities strikes many as ironic (or simply unbelievable).