Urbanist Dream, Suburbanist Nightmare

That about sums up this article from our favorite thinker on urban/suburban affairs, Joel Kotkin.

An excerpt.

What is a city for?

It’s a crucial question, but one rarely asked by the pundits and developers who dominate the debate over the future of the American city.

Their current conventional wisdom embraces density, sky-high scrapers, vastly expanded mass transit and ever-smaller apartments. It reflects a desire to create an ideal locale for hipsters and older, sophisticated urban dwellers. It’s city as adult Disneyland or “entertainment machine,” chock-a-block with chic restaurants, shops and festivals.

Overlooked, or even disdained, is what most middle-class residents of the metropolis actually want: home ownership, rapid access to employment throughout the metropolitan area, good schools and “human scale” neighborhoods.

A vast majority of people — roughly 8o percent — prefer a single-family home, whether in the city or surrounding communities. And they may not get “creative” gigs at ad agencies or writers collectives, but look instead for decent-paying opportunities in fields such as construction, manufacturing or logistics. Over the past decade, these jobs have been declining rapidly in “luxury cities” like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

In contrast, such jobs, which pay $60,000 to $100,000 annually, have been growing — particularly as the industrial and energy sectors have recovered — in cities like Houston, Austin, Nashville and Salt Lake City. These locales also feature housing, relative to incomes, that is more affordable.

Of course, few urbanists wax poetic about Dallas or Des Moines. They lack Brooklyn’s hipster charm, and often maintain some of the trappings of the suburbs. But these “opportunity cities” offer what Descartes called “an inventory of the possible” — urbanity as an engine of upward mobility for the middle and working classes.

Ever since the Great Recession, many in America’s urban-focused pundit class have written off these cities, particularly in the Sunbelt, as places where the “American dream” has gone to die. Yet over the past 30 years, and now again, virtually all of the fastest-growing American metropolitan areas were located in the West or the South. In 2012, nine of the ten fastest-growing large metropolitan areas were in the Sunbelt, including big Texas cities like Austin, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, along with Denver, Raleigh and Phoenix. In 2013, Houston alone had more housing starts than the entire state of California.

Retrieved August 18, 2014 from http://www.newgeography.com/content/004480-the-people-designing-your-cities-dont-care-what-you-want

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
This entry was posted in ARPPS, demographics. Bookmark the permalink.