Richard Florida on the Suburban Comeback—Due To "Uptick In Violent Crime"
September 02, 2017, 08:24 AM
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Richard Florida, the professor who did well for himself pushing his “creative class” theory of urban prosperity that led to a lot of amusing developments such as the city fathers of Spokane going all Gay Pride, has been backing off from his more popular pronouncements recently. From the NYT:

The Urban Revival Is Over


TORONTO — For all the concern about the gentrification, rising housing prices and the growing gap between the rich and poor in our leading cities, an even bigger threat lies on the horizon: The urban revival that swept across America over the past decade or two may be in danger. As it turns out, the much-ballyhooed new age of the city might be giving way to a great urban stall-out.

Starting around the turn of the millennium, young, affluent professionals began pouring into the cores of big cities, reversing generations of white flight. Unlike their parents and grandparents, these new urbanites embraced the energy and authenticity — and the ethnic, racial and sexual diversity — that are emblematic of cities. Established corporations and high-flying tech start-ups followed suit. The urban revival has been so thoroughgoing that it has even engendered a new crisis of success, whose symptoms are runaway gentrification, soaring housing prices and a widening income gap between newcomers and longtime residents.

But even as people and companies continue to pour into cities, signs that the tide has crested are emerging.

While many, if not most, large cities grew faster than their suburbs between 2000 and 2015, in the last two years the suburbs outgrew cities in two-thirds of America’s large metropolitan areas, according to a detailed analysis of the latest census data by the demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution. Fourteen big cities lost population in 2015-16 compared with just five in 2011-12, with Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, hemorrhaging the most people.

Over this same period, the suburbs of Sun Belt cities like Charlotte, N.C.; Orlando and Tampa, Fla.; and Denver gained population. Low-density suburban counties are once again the fastest-growing parts of the nation, according to a deep dive into America’s 3,000-plus counties by the urban economist Jed Kolko, outpacing the growth rates of dense urban counties by a large measure in 2016, when they posted their fastest growth rates since the housing crisis of 2008.

Several factors have come together to potentially stymie the urban revival.

Foremost is a recent uptick in violent crime. There would have been no urban revival without the sharp declines in violent crime in the 1990s brought on by demographic shifts, more effective policing and other factors. But murder rates have begun to trend the other way in some cities. Chicago (where murders were up by 11.4 percent in 2016 over the previous year), Baltimore (12.7 percent), St. Louis (15.8 percent) and Milwaukee (6.6 percent) are at the top of the list.

On the other hand, it could be that black flight due to the recent post-Ferguson high black homicide rates from places like Chicago’s South Side is setting Chicago up for a new round of white gentrification in the future.
And, of course, the most desirable cities have become incredibly expensive places to live.
I’d add that gasoline prices have been pretty stable (until this week), while automakers have been improving MPG ratings pretty steadily through a long series of innovations and tricks. A 2017 Honda Civic (a fairly large compact that’s currently the top selling sedan) with a 1.5 L turbo, for example, averages 31 MPG city, 40 MPG highway, which makes long commutes seem more affordable. A Honda CR-V, a small SUV popular with young mothers, can hit 28 and 34 mpg in the EPA ratings.

My impression is that what killed the sales appeal of new exurban housing developments in the first half of 2008, helping set off the mortgage crisis, was the 2008 spike in gas prices, which, remarkably, appears to have been related to Chinese hoarding in anticipation of the Beijing Olympics so they could switch away from badly polluting coal during the August Games.

I can vividly recalling paying $87 to fill up my minivan in mid-2008 and wondering how much worse it would get. But, since then, it hasn’t gotten that bad again, which slowly changes psychology. We’ll see if Hurricane Harvey changes attitudes.

In the Bay Area and Los Angeles, the average home costs more than 10 times the average income; in New York, Washington, Seattle, Denver, Miami and Portland, Ore., it’s more than five times. The median cost to rent an apartment in parts of the Bay Area and Los Angeles is as much as $10,000 a month; in many areas of Lower Manhattan, the median rent per 1,000 square feet exceeds $5,000 a month.
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