Demographics

Is the Stage Set for Another Housing Bubble?

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Both the world and the nation remain in the midst of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. But with all the talk of “green shoots” and a recovery housing market, we may in fact be about to witness another devastating bubble.

As we well know, the Great Recession was set off the by the bursting of the housing bubble in the United States. The results have been devastating. The value of the US housing stock has fallen 9 quarters in a row, which compares to the previous modern record of one (Note). This decline has been a driving force in a 25 percent or a $145,000 average decline (inflation adjusted) in net worth per household in less than two years (Figure 1). The Great Recession has fallen particularly hard on middle-income households, through the erosion of both house prices and pension fund values.  read more »

Immigrants Are ‘Greening’ our Cities, How About Giving them a Break?

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Debate about immigration and the more than 38 million foreign born residents who have arrived since 1980 has become something of a national pastime. Although the positive impact of this population on the economy has been questioned in many quarters, self-employment and new labor growth statistics illustrate the increasingly important role immigrants play in our national economy.  read more »

Why The 'Livable Cities' Rankings Are Wrong

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Few topics stir more controversy between urbanists and civic boosters than city rankings. What truly makes a city "great," or even "livable"? The answers, and how these surveys determine them, are often subjective, narrow or even misguided. What makes a "great" city on one list can serve as a detriment on another.

Recent rankings of the "best" cities around the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Monocle magazine and the Mercer quality of life surveys settled on a remarkably similar list. For the most part, the top ranks are dominated by well-manicured older European cities such as Zurich, Geneva, Vienna, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Munich, as well as New World metropolises like Vancouver and Toronto; Auckland, New Zealand; and Perth and Melbourne in Australia.  read more »

Millennials Think Globally, Act Locally

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The phrase, “Think Globally, Act Locally” has often been used by environmentalists to sum up a strategy devoted to conserving the earth's scarce natural resources at the local level. More recently, business executives borrowed the idea to emphasize the need for building capabilities at the country or regional level even as they pursue global growth. But now the Millennial Generation, Americans born between 1982 and 2003, are giving the phrase an entirely new meaning as they pursue their efforts to change the world – one local community at a time.  read more »

Salinas Dispatch: A Silver Lining in the Golden State

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From a distance, a crisis often takes on ideological colorings. This is true in California, where the ongoing fiscal meltdown has devolved into a struggle between anti-tax conservatives and free-spending green leftist liberals.

Yet more nuances surface when you approach a crisis from the context of a specific place. Over the past two years my North Dakota-based consulting partner, Delore Zimmerman, and I have been working in Salinas, a farm community of 150,000, 10 miles inland from the Monterey coast and an hour's drive south of San Jose.  read more »

The Blue-State Meltdown and the Collapse of the Chicago Model

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On the surface this should be the moment the Blue Man basks in glory. The most urbane president since John Kennedy sits in the White House. A San Francisco liberal runs the House of Representatives while the key committees are controlled by representatives of Boston, Manhattan, Beverly Hills, and the Bay Area—bastions of the gentry.  read more »

Housing the Next Generation with Old Shipping Containers

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If the predictions are accurate, America will have to house some 100 million more people by 2040 to mid-century than is now the case. Despite the current round of foreclosures and rising apartment vacancy, over the long term the demand for humane, affordable, sustainable housing is going to escalate dramatically in the coming years.

In this recessionary time, it may be tempting to ignore the coming boost in housing demand. Yet eventually growth will pick up and the housing market will become re-invigorated. Nonetheless, the problem of meeting the demand for affordable housing will remain.  read more »

Death of the Suburbs: Part Nauseum

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For decades, those who know best have been chronicling the death of the suburbs. In every new announcement of demographic data, they find evidence that people are “moving back” to the core cities, even though they never moved away. The coverage of the latest Bureau of the Census city population estimates set a new standard. “Cities Grow at Suburb’s Expense During Recession” was the headline in The Wall Street Journal.  read more »

Did Homeowners Cause The Great Recession?

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The person who caused the current world recession can be found not on Wall Street or the city of London, but instead could be you, and your next-door neighbor--the people who put so much of their savings and credit to buy a house.

Increasingly, conventional wisdom places the fundamental blame for the worldwide downturn on people's desire--particularly in places like the U.K., the U.S. and Spain--to own their own home. Acceptance of the long-term serfdom of renting, the logic increasingly goes, could help restore order and the rightful balance of nature.  read more »

The Suburban Economy and its Enemies

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Treasury Secretary Ken Henry’s recent address to business economists was an apt prism through which to survey Sydney’s immediate past and distant future. According to reports, he said ‘the [Chinese] resources boom had produced a “two-speed” economy, with unemployment rising in the south-eastern states but falling in the west and north’. Dr Henry is reported to have told his Sydney audience, ‘I don’t think everybody in this room should be moving to Perth.  read more »