Urban Issues

The Mobility Paradox: Investing in Human Capital Fuels Migration

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China has an interesting urban development strategy. The government bypasses those areas that it considers backward and plagued by poverty and entrenched political corruption. Instead, the investment goes into those areas it presumes to be new boomtowns.

Now imagine if that Darwinian approach was used here in the United States. A report (“City Beautiful”) authored by two economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia advocates pushing federal infrastructure dollars – which could soon be flowing in the hundreds of billions – not towards our tired, hard-pressed urban areas but those that have experienced the greatest extent of gentrification.  read more »

Daschle And State-by-State Healthcare Mistakes

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Tom Daschle appears before the Senate this week for confirmation as Secretary of Health and Human Services. While Daschle knows his stuff on health care (see his book, Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis), the discussion is likely to be sidetracked by those who champion a reliance on insurance companies, or on piecemeal reform starting with children. Or, as I’ll discuss here, on a wrong-headed impulse to depend on the states to create new health care models.  read more »

Moving to Flyover Country

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As the international financial crisis and the US economy have worsened, there have been various reports about more people “staying put,” not moving from one part of the country to another. There is some truth in this, but the latest US Bureau of the Census estimates indicate the people are still moving, and in big numbers.  read more »

Current Policy Overlooks the New Homeless

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San Francisco: A Chevron employee is forced to move his family of four into their Mitsubishi Gallant after being laid off…

Atlanta: Jeniece Richards moved from Michigan to Atlanta a year ago, but despite her best efforts, and two college degrees, remains homeless. She is living in temporary housing with her two children and younger brother…

Denver: As Carrie Hinkle’s hours dwindled, she was forced to choose between paying rent or buying food for her daughter. The two are now working with local agencies towards permanent housing, again…

These stories, plucked from the headlines of the past months are more than the typical holiday coverage. They show faces of the newly homeless, growing as the economy crumbles and opportunities fade.  read more »

Class and the Future of Planning

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Economic segregation may be a foregone conclusion, as studies have long suggested. For one thing, our first tendency is to buy the best place we can afford, intentionally locating to those parts of a region that appeal to others with similar buying power. Secondly, we tend to buy something most suitable to our tastes, which steers us into areas populated by those with similar viewpoints.

The implications for contemporary planning processes are profound, especially since current best practices revolve so much around form and style and take so little measure of economics, choice, and consequence.  read more »

Scrap Zoning; Legalize Great Places

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Crisis offers opportunity. With real estate in a freefall, there is an opportunity to lay the foundation for a more prosperous and sustainable American landscape.

If only there is the vision and political will.

What is the single most significant change that can be made in every town and city in America? One that would aid economic development, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, foster healthier lifestyles, reduce dependence on foreign oil, protect open space and wildlife habitats, and reduce wasteful government spending?

Scrapping zoning codes.  read more »

The Future of the Shopping Mall

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By Richard Reep

“I had two rules for Christmas this year:
1. Under 13 years old only;
and
2. Internet only.”

–overheard at Stardust Video and Coffee in Orlando, Florida.

One of the most distinctive benchmarks of contemporary American life, the classic indoor shopping mall, is now gasping for survival. The two rules expressed above were commonly heard during this shopping season, calling into question whether the 20th century indoor shopping mall will survive in its present form.  read more »

The Importance of Productivity in National Transportation Policy

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For years, transit funding advocates have claimed that national policy favors highways over transit. Consistent with that view, Congressman James Oberstar, chairman of the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, wants to change the funding mix. He is looking for 40 percent of the transportation funding from the proposed stimulus package to be spent on transit, which is a substantial increase from present levels.

This raises two important questions: The first question is that of “equity” – “what would be the appropriate level to spend on transit?” The second question relates to “productivity” – “what would be the effect of spending more on transit?”  read more »

A Housing Boom, but for Whom?

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By Susanne Trimbath and Juan Montoya

We just passed an era when the “American Dream” of home ownership was diminished as the growth of home prices outpaced income. From 2001 through 2006, home prices grew at an annual average of 6.85%, more than three times the growth rate for income.

This divergence between income and housing costs has turned out to be a disaster, particularly for buyers at the lower end of the spectrum. In contrast, affluent buyers – those making over $120,000 – the bubble may still have been a boom, even if not quite as large as many had hoped for.  read more »

Will the Bubble Burst Aspen?

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Aspen is a great town. Its uniqueness extends beyond its spectacular geography to its amenities, people and community spirit. It’s a world-class, year-round Rocky Mountain resort offering great food, music, skiing, shopping – great everything – right in the middle of a real, functioning, small American community.

It’s no surprise people like it, want to keep it going. And not just the good, smart people who live in Aspen full-time and those who own second homes there (including some of the wealthiest people on Earth), but the thousands of good, smart people who visit every year to address big issues at the Aspen Institute and numerous other forums. These include elites of American arts, sciences, politics and economics with amazing amounts of brainpower and money at their disposal.

But geographic realities plus inexorable economic, demographic, and social trends are conspiring against the best of intentions. The future of Aspen – playground to the smart, rich and famous – may soon become untenable.  read more »