Urban Issues

Where American Families Are Moving


Much is made, and rightfully so, about the future trends of America’s demographics, notably the rise of racial minorities and singles as a growing part of our population. Yet far less attention is paid to a factor that will also shape future decades: where families are most likely to settle.

However hip and cool San Francisco, Manhattan, Boston or coastal California may seem, they are not where families are moving.  read more »

New Report: Building Cities for People


This is the introduction to a new report: “Building Cities for People” published by the Center for Demographics and Policy. The report was authored by Joel Kotkin with help from Wendell Cox, Mark Schill, and Ali Modarres. Download the full report (pdf) here.

Cities succeed by making life better for the vast majority of their citizens. This requires less of a focus on grand theories, architecture or being fashionable, and more on what occurs on the ground level. “Everyday life,” observed the French historian Fernand Braudel, “consists of the little things one hardly notices in time and space.”  read more »

Urban Residents Aren’t Abandoning Buses; Buses Are Abandoning Them

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“Pity the poor city bus,” writes Jacob Anbinder in an interesting essay at The Century Foundation’s website.  read more »

What Does It Mean to Bring Buffalo Back?


Prior to the holidays City Journal published  my major essay on Buffalo in their fall issue.  Here’s an excerpt:

Local planner Chuck Banas observes that while Buffalo’s regional population today is roughly the same as it was in 1950, the urbanized footprint of the region has tripled. “Same number of people, three times as much stuff to pay for” is the quip—and it’s true. Physical capital must either be maintained at great cost in perpetuity or ignored and allowed to become a drag on the city. Between 1980 and 2011, according to the University of Buffalo Regional Institute, Buffalo-area governments issued permits for almost 60,000 new single-family homes—while regional population declined. Given the gargantuan scale of state aid to the region, this is clearly not market-rate development.

 read more »


Declining Population Growth in China’s Largest Municipalities: 2010-2014


After three decades of breakneck urban growth, there are indications of a significant slowdown in the largest cities of China. This is indicated by a review of 2014 population estimates in the annual statistical reports filed individually by municipalities with the National Bureau of Statistics.  read more »

San Francisco With 200,000 More People — Would we be Better Off?


You want something truly scary? Take a look at these mockups of what San Francisco might look like if we build all the housing that the developers say we need.

According to writer Greg Ferenstein,  read more »

People Rather than Places, Ends Rather than Means: LSE Economists on Urban Containment


“People rather than places” should be the focus of urban policy, according to Urban Economics and Urban Policy: Challenging Conventional Policy Wisdom. (paperback, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015 $39.95). The book is among the most effective critiques of contemporary urban planning thought,  characterized by such approaches as urban containment, compact city, and densification. The authors are Paul C. Cheshire, Max and Nathan and Henry G. Overman, all economists at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Cheshire has a long list of publications analyzing urban planning policy. The authors characterize the central thesis of urban planning’s misdirected priorities stating that:

"… that the ultimate objective of urban policy is to improve outcomes for people rather than places; for individuals and families rather than buildings."

 read more »

The Cities Doing The Most To Address The U.S. Housing Shortage


America is suffering from the severest undersupply of housing since the end of the Second World War. Although population growth has slowed significantly since the 1950s and 1960s, production has slowed down even more so. It’s not surprising that homebuilding declined after the housing bubble burst in 2008, but from 2011 to 2015 it continued to fall, dropping almost a quarter.  read more »

Our Anemic Suburbs: Every Urban Area Needs its Outskirts — and New York City’s Are in Trouble


New York City has prospered since the great recession of 2008, buoyed by an endless supply of free money from Washington that's elevated the stock and real estate markets. But the broader metro region has struggled, in an ominous sign of tougher times to come.

Little acknowledged in the discussion of New York's "tale of two cities" is something beyond the control of Mayor de Blasio: the fading of the city's once-thriving suburbs, even as the city grows more populous and more expensive.  read more »

Black Friday: Scenes From A Mall


It’s Black Friday and I thought I’d do something out of character for me, but entirely in keeping with the season. I went to a shopping mall. For those of you not used to the customs of the United States, the day after Thanksgiving is the official start of the Christmas present purchasing period. Most people have off from work, kids don’t have school, so everyone hits the malls.  read more »