Urban Issues

Reviving the City of Aspiration: A Study of the Challenges Facing New York City's Middle Class

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For much of its history, New York City has thrived as a place that both sustained a large middle class and elevated countless people from poorer backgrounds into the ranks of the middle class. The city was never cheap and parts of Manhattan always remained out of reach, but working people of modest means—from forklift operators and bus drivers to paralegals and museum guides—could enjoy realistic hopes of home ownership and a measure of economic security as they raised their families across the other four boroughs.  read more »

Housing Prices Will Continue to Fall, Especially in California

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The latest house price data indicates no respite in the continuing price declines, especially where the declines have been the most severe. But no place has seen the devastation that has occurred in California. As median house prices climbed to an unheard-of level – 10 or more times median household incomes – a sense of euphoria developed among many purchasers, analysts and business reporters who deluded themselves into believing that metaphysics or some such cause would propel prices into a more remote orbit.  read more »

New York Should End Its Obsession With Manhattan

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Over the past two years, I have had many opportunities to visit my ancestral home, New York, as part of a study out later this week by the Center for an Urban Future about the city's middle class. Often enough, when my co-author, Jonathan Bowles, and I asked about this dwindling species, the first response was "What middle class?"

Well, here is the good news. Despite Mayor Bloomberg's celebration of "the luxury city," there's still a middle class in New York, although not in the zip codes close to hizzoner's townhouse. These middle-class enclaves are as diverse as the city. Some are heavily ethnic, others packed with arty types, many of them more like suburbia than traditionally urban.  read more »

Cleveland, Part II: Re-Constructing the Comeback

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Yesterday, in Part I, I talked about how, despite the Cleveland region’s significant assets, the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s strategy is failing to transform its economy. Today I’ll focus on the strategy’s five weaknesses, and how to fix them.

First: The Wrong Approach To Achieving Scale  read more »

Cleveland: How The Comeback Collapsed

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The Cleveland comeback has stalled. Once hailed as a shining example of rebirth in our industrial heartland, Cleveland now sits rudderless and drifting backward. Between 2000 and 2007, Cleveland suffered one of the largest proportional population losses in the country: the city shrank by 8%. Per capita income growth in Cleveland also lags behind cities like Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh. Since the early 1990s, the gap between Cleveland and these other cities has widened. As a regional economy deteriorates, the pressure for social services goes up.  read more »

Report: Ontario, CA – A Geography for Unsettling Times

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These are unsettling times for almost all geographies. As the global recession deepens, there are signs of economic contraction that extend from the great financial centers of New York and London to the emerging market capitals of China, India and the Middle East. Within the United States as well, pain has been spreading from exurbs and suburbs to the heart of major cities, some of which just months ago saw themselves as immune to the economic contagion.

Without question, the damage to the economies of suburban regions such as the Inland Empire has been severe.  read more »

Oregon’s Immigration Question: Addressing the Surge in the Face of Recession

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The men huddle outside the trailer, eyeing the passing traffic. Handmade signs stapled to telephone posts speak for them: “Hire a Day Worker!” The site, a fenced-in lot at Northeast MLK and Everett Street, was launched in 2007, a testament both to Oregon’s recent immigration boom and lack of federal reform.  read more »

New Survey: Improving Housing Affordability – But Still a Way to Go

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The 5th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey covers 265 metropolitan markets in six nations (US, UK, Canada, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand), up from 88 in 4 nations in the first edition (see note below). This year’s edition includes a preface by Dr. Shlomo Angel of Princeton University and New York University, one of the world’s leading urban planning experts. Needless to say, there have been significant developments in housing affordability and house prices over the past year.  read more »

Height of Power: The Washington Fiefdom Looms Larger Than Ever

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For more than two centuries, it has been a wannabe among the great world capitals. But now, Washington is finally ready for its close-up.

No longer a jumped-up Canberra or, worse, Sacramento, it seems about to emerge as Pyongyang on the Potomac, the undisputed center of national power and influence.  read more »

Infrastructure and Aesthetics

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In his 2005 book Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape, Brian Hayes surveys the built environment with an undaunted appreciation of the vast networks of infrastructure systems in America. Hayes, a writer for American Scientist, argues that common understanding of infrastructure is just as important as an understanding of nature itself. Without the ubiquitous power lines, the oft disparaged garbage dumps, or the controversial mining industry, the United States would not have been able to achieve status as the paragon of 20th Century modernization – a pattern now emulated by the likes of China and India.

Yet it seems that ‘infrastructure’ has lost its fabled status in America.  read more »