Urban Issues

Canada’s High Tech Leaders

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If you ask most Americans, or Canadians, for that matter, where Canadian high tech is concentrated, they will point you to the great metropolitan centers of Toronto and Montreal. But in reality the real centers of tech growth in Canada are concentrated elsewhere.  read more »

Canada’s Immigration Dilemma

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The subject of immigration in Canada presents a great dilemma for many Canadians. Like other countries of the western world, Canadians do not have enough children of their own to maintain the population at its present level. At the same time, the overall population, which is around 33 million, is getting older. Baby boomers are looking at retirement. Many calculate the amount of income they will need in order to maintain a decent standard of living. Their calculations include government pensions.  read more »

Old Manhattan Had a Farm

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Old Manhattan had a farm
Ee-yi ee-yi O

As a child of the early Sixties, I fondly remember the days when colossal albeit stupid technological projects were fashionable. I remember in particular a cartoon that showed a subway running from the U.S. to China right through the center of the earth. Of course, this brings to mind Thoreau’s quip that, while the telegraph might connect Maine to Texas, would Maine and Texas have anything to say to each other? But the very point of the trans-core subway was its pointlessness. If titanic, useless engineering projects like the Hoover Dam are impressive, then how much more impressive are titanic, useless engineering projects!  read more »

Villaraigosa’s Housing Proposal: Billions of Dollars and Too Little Sense

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The matter of whether private companies should be required to include so-called affordable housing units in residential developments is worthy of debate. Perhaps any developer who takes public funding ought to be subject to such requirements. A developer who doesn’t take public money is a different story.  read more »

Bubble Opportunity: A New Life for Public Housing?

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The globalization of housing markets stood at the center of the vast, now unraveling, economic change of the past decade. The creation of new investment vehicles in the 90s diverted vast amounts of capital into housing markets around the world. The results were many and varied. Design features began to converge, with gated communities following shopping malls into cites in Latin America, China, Turkey and most other countries. Home prices began to rise, with The Economist even publishing a table of global house prices, indicating those with the most inflated costs  read more »

The future of suburbs? Suburbs ARE the future

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I entered the field of futures research in 1981. No, not futures – contracts to deliver a certain commodity at a certain price at a date certain (God, I wish I had) – futures research, as in scenarios, trends, strategic planning and market planning. Unfortunately the place was soon lousy with what I call “futurism”: extrapolations of the unsustainable to make the improbable look inevitable.

A current example: suburbs are doomed because of high energy prices (peak oil!), the housing bubble, the obsolescence of the internal combustion engine, and yes, global warming (and what hasn’t been blamed on global warming?). Besides, the urban renaissance is underway; people want to live in the city for the culture, food, music and hipness, don’tchaknow.  read more »

With Debate in Town, St. Louis is the Nation's Capital for a Day

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In 1869 L. U. Reavis spoke for many when he made the case for moving the nation’s capital from, as he put it, “the banks of the Potomac to the banks of the Mississippi.” Citing St. Louis’s location in the exact center of the nation, the growing population of the Mississippi Valley, the presumably temporary expediency that had led leaders to place the capital in Washington in the first place, and the commercial advantages of a capital city on the Mississippi River,  read more »

The future of urban settlement? Look in the suburbs

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Let’s look at general urban settlement and suburbia from a geographic and demographic, not a planning or ideological viewpoint. There’s really no point to the fruitless and unscientific harangues about how people ought to live or about allegedly better or poorer forms of settlement.  read more »

How Low Can House Prices Go?

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There is much speculation among economists and others about how close we are to the bottom of the collapse of housing prices. This is, of course, an important question, and goes to the heart of the wisdom or folly of the proposed $700 billion government bailout of financial markets, which is a consequence of their own profligate lending practices.  read more »

The College Town Is Obsolete

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The college town occupies a special place in the American consciousness. Small, leafy, brimming with intellectual activity, preparing tomorrow’s leaders – if we haven’t spent years, dropped off kids, or attended a football game in a college town, we have at least passed through one.  read more »

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