Urban Issues

Suburbia Evolved: Glendale Then and Now

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The classic picture of suburbia is that of white picket fences, the family Chevy in the driveway, and Mom in an apron beckoning her children to abandon the baseball and glove for a home-cooked dinner. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this picture, per se. Nothing wrong except for the fact that it is now becoming more of the exception than the rule among American suburban communities, memorialized best in cultural artifacts like reruns of "Leave It to Beaver."  read more »

Iowa's Agro-Metro Future

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When Brent Richardson, a field rep for Cadillac, was told he'd been transferred to Des Moines, he assumed he'd be spending the next year in a small town environment. Des Moines turned out to have much more bustle than he expected. The city had a robust insurance sector among its diverse industries. And the lifestyle was very similar to what he was able to live in big city suburbs like Naperville, Illinois or Bellingham, Massachusetts. Steeped in a decade of Farm Aid concerts, he also expected the surrounding rural areas to be populated with hardscrabble homesteaders struggling to hang on. Instead, he discovered that farming was big business – and, these days in particular, reasonably profitable. And some of those Iowa farmers turned out to be Cadillac buyers.  read more »

Why Housing Will Come Back

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Few icons of the American way of life have suffered more in recent years than  homeownership. Since the bursting of the housing bubble, there has been a steady drumbeat from the factories of futurist punditry that the notion of owning a home will, and, more importantly, should become out of reach for most Americans.  read more »

Unmanageable Jakarta Soon To Lose National Capital?

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Jakarta is the world's third largest urban area with 22 million people (Note 1) and the second largest metropolitan area with 26.6 million people (Note 2). Jakarta is the capital of the world's fourth most populous country, the Republic of Indonesia, which has 240 million people (following China, India and the United States). Jakarta is located on the island of Java, which covers slightly more land area than the state of New York and has 8 times the people (135 million).  read more »

Urban Plight: Vanishing Upward Mobility

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Since the beginnings of civilization, cities have been crucibles of progress both for societies and individuals. A great city, wrote Rene Descartes in the seventeenth century, represented “an inventory of the possible,” a place where people could create their own futures and lift up their families.

What characterized great cities such as Amsterdam—and, later, places such as London, New York , Chicago, and Tokyo—was the size of their property-owning middle class. This was a class whose roots, for the most part, lay in the peasantry or artisan class, and later among industrial workers. Their ascension into the ranks of the bourgeoisie, petit or haute, epitomized the opportunities for social advancement created uniquely by cities.  read more »

Fortress Australia: Groundhog Day

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A decade ago, politics in Australia lurched to embrace all things rural, happily demonizing urban interests. This happened in response to a renegade Politician – Pauline Hanson – who for a time captured public sympathy with populist anti-immigration sentiments, threatening to unseat entire governments in the process.  read more »

Time to Hate Those HOAs (again).

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The foreclosure crisis has been devastating for millions of Americans, but it has also impacted many still working as before and holding on to their homes. Even a couple of empty dwellings on a street can very quickly deteriorate and become a negative presence in the neighborhood, at the least driving down prices further, sometimes attracting crime. Untended pools can allow pests to breed. Many animals have been abandoned and shelters report overflowing traffic.  read more »

The Livable Communities Act: A Report Card

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With much fanfare, the Banking Committee of the United States Senate approved the Livable Communities Act (S. 1619, introduced by Democratic Senator Dodd of Connecticut). A purpose of the act is expressed as:

...to make the combined costs of housing and transportation more affordable to families.

The Livable Communities Act would provide financial incentives for metropolitan areas to adopt "livability" policies, which are otherwise known as "smart growth," "growth management" or "compact city" polices.  read more »

Cities: Size Does Not Matter Much Anymore

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The heart and brain are certainly not the largest organs in the human body, but they are arguably the most important. Why? The heart, through a miles-long network of capillaries, keeps every part of the body supplied with nutrients, and the brain, through an equally extensive network of nerves, provides instructions to every part of the body about what to do with those nutrients. They are important not because they are big, but because they are connected to everything else.  read more »

Where’s Next: November May Determine Regional Winners

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As the recovery begins, albeit fitfully, where can we expect growth in jobs, incomes and, most importantly, middle class opportunities? In the US there are two emerging “new” economies, one largely promoted by the Administration and the other more grounded in longer-term market and demographic forces.  read more »