Urban Issues

The Suburban Exodus: Are We There Yet?

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For many years, critics of the suburban lifestyles that most Americans (not to mention Europeans, Japanese, Canadians and Australians) prefer have claimed that high-density housing is under-supplied by the market. This based on an implication that the people increasingly seek to abandon detached suburban housing for higher density multi-family housing.

The Suburbs: Slums of the Future?  read more »

The Future Of America's Working Class

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Watford, England, sits at the end of a spur on the London tube's Metropolitan line, a somewhat dreary city of some 80,000 rising amid the pleasant green Hertfordshire countryside. Although not utterly destitute like parts of south or east London, its shabby High Street reflects a now-diminished British dream of class mobility. It also stands as a potential warning to the U.S., where working-class, blue-collar white Americans have been among the biggest losers in the country's deep, persistent recession.  read more »

Racing China: The Australia Housing Bubble

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"The writing is on the wall for the Australian dream," according to Professor Joe Flood at the Flinders University Institute for Housing, Urban and Regional Research. That was before recent predictions that Australia's overheated housing market may be headed for even higher prices. Real estate experts have recently predicted a doubling of house prices in all five of the largest metropolitan areas over the next decade.  read more »

Twenty-first Century Electorate’s Heart is in the Suburbs

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Even as the nation conducts its critically important decennial census, a demographic picture of the rapidly changing population of the United States is emerging. It underlines how suburban living has become the dominant experience for all key groups in America’s 21st Century Electorate.

While suburban living was once seen as the almost exclusive preserve of the white upper-middle class, a majority of all major American racial and ethnic groups now live in suburbia, according to the newest report on the state of metropolitan America from the Brookings Institute.  read more »

The Broken Ladder: The Threat to Upward Mobility in the Global City

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Since the beginnings of civilization, cities have been the crucibles of progress both for societies and individuals. A great city, wrote Rene Descartes in the 17th Century, represented “an inventory of the possible”, a place where people could create their own futures and lift up their families.

In the 21st Century – the first in which the majority of people will live in cities – this unique link between urbanism and upward mobility will become ever more critical. Cities have become much larger. In 1900 London was the world’s largest urban center with seven million people. Today there are three dozen cities with larger populations.  read more »

The Limits Of The Green Machine

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Environmentalism is strangely detached from the public's economic goals.

The awful oil spill in the Gulf--as well as the recent coal mine disaster in West Virginia--has added spring to the step of America's hugely influential environmental lobby. After years of hand-wringing over global warming (aka climate change), the greens now have an issue that will play to legitimate public concerns for weeks and months ahead.

This is as it should be. Strong support for environmental regulation--starting particularly under our original "green president," Richard Nixon--has been based on the protection of public health and safety, as well as the preservation of America's wild spaces.  read more »

Santa Fe-ing of the World, Bridging the Digital Divide

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This is the second of a two-part piece. Read part one.

If we accept that many rich people are going to find attractive this scenario of dramatically different settlement patterns that feature new aggregation – widely dispersed – the question then becomes whether information technology will ever become a global influence on the built environment, shaping the way the middle class and even the working class live, the way railroads, jets, and automobiles did.  read more »

Santa Fe-ing of the World

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This is part one of a two-part piece. Read Part two.

Human settlements are always shaped by whatever is the state of the art transportation device of the time. Shoe-leather and donkeys enabled the Jerusalem known by Jesus. Sixteen centuries later, when critical transportation has become horse-drawn wagons and ocean-going sail, you get places like Boston. Railroads yield Chicago – both the area around the “L” (intraurban rail) and the area that processed wealth from the hinterlands (the stockyards). The automobile results in places with multiple urban cores like Los Angeles. The jet passenger plane allows more places with such “edge cities” to rise in such hitherto inconvenient locations as Dallas, Houston, Seattle and Atlanta and now Sydney, Lagos, Cairo, Bangkok, Djakarta, and Kuala Lumpur.  read more »

It's the Jobs, Stupid: Infrastructure Matters

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It may surprise you to know that some policy makers and academics believe that “nothing matters” when it comes to infrastructure -- the physical structures that make water, energy, broadband and transportation work -- and economic prosperity. The thrust of the idea that infrastructure doesn’t matter may have started with Larry Summers, appointed by President Obama as Director of the National Economic Council in 2009. The New York Times says he is “the only top economic adviser with a West Wing office” – meaning he is very powerful in Washington terms.  read more »

Livable Communities and the DOT

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“Fostering livable communities...is a transformative policy shift for U.S. DOT,” announced grandiloquently the Draft U.S. DOT Strategic Plan released for public comment on April 15, 2010. But what exactly does the Administration mean by “livability” and how does it intend to translate this vague rhetorical abstraction into a practical reality?  read more »