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In his new book, The Human City, Joel Kotkin looks at the ways cities succeed or fail in terms of how their residents are best served. Here’s a tour of some past models.
Throughout history, urban areas have taken on many functions, which have often changed over time. Today, this trend continues as technology, globalization, and information technology both undermine and transform the nature of urban life. Developing a new urban paradigm requires, first and foremost, integrating the traditional roles of cities—religious, political, economic—with the new realities and possibilities of the age. Most importantly, we need to see how we can preserve the best, and most critical, aspects of urbanism. Cities should not be made to serve some ideological or aesthetic principle, but they should make life better for the vast majority of citizens.
In this oligarchic era, dominated as never before in modern history by the ultra-rich, their movements are far more than grist for gossip columns. They are critical to the health of city economies around the world.
For the better part of a century, Southern California has been seen as the land of surfers, hipsters and youthful innovators. Yet the land of sun and sea is becoming, like its East Coast counterpart Florida, increasingly geriatric.
This, of course, is a global and national phenomenon. From 2015-25, the number of senior-headed U.S. households, according to the Joint Center on Housing Studies at Harvard University, will grow by 10.7 million, compared with 2.5 million households headed by people ages 35-44.
Where is America’s tech and software industry thriving? In a new study conducted for the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., researchers took an interesting stab at that question, assessing which metro areas have the strongest concentrations of software developers, spread across a broad array of industries, as well as the best compensation and job growth, and access to venture capital funding.
Lee Kwan Yew, one of the great political architects of our time, died a year ago, but the regime he established in Singapore remains entrenched in power. In fact, the parliamentary elections last year—to the surprise and consternation of Lee’s critics—enlarged his People’s Action Party (PAP) majority in Parliament from a record low of 60 percent to close to 70 percent. Despite talk of a “new normal” defined by more competitive politics, the city-state’s norms remain very much as they have been for the better part of a half century.
From 2009-11, Americans seemed to be clustering again in dense cities, to the great excitement urban boosters. The recently released 2015 Census population estimates confirm that was an anomaly. Americans have strongly returned to their decades long pattern of greater suburbanization and migration to lower-density, lower-cost metropolitan areas, largely in the South, Intermountain West and, most of all, in Texas.
Journalists in older cities like New York, Boston or San Francisco may see the role of rail transit as critical to a functioning modern city. In reality, rail transit has been a financial and policy failure outside of a handful of cities.
The massive construction waste collapse last month in Shenzhen reflects a wider phenomenon: the waning of the megacity era. Shenzhen became a megacity (population over 10 million) faster than any other in history, epitomizing the massive movement of Chinese to cities over the past four decades. Now it appears more like a testament to extravagant delusion.
Which cities have the best chance to prosper in the coming decade? The question is a complex one, and as the economy changes, so, too, will the best-positioned cities.
This could be how our experiment with grassroots democracy finally ends. World leaders—the super-rich, their pet nonprofits, their media boosters, and their allies in the global apparat—gather in Paris to hammer out a deal to transform the planet, and our lives. No one asks much about what the states and the communities, the electorate, or even Congress, thinks of the arrangement. The executive now presumes to rule on these issues.
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.
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.
There is an effective lobby for building light rail, including in cities such as Houston. But why build light rail? To reduce car use? To improve mobility for low-income citizens? This certainly seems a worthwhile objective, with the thousands of core-city, low-income residents whose transit service cannot get them to most jobs in a reasonable period of time.
ut rather than accept the flackery that accompanies these projects, maybe we should focus on effectiveness, judged by ridership, and the impact of such expensive projects on the transportation of the transit-dependent.
Cities get ranked in numerous ways — by income, hipness, tech-savviness and livability — but there may be nothing more revealing about the shifting fortunes of our largest metropolitan areas than patterns of domestic migration.
Bright lights and culture may attract some, but people generally move to places with greater economic opportunity and a reasonable cost of living, particularly affordable housing.
Seven years after the last housing debacle devastated the world economy, we may be on the verge of another, albeit different, bubble. If the last real estate collapse was created due to insanely easy lending policies aimed at the middle and working classes, the current one has its roots largely in a regime of cheap money married to policies of planners who believe that they can shape the urban future from above.