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Old 05-07-2013, 07:09 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Just a random thought I had today.

As it stands now, walkable mixed-use urban areas, when they have low crime (and especially well-perceived public schooling options) tend to be priced at a huge premium when to similar housing stock in unwalkable suburbs otherwise of equivalent quality. Many have suggested this means there's huge unmet demand - that many people wish they could live the urban life, but cannot find an urban environment within their "comfort zone" they can afford as it is currently.

The thing is, the actual income of these people varies widely, although they tend towards high levels of education. Some of these people are upper income (say, doctors making $200,000), while others are lower (say, the graduate student making $14,000 and living off student loans). So while all of them might have similar desires in terms of urban walkable areas, their ability to pay for these is different. Which means we might reach a point in the future where metros reach upper-middle class saturation in urban areas. E.G., everyone who is willing to pay the really expensive prices for new construction condos, or really high rents for apartments, has either found one or can find an opening in the already gentrified areas.

The problem for redevelopment is while there are still many people who would like an urban experience, those left who want in will be mostly lower-income, if not poor. Hence the incentive for developers to cater to this market by building infill, or doing large-scale restoration and conversions, will fall over time. Small-scale organic gentrification may still happen. But I wonder if we'll end up with a lot of neighborhoods stalled in the "first stage" of gentrifying essentially forever, as low-cost places that artists and 20somethings can live for a generation or more?
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Old 05-07-2013, 08:41 AM
 
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The auto-oriented suburbanization that happened in the US from 1950-1990 was a massive, gov't funded, social engineering scheme and a total anomaly in the 10,000 year history of cities.

Just looking at the data from the last two Census one can clearly see that poverty has been slowly suburbanizing while wealth continues to move closer to the core - in nearly every metro. The reason for the shifts are the concentration of low-wage, retail jobs in the 'burbs and the welfare-to-work schemes of the Clinton/Bush era that pushed more inner-city moms into the workforce - and thus long commutes on a bus out to the suburbs, a rapidly changing economy, the concentration of cultural amenities in large cities over the last two decades that have attracted that demographic, rising energy costs, increasing traffic, lack of spending on transportation infrastructure and concerns about global warming.

So no, the shift that is happening now is not going to stop. That's not to say that neighborhoods won't go in and out of fashion. It's happened quite a bit in the history of Manhattan, Paris, Rome, etc and will continue to happen but neighborhoods close to employment and cultural centers will hold their cachet. Some suburbs will become more walkable and more transit friendly and they'll do well. The ones that don't will wither and decay.

Also, the reason why those condo prices are so expensive is because the neighborhoods they're in are a tiny fraction of the land area in a given metro and the 10-15% of people in that given metro who would like to live in those neighborhoods far outnumber the available units. You can't "saturate" historic neighborhoods with historic buildings.
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Old 05-07-2013, 09:23 AM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drive carephilly View Post

Just looking at the data from the last two Census one can clearly see that poverty has been slowly suburbanizing while wealth continues to move closer to the core - in nearly every metro.
Income inequality and income segregation has increased. Poverty increased and wealth increased. Check out Philadelphia:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2...es.html?ref=us

The small, wealth off core is larger than it appears because of higher residential density

Here's New York City. Look at 1990-2010, where the median income didn't change much. Wealth increased at the core, but for much of the rest of the city there were modest declines:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2...and-today.html
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Old 05-07-2013, 10:03 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
Income inequality and income segregation has increased. Poverty increased and wealth increased. Check out Philadelphia:
You don't have to tell me. I lived there for 14 years. I watched it happen . . . and as I said, you can clearly see the poverty spreading out from Philly north and south along the river and gaining a foothold in Montgomery County as well.

The suburbs are missing from the NYC map but it's still pretty clear to see a retrenchment of poverty in the city - you just can't see from the map that it's moving to Nassau, Union, Essex, Passaic, etc.

The process will continue until the pattern in most American cities resembles something like Buenos Aires or Sao Paolo.
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Old 05-07-2013, 10:50 AM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Originally Posted by drive carephilly View Post
The suburbs are missing from the NYC map but it's still pretty clear to see a retrenchment of poverty in the city - you just can't see from the map that it's moving to Nassau, Union, Essex, Passaic, etc.
But poverty hasn't declined in the outer parts of NYC, I don't see a retrenchment. Maybe the NJ counties, but Nassau has a poverty rate of 5% about as low as any large county in the US.
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Old 05-07-2013, 11:56 AM
 
Location: West Cedar Park, Philadelphia
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Don't look at the poverty rate. Look at the aggregate numbers and you'll see income declining generally. There are many more people now close to the poverty level, but not actually crossing it.

Philadelphia is also a bit of an anomaly because its the poorest large city.

As far as when will gentrification become unpopular... thats got to be the most shortsighted thing I've ever heard of. It's like saying "when will cities become unpopular". As I've said before, Americans neglect their cities, so I guess I can understand where that line of thinking could come from. If you look at every other developed nation, and the entirety of human history, you'll see why that notion doesn't hold up. Until Paris, London, Hong Kong, and every other city of cultural and economic significance in the world becomes "unpopular" I think gentrification will continue.
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Old 05-07-2013, 12:24 PM
 
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Some folks have very short memories. Not all cities have a continuous "upward trajectory". Go watch some arty films from the 60s or 70s and the ugliness of London or Berlin or even PARIS is hard not to notice -- the expansion of "preservationists" was only possible as these places gained a population that had the resources and scale to do more than mere survival.


The "pricing out" of the most desireable parts of cities will almost certain reach some plateau and the various forces of decay wll almost certainly win. In thermodynamic term the simplest way to state is : Entropy always wins. -- Flesh rots. Steel rusts. Stone erodes. Paint fades. Glass shatters. Fires goes to ash.
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Old 05-07-2013, 03:54 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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I'm not sure what kind of end game we're talking about here.

So you run out of rich people to buy expensive homes in the city. If that happens, the city is pretty wealthy. Whatever brought the wealth there is probably going to keep it there for quite some time, so the city might not be getting wealthier or growing in population, but in this scenario, it would not be becoming poorer or decaying either.

Or you could have a situation where increasing desirability without increasing average income of the residents. There is a neighbourhood in my college town between the two universities that I would say is becoming increasingly desirable, especially among students. The single family homes that characterized the neighbourhood originally had relatively middle class residents, it was basically a mid 20th century suburb. However, the universities eventually stopped building residences, or at least weren't building them fast enough to keep up with enrollment, so students had to look for housing off campus. Although a single student was not wealthy, if several of them (usually around 5, give or take) pooled their resources together, they could afford to pay more in rent and eventually took over much of the neighbourhood. Although the place got poorer, I suspect the amount of money paid to live there went up (adjusted for inflation), ie it got more desirable/in demand (mostly for students, not so much for anyone else). Now the single family homes are being torn down and replaced with apartments for the students.

So if a neighbourhood is getting more desirable, then maybe the poor people can no longer afford a good sized SFH, and that only becomes affordable to the wealthy... BUT I don't see why 2 middle class families couldn't afford to pool their resources together to live there and pay as much as the single wealthy one. Or why a developer wouldn't be able to get a ton of rent out of a dozen working class households living in an apartment building.

Why are the wealthy willing to live in a rowhouse when they could get a mansion on a 1/2 acre in the suburbs for the same price? Probably because even though the city has less space, it makes up for that in other ways, like better access to jobs and ammenities, and maybe in the past, those benefits weren't as significant, or maybe there were other barriers like crime that made the city less desirable. However, a lot of these things are desirable to middle class or poor people too. While the wealthy might prefer the city to the suburbs for shorter commutes or more fancy restaurants nearby, the less wealthy might find the city desirable because they have access to more jobs, or might have a chance to reduce transportation costs, or be closer to the stores they use. Both would find good schools and low crime desirable. I think it's rare that the city would become more desirable for the wealthy without becoming more desirable for the poor. The wealthy might be willing to trade low density for medium density in exchange for the benefits of the city while the working class might be willing to trade medium density for high density.

So if a neighbourhood is getting more wealthy, I think it's often not just because it's getting more desirable but because there are barriers preventing poorer people from staying there or moving in. This could be regulations preventing houses from being subdivided, or preventing affordable apartments from being built. Parking requirements could prevent them from being affordable for instance by requiring larger underground garages, which are expensive. Or it could be that the area doesn't have any "middle aged" housing stock. Usually new construction is desirable because it's new, and old construction like Victorian era homes are desirable because "they just don't build them like they used to" (and they can still be renovated to have many of the advantages of modern homes). So housing that's somewhere in between age wise is typically the cheapest, other factors (location, size) being equal. However, you can't build middle aged housing, only new housing, so it might take a generation or two for that kind of housing to be available to people on a tighter budget, and until then, the area is becoming wealthier.

Regarding the entropy thing though, I'm not sure how it applies to cities. All areas are going to see ups and downs as the factors dictating demand and prosperity change, maybe at some point in the future, the cores will decline, but then why couldn't they get better again? Or are you saying that every place will eventually decline and that civilization will eventually fall, impacting cities, cores and rural areas?...
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Old 05-08-2013, 11:08 PM
 
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Neighborhoods go in and out of fashion. This has been happening for thousands of years. The nexus of wealth and power will always shift around a city based on what's fashionable at the time.

Some people see what's happening in American cities as a trend when in reality it's just a return to normality. What allowed people to move to the suburbs in such large numbers were massive gov't subsidies and cheap energy. Those two things aren't likely to happen again any time soon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chet everett View Post
Entropy always wins. -- Flesh rots. Steel rusts. Stone erodes. Paint fades. Glass shatters. Fires goes to ash.
See: Rome, Paris, Berlin, London and Barcelona. Sacked, looted, pillaged, burned, bombings, plagues, fires, droughts, earthquakes and the industrial revolution . . . still standing.

Even places like Atlanta and Richmond were pretty well bombed, burned and pillaged. San Francisco, Chicago and Charleston all had massive fires in their histories. They're still there.

A building gets blown up or burns down or falls down and people clean it up and build a new one.
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