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Old 06-12-2017, 08:05 PM
 
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After watching a lecture from Jeff Speck, I found a consistent theme within the reasoning behind his plans for Lowell, Mass which seemed to be centered in part around attracting millennials. Many cities seem to follow this theme as millennials have been the driving force around gentrification efforts by flocking back into the urban centers to seek a more walkable, livable area.

I, like many of my millennial peers, am currently sitting in my suburban apartment and will have to get in my car to drive to work tomorrow morning despite the fact that I would rather live downtown near my office and walk to work or even ride my bike on the walkable downtown streets. I would be the poster child of what city planners in our town were trying to attract when they reduced automobile lanes and put in bike lanes, green space, and downtown apartments/lofts/ and condos.

This begs the age old question as to what can be done to gentrify downtown yet not price out the ones that will breathe life into the city? Many times the idea of affordable housing comes in. While that is a great solution to ensure diversity within a city, it does not address pricing out millennials as many college-educated 20-somethings will make too much to qualify.

Though millennials have been the force moving into urban cores, studies have shown they are now beginning to go back to the suburbs due to being priced out thanks to gentrification as well as greater competition in the housing market of urban cores from affluent retirees looking for maintenance free living in walkable communities close to amenities.

While this is something that should not come as a surprise to anyone and furthermore, something that is certainly relative depending on the city, it still begs you to ask what can be done? What will the future of cities be if millennials are priced out and replaced with boomers? With suburban developers looking at new urbanism to build, will this ultimately re-create decay in our urban cores once the baby boomers begin to die off? Could a rise in public transit running out to these redefined suburbs do more harm to inner-cities than the interstates did in the 50's as public transit is more limited and in some cases, less convenient than getting in your car and hopping onto a freeway?

Would love to here some greater insights as to how others see this playing out in the future or what can be done about it.
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Old 06-12-2017, 09:53 PM
 
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You're running into the iron law of economics, here: supply and demand. Make yourself a downtown with all the jobs, and there's a _very_ limited supply of space around and within that downtown in which you can practically walk to work. So, if people want to walk to work, there's high demand, limited supply... and thus high price. You can't get around this with any sort of price-fixing scheme either; that just results in shortages and rationing by means other than price.
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Old 06-12-2017, 10:12 PM
 
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You're asking for contradictory things: gentrification means displacing poorer people and replacing them with wealthier people. So no, you can't gentrify a neighborhood and also keep it affordable. But, keep in mind that gentrification is not the only way to repair urban neighborhoods. M

The stuff about "attracting millenials" is basically nonsense, it's for the most part a myth except for a very small handful of places where the nature of industries (tech specifically) means there is a reasonably large number of fairly wealthy Millenials who want to live in an urban place, rather than a suburban place. The "affluent retirees" thing may be overblown as well: most folks tend to want to retire in place, and those with grown-up families tend to value having the extra space so their grown-up kids' kids can visit.

Now, Millenials do want to live downtown--so do a reasonable chunk of GenXers, and also a lot of Boomers who are still active enough to get around. Which means a lot of price pressure on the existing housing stock. This has only recently made rents high enough to justify new construction, which is so expensive that it will never produce really "affordable" housing without government subsidy. In the long run, if we build a lot of central city housing over the next 20-30 years, it will get a bit less expensive, if we can avoid demolishing too much of the existing housing stock. By that time, the Millenials will be the empty nesters looking for a walkable place to retire, and the Boomers will be dead or transitioning from their downtown condo to assisted living. We GenXers will probably still be there talking about how cool the scene was back in the 1990s, but our numbers will be small enough for you to ignore, and you can scoff at the War Babies (the generation born 2000-2020) as they complain about how there aren't any inexpensive apartments downtown the way there was in the 2010s.

Public transit probably won't help the suburbs much unless they get radically re-zoned (to allow the densities necessary for public transit to become reasonably efficient) and redesigned (for gridded streets instead of cul-de-sacs/feeder streets.)
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Old 06-13-2017, 06:06 PM
 
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Interesting takes and insights from both of you and raise very good points.

Wburg, you make an interesting point on how some of this is overblown with the millennials moving into the city as well as the boomers.

Do you feel like this over-hype could in turn, still cause for a crash of our center cities?
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Old 06-13-2017, 11:51 PM
 
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No, because there are plenty of people who want to buy in central cities, the property really is more valuable which is why it's expensive, and the resulting increased demand is leading to a lot of new infill construction--which still isn't cheap, but is likely to have the long-term effect of building some dense, urban, and economically successful neighborhoods. There will always be booms and busts, it's more important to look at the long-term trends, which seems to point toward a 21st Century that's more like the early 20th Century, when downtowns were the most important part of town, and the most densely populated. And, as the new infill gets older, some of it will become more affordable via filtering (the newer housing will attract the high-dollar buyer, but new housing gets old.)
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Old 06-14-2017, 02:09 AM
 
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Blame the flippers and equity nuts getting too greedy for their own good, the properties need to have amenities that are more current than what was available when Kennedy was still breathing, and no, that doesn't mean you get to charge 10x as much for it. You wouldn't be able to sell the same product with only a fresh coat of paint after decades in any other market and constantly demand more for what is objectively less.
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Old 06-14-2017, 08:39 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Neighborhoods can't stay at the "midpoint" of gentrification for very long for a simple reason. While there are a lot of middle class people who won't want to live in a well-located neighborhood which has high crime, few interesting commercial businesses, and is mostly populated by low-income people of color, there won't be the same hesitancy once the neighborhood is populated by hipsters and has a more active commercial district. Thus once the limiting factor (essentially the absence of non low-income people and amenities) is lifted, the neighborhood rapidly rises in value until the market-rate housing is quite expensive.

Of course, gentrification does not happen in isolation. In two cities of the same size, for example, and roughly the same gentrification pressures, a city where only one neighborhood is gentrifying at a time will see rapid change in that neighborhood. On the other hand, in a city where gentrification is split across three different areas (with three times as many potential housing units) the gentrification process can be much slower. This is one reason why gentrification seems to proceed much more rapidly in expensive metros - the nice neighborhoods are all already prohibitively expensive, so there is a very thin price point between that and the ghetto which people attempt to locate within.

The most logical way to slow down gentrification is to loosen zoning. If you could double the density within already established and desirable wealthy urban neighborhoods, for example, it would result in the final stage in gentrification - yuppies - being more apt to stick to that neighborhood rather than looking elsewhere for housing. This in turn should cause housing values elsewhere in the city (and to a lesser extent the metro) not to climb as rapidly.
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Old 06-14-2017, 02:44 PM
 
Location: South Park, San Diego
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More flexible housing options are needed in gentrifying, popular and getting expensive areas.

Micro units ~350 sf and less restrictive parking regulations where adequate transit is present to lessen the cost of building and having an ability to add more units per total building sf.
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Old 06-14-2017, 11:01 PM
 
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Rather than restrictive parking regulations, adopt the Donald Shoup approach--let the market determine the parking, instead of some bureaucrat's equation. Parking requirements intended for car-centric neighborhoods have no place in a downtown, but if a developer really wants to spend a lot more to provide parking there because they think it's right for the customer base they are pursuing, more power to them.

There are some ways to limit or mitigate against gentrification--like affordable housing policies that require a percentage of affordable housing. It both cools the construction market somewhat and also ensures that a neighborhood will still have a mixed-income population, which limits the signals to the market that properties should be priced higher, and scares out the yuppies who won't move to a neighborhood if they see poor people in it. Flexibility in zoning to allow micro units can help, to some extent, but often developers consider larger units a better investment because square footage and OSB is cheap, while the base stuff required for each apartment (plumbing, kitchen, HVAC) is pretty much just as expensive for a 1000 sf unit as for a 350 sf unit. Promoting denser infill in an existing potentially-gentrifiable neighborhood can help reach that goal too, as long as there is some protection for the existing housing--both single-family homes and apartments. Where I live, there are beautiful historic districts but most of them are mixed in with 1950s-1970s apartment buildings, which has acted as a buffer against gentrification for many years, because the folks looking for consistently-charming neighborhoods of only historic homes were dissuaded by the occasional Fifties "dingbat" or Seventies mansard four-plex in between the Queen Annes and Craftsman bungalows. Not that I advise random demolition in intact historic neighborhoods--but those who received limited damage have the potential to retain a more diverse population, if there is still room for subsequent new growth to take the edge off population pressure. And, ideally, some requirement that at least a few of those units be affordable to those making lower-than-average income.
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Old 06-15-2017, 09:56 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
12,722 posts, read 12,489,157 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
Promoting denser infill in an existing potentially-gentrifiable neighborhood can help reach that goal too, as long as there is some protection for the existing housing--both single-family homes and apartments. Where I live, there are beautiful historic districts but most of them are mixed in with 1950s-1970s apartment buildings, which has acted as a buffer against gentrification for many years, because the folks looking for consistently-charming neighborhoods of only historic homes were dissuaded by the occasional Fifties "dingbat" or Seventies mansard four-plex in between the Queen Annes and Craftsman bungalows. Not that I advise random demolition in intact historic neighborhoods--but those who received limited damage have the potential to retain a more diverse population, if there is still room for subsequent new growth to take the edge off population pressure. And, ideally, some requirement that at least a few of those units be affordable to those making lower-than-average income.
I think this depends upon the type of gentrifier. In my experience, there is basically a spectrum that gentrifiers fall on.

1. People who want to buy a historic house with great curb appeal, putting "sweat equity" into restoring it if they have the time. They are willing to compromise somewhat on things like walkability to get this.

2. People who don't give an eff about what their house looks like, but buy (or rent) based upon issues like transit access, bike infrastructure, and walkable business districts. These people tend to be younger and a bit lower income.

Using NYC as a model, this is the difference between Park Slope (a beautiful neighborhood which initially saw interest largely because of the brownstones) and Williamsburg (an aesthetically blah neighborhood which saw popularity because it was a very quick subway ride into Manhattan).
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